Into the Woods

Gettin’ down, dirty and learning about movement at MovNat

Skye Nacel training at Hendricks ParkPhotograph by Todd Cooper

When my good-natured husband Ben and I show up, MovNat trainer Skye Nacel and his partner Megan Walsh, along with MovNat intern Hopi Kennedy, have already been warming up in the woods and mapping out a fun route for our morning ramble through Hendricks Park. 

“You guys are already dirty,” I say, wondering what I’ve gotten Ben and myself into.  

“That’s part of the fun!” Nacel replies. 

And we’re off, engaging in a training session to improve our mobility, stability, balance and focus while getting in touch with nature. 

“We’re building from the ground up,” Nacel says as we begin some gentle warm-ups on the tables in the park’s picnic shelter. “Take a look around.” 

It’s cold and damp on this spring Saturday, but Nacel reassures us that the weather will make us want to move around.  

And looking above me at the trees, I realize how infrequently I really look at anything besides a computer screen these days. 

“MovNat is a movement education system based upon universal human principles and physical skill acquisition for all levels of fitness,” Nacel says. “It’s about becoming more physically skillful and aware of ourselves, our surroundings and others around us, so we can survive and thrive in life no matter where or what we are doing.” 

We settle into stretches in different positions, each one designed to integrate the interconnected systems of the body.

It feels pretty darn good just to slow down. 

MovNat founder Erwan Le Corre describes the practice as “a school of physical competence for practical performance.” 

The idea is to bring physical conditioning and skills together under the umbrella of natural movement. 

“It’s about tuning into your environment,” Nacel says. 

After seated warm-ups, we’re stepping up and over the massive picnic tables, building some cardio heat. The day that felt too chilly 10 minutes before now feels perfect. 

Next, Nacel asks us each to practice walking across a log, probing with our lead foot, to avoid slips and falls. 

“MovNat can be adapted to all levels with a full range of regressions and progressions,” Nacel says. “We use volume, intensity and complexity as a guide to evenly match participants’ current physical state with the appropriate demand.” 

Then we practice contralateral patterning, first in low, balancing positions, and then flipping to try this on all fours, like big quadrupeds.

And then we’re off, alternating crawling along the forest path with short bursts of running. 

I mostly hate running, but this running felt great. And the vantage point of crawling on the forest floor was trippy and amazing. You all should try it. 

In our forward-facing, screen-dependent DoughBotTM (I just coined that word, and trademarked it) culture, it’s so easy to just binge another episode on Netflix. Even if we exercise, we don’t have much opportunity to use our bodies in new ways, so when we do, many of us get injured. 

“Learning about functional movement helped me to care for my mom when she was in a wheelchair,” Kennedy says. 

Adds Walsh, “As a nurse, I see so many people in the caring professions who get hurt, because they don’t know how to move safely. They get injured doing their jobs.”  

Limbered up and feeling good, it’s log-carrying time. 

Oh boy! 

Nacel instructs us to move into a deep squat. He shows us the holds to bring a six-foot log to a rest position, to chest height and even to one shoulder. These movements feel comfortable and safe. My body’s working, but I don’t feel nervous or unstable. We got here through a conscientious warm-up, some skill building and thoughtful direction. 

MovNat can be practiced indoors and is perfect for all ages. I highly recommend the forest. It’s an invitation to nature, to get a little weird and to have a lot of fun.

Learn more about MovNat in the greater Eugene and Corvallis areas by visiting Skye Nacel’s website,