About Kristian

Kristian Solem is a lifelong climber and mountain sports athlete. In 2004 Kristian discovered the strength, movement and therapeutic benefits of Pilates exercise. In 2006 Kristian decided to enter the field as a professional, earning his Pilates teacher certification at Core Conditioning in Los Angeles.



Imagine something. To form a visual image of something in the mind.

Create a positive mental picture of something. To create a positive mental picture of something such as a desired outcome, in order to promote a sense of well being.


We visualize all the time. When I start to clean up a messy kitchen I see, in my mind’s eye, a clean and attractive space. When I’m packing my truck for a trip to the mountains I look forward to being there.

Visualization is the first step toward achieving what Pilates called the mind-body connection. Visualization can be done before the action we are preparing for. For example, it’s common to see a boulderer standing in front of a rock moving her hands in the air imagining, visualizing, the sequence of moves she will do as she unlocks the problem she faces.  This kind of visualization can also be communicative. Say you have two boulderers studying the same problem. Now they are both moving their hands about as if they are climbing, but they are showing each other different possibilities, often quite enthusiastically.

Not all sports allow for such a demonstrative style of visualization as climbing. But an athlete in the locker room before a game can rehearse plays in his head. He can see himself eye to eye on the line of scrimmage.

I had a teacher who made a great analogy:

 Doing something without mental preparation is like trying to jump on a moving train while you’re standing still.

But how about visualizing our movements in real time as we take action. Seeing ourselves catch the ball as we do it re-enforces our chance of success. If this seems like a stretch, think about the opposite, seeing yourself drop the ball as you are in the moment of trying to catch it. 

I’ll try to describe this from a climber’s point of view. Movements are seen in the mind’s eye as we are performing them. We’ve all heard someone say “it was like I was on the outside looking in”, or I was “in the zone”. At the risk of engaging in psycho-babble, I’ll suggest that such an experience can be transcendental.


Some thoughts on motivation & progress…

Like many athletes I have a lot of personal experience with rehab; the process of mending the body and regaining strength following injuries, surgeries, and illness. The bad news about being in rehab is that it means something nasty happened. The good news? Rehab is the road back to health, and the process can be a great learning experience.

If I ask a group of people what fuels motivation I’ll hear things like enthusiasm, drive, and goals. We might talk about inspiration and incentive. But few things fan the fire of motivation like progress. Working at something with no gains will wear down even a highly motivated person. So as a teacher, an athlete, and a person with physical challenges this means I have to constantly be on the lookout for ways to be aware of even the smallest gains, both for myself and others.

It’s easy to see our progress when it comes readily. In training or rehab we experience periods when we advance well, and there are plateaus when progress seems to come to a halt. The more slowly we progress the more difficult it is to be aware of our gains, and eventually motivation fades. Looking at the big picture is overwhelming, so the key is to invent tools for measuring the improvements you can’t see in that big picture.

Using my own experience as an example, I got into neurological trouble in 2007 (the backstory is in my bio). The original procedure was a success, a year later I was climbing well and living well. But unexpectedly I developed inflammation and swelling, edema, in my brain. It was a real blow. One symptom was the loss of strength and dexterity in my left hand. I lived on dexamethasone for part of the summer; I was in a bloated stupor. My left arm was visibly atrophied, by then it was more than just a hand problem. Other muscles on my left side were not recruiting properly, if at all. But as the edema subsided I began to feel some improvement.

At first I responded well to exercise and my progress was good. I was confident that I could get back to 100%. Then I hit a plateau. If I was making any headway I was unaware of it. All I could see was that my left hand was impaired, I couldn’t climb, I was having weak sessions with my Pilates teacher, I was not recruiting those left side shoulder stabilizers, leaving me vulnerable to injury. I was looking at the big picture and I was overwhelmed, working away with no measurable gains. I was getting worn down, even depressed.

I am lucky to live in Monrovia, California, which is also the home of Yoga teacher Kate Garland. Kate taught me a practice of finger dexterity exercises which is quiet, meditative and centered on one’s breathing. Quickly I was freed from the frustration I was experiencing by doing finger therapy in a less mindful way. Frustration gave way to awareness and I began to see the incremental improvements I was making. My sensation, proprioception and dexterity were getting better. These simple, quiet, mindful sequences were the tools I needed to become aware that I was indeed getting better. I approached the other sides of my rehab the same way.

I invented specific reproducible routines which were benchmarks for progress and awareness. I was able to step back from the blindness of frustration and instead draw motivation from even the small bits of progress from one day, week and month to the next.

My situation was unique, so the takeaway here is not a list of exercises, rather an approach to designing training routines for yourself or for others. When progress is coming readily (I did not say “easily”) we feel good. But the rubber meets the road when we lose that momentum and things get hard. Frustration sets in. Nothing will cause a person to lose focus and awareness faster than frustration, and its partner, anger.

What I do now is choose an activity or exercise; maybe Pilates or Yoga, balance and agility drills, or climbing. I set the difficulty at a threshold where I will be challenged. I will have to make a high quality attempt to do well. Eventually it will become easier. Then it’s time to progress the exercise to increase the challenge in increments which are achievable. This strategy enables me to see that I’m making gains, however small. The means by which these gains are achieved, with mindfulness and awareness, without judgement and frustration, makes them all the more valuable.



Needles guidebook completed

In 2008 my friend Kevin Daniels, a climber and a publisher of outdoor books, asked me if I would be interested in making a climber’s guidebook for The Needles. I thought about it, and I was confident that I was familiar enough with the area to do the project justice. “Give me two years”. I thought that was more than enough time.

I started work the next year. Finally, in August of 2016, the book went to the printer.

Click and scroll over cover for details

What took so long?  I spent lots of time taking photographs of the formations. I worked hard to get some points of view which climbers would not ordinarily see including aerials from a small plane. I collected stories and historical tidbits from Needles climbers who led the way. I researched the history of climbing at The Needles; many great climbers have contributed to Needles climbing by doing standard setting climbs. Then I set about creating accurate and sometimes entertaining written descriptions of each and every climb. The book also covers The Needles stately neighbor to the south, Dome Rock, and their sister crag standing alone to the north, Hermit Spire.

Why put so much effort into a project like this? It won’t be on any best seller lists, and lots of information about the area is available online. What can a book offer that the internet sites cannot? It can offer completeness and context.

I’m a history buff, and over a period of more than 50 years adventurous climbers have left us a rich history of accomplishments at The Needles. Early pioneers explored the wild granite spires without keeping accurate records. An occasional old piton, or a pile of stones on a summit say “We were here before you”. Beginning in 1969 with the efforts of climbers including Dan McHale and Fred Becky, climbing at The Needles was defined by the day’s best climbers setting new standards. I gathered stories, comments, and recollections from many of these climbers, and included them as sidebars or in route descriptions throughout the book. This is one way to put Needles climbing into context.

The book also features numerous action photos by masters in the field including Greg Epperson, Kevin Powell, and Jim Thornburg.

Another thing you won’t get from websites is a complete list and description of every climb at The Needles, Dome Rock, and Hermit Spire. Since these sites are built from the contributions of individuals, climbs which are rarely climbed for a variety of reasons get left out. My book details every climb which has been established at The Needles to date. Many of these climbs which have fallen into obscurity are terrific. So the book should entice climbers to broaden their horizons, to seek out adventure and do more than just the most popular routes.

These were my primary goals in making this book; to create a historical context, to include action pictures by top photographers of the sport (visual context), and to place the popular climbs into another kind of context: their surroundings. And of course it also has to be an accurate guide, a resource climbers can rely on.

I had to decide how much detail to offer. A guidebook is expected to show how to get to the area and where to camp. It should show where any given climb is, what route it takes up the rock face, and give a reasonably accurate level of difficulty. If a climb requires highly specialized techniques or gear, or is exceptionally risky, this should be made clear. Lastly, details of the descent can be valuable. These are the basics. I think that the names of first ascent parties are important information, others dispense with that.

Many authors go into great detail, providing lists of every piece of equipment, perhaps even where it will be used on the climb. Some books even tell climbers how to do the hard bits. I chose to stick with the basics in my book for a variety of reasons. The nature of Needles climbing is such that no two leaders will protect a pitch the same way, and different parties often belay in different places. And the easiest way to have errors in a book like this is to give too much information. The Needles offer adventure climbing, and I was not about to make a book which dumbs the place down.


Dome Rock and The Needles from the south. Photo, Kristian Solem

Grass fed, pasture raised, feed lot, or not? Heads up!

The industrial meat industry is hard at work, and the regulatory agencies which pretend to have our interests and health as their priority are bowing to their masters. The label “Grass Fed” means nothing now, so it is more important than ever to know the source of your food.

USDA cuts grass fed label






Baked bacon:


Heat the oven to 225-250. Lay out the strips of bacon on racks in a baking tray. You can pack more strips on than in my picture.

Since you’ll run your oven for at least two hours it makes sense to make two or three trays at once. Bake for a couple hours. Check every so often until you have your desired crispiness. After the bacon is done, pour the fat from the tray into a jar through cheese cloth in a big funnel. This pure fat, with no little chunks of meat, can sit out on your counter ready for use, just like Grandma did.

Crusty Mustard-Dill Meatloaf

I leave out the veal, just mix equal parts beef and pork. Substitute almond meal for the oats. I like doubling the recipe for this one. Also, the loaves form up better if you let the finished mix stand in a large covered bowl in the fridge for an hour or so.

Primal Bison or Beef Chili

I’ve never tried the bison, I like a 50/50 mix of ground pork and ground beef. It’s great. One pointer: Brown the meat in a wok or frying pan in batches, then transfer it to the cooking pot. This enables you to leave the fat behind, draining the pan in between batches. The dish has plenty of fat rendered from the bacon.

Really good chicken curry

The first time I made this I ended up with under-cooked chicken, and had to cook the final dish longer than I should have. Now I cook the chicken through in the first step (still tender). The little bit of corn starch is a minor sin. The trick of adding the peas frozen is great, I use this one in a lot of cooking.

The other day I made this, but I oven roasted the chicken ’till I could shred it and went from there. Really good.

Brussels sprouts with bacon and chestnuts (to die for…)

What’s not to love about this combo. Easy to make, easier to eat.

Make your own super healthy fermented sauerkraut

Double or triple this one. It keeps for months. This food is a super pro-biotic.

Notes: Do not use tap water. Chlorine and fluoride will kill the fermentation process. Make certain that all of your jars and utensils are clean and well rinsed. Only use kosher or sea salt. Iodized salt will kill the fermentation process.


Catalan Style Stew with Pork or Beef

This recipe can be made with pork or beef. It takes some work to put it all together, but it’s one of my favorites for a special occasion. This is a modified version of a recipe from Mastering the Art of French Cooking by Julia Childs.

You will need:

A four – Five quart pot, thick sides for heat distribution, with a lid.
A heavy 10-12″ frying pan.
A 325 degree oven


1/4 lp. bacon
1.5 cups sliced onion
1 cup white rice
1 cup decent dry white wine (never cook with wine you wouldn’t drink).
2 to 3 cups beef broth
Peel, seed and chop enough tomatoes to have about two cups (I start with two pound of tomatoes).
Spices: Two cloves smashed Garlic, 1/2 tsp. thyme, salt and pepper, bay leaf, pinch of saffron.
1 cup finely grated parmesan.

Peel, seed, and chop the tomatoes:



Trim and cut up the pork into 1.5″ cubes. For most recipes I’ll choose fattier meat and not trim it, but for this one I like to use the loin roast and trim it. We’ll render the fat out of the trimmings for future use.



Simmer the bacon in a pot of water for about five minutes. Set aside to dry.

Get a few tablespoons of bacon fat heating in the frying pan and brown the bacon. When the bacon is brown but not crisp move it to the pot with a slotted spoon. Leave the fat behind. The meat is ready to go. The warm broth and the stew pot are on the right.


Brown the pork in batches and add it to the pot with the slotted spoon:


Cook the onions ’till translucent and add to the pot, again leaving behind most of the fat.


Add fat if the pan is dry. Fry the rice in the pan for a minute or two until browned and set aside for later.


De-glaze the pan with a cup or so of the wine. A straight edge wood spatula is perfect for scraping all the goodies up. The pan should be nearly clean. Transfer to the pot.

Add warm beef broth just to the top of the meat. Set pot, with lid, in oven for an hour.

Pull out the pot and mix in the tomatoes and spices, salt to taste. Back in oven for an hour, (hour and a half for beef).

Pull out the pot and mix in the rice. Bring up to a simmer on stove and return to the oven for twenty minutes. Do not mix the rice after the first time.

Bring the pot out and add warm broth or water if it looks at all dry. The original recipe says to stir in the cup of grated Parmesan now. I have found that this breaks up the meat and makes a mushy stew, so I mix a little in with each serving and have more on the table.


For the greens on the side, look here.

The trick to frying in olive oil is to get the temp just right. Heat the oil under medium heat until it looks hot but is not close to smoking. Test it by dipping a spare piece of broccoli. If it sizzles you’re good to go. Never get olive oil smoking hot.

Back to the stew, this recipe doubles well for bigger dinners and the leftovers are awesome. Like lots of stews it seems to get better over the next few days.

I like to prep the tomatoes and meat the day before. My brother in France insists that the meat be trimmed and cut, then allowed to rest in a glass or stainless covered bowl in the fridge overnight before cooking.

Waste not – want not. The trimmings from the pork can be rendered down to fat for future cooking adventures, just lay out the trimmings in a tray and set them in a 225 degree oven for at least two hours. Drain the liquid through cheesecloth to filter out any bits of meat. If the fat is clean you can leave it out on the counter just like your grandma did. Tip: Since your oven is already hot, turn it down and set the fat in to render when you pull out the stew.



Another great session with Roger…

Back in L.A. on Thursday I had my weekly session at Core Conditioning with my teacher, Roger. We have an interesting relationship since it is both professional and personal. I pay him as a teacher / trainer, and we’re friends. I’ve introduced him to climbing, which he loves. So, when I showed up for training and told him I’d just been out climbing for most of the week he was of course happy for me, but I could see by the look in his eyes that I was about to be tested.

He had me start with the usual warm ups, but added interest to the roll up / roll down series by mixing in a roll over each rep. Then he had me do the “Footwork” on the Cadillac, a setup which puts me in a confined position, testing my flexibility. It was immediately obvious that four days climbing, hanging from my hands and standing on the tips of my toes for much of the time, had left me with a shortened superficial back line (calves, hamstrings, back and neck.) At first I could not hold a neutral spine, but it felt great to get the stretch and arrive there. Next we moved rapidly through a series of more advanced exercises, and I noticed that we skipped over the strenuous “Series of Five,” sometimes called the stomach series. I was expecting he would throw this at me late, when tired, but he upped the ante by asking for a full set of “Teasers” (a very demanding core move,) transitioning from rolling like a ball without touching down. I focused on breathing well and floated the teasers in good style, but they wiped me out. We finished our hour with some demanding back extension work on the chair, side lying legwork in springs on the Cadillac, and wound down with the push through bar.

These workouts take every bit of juice I have, Roger sees to that. But my body doesn’t feel abused. I woke up the next morning feeling like I was floating on the bed. Spent and comfortable. And hungry…

It’s time to re-boot…

Well the last two weeks were a lot of fun punctuated by moments of stress and one calamity. Oh, and did I mention no real training or serious exercise.

I have a brother who lives in France with his family. Our parents, who are octogenarians, live in a retirement community in Pasadena, not far from here. The brother, named Crane (after the author of “The Red Badge of Courage; Stephen Crane) and his teenage son came over and stayed here for a while. Of course it was a very big event for our parents as it is any time they get to see their far flung son and grandson. We made the most of it.

We had a few good outings, spending an afternoon touring the WWII battleship USS Iowa which is berthed as a museum ship in Los Angeles harbor. Our dad was a navy man in the 1950s, and seeing him standing proudly on the armored bridge of the great battleship looking out to forward as if we were underway was quite stirring.


We also went to Palm Springs and rode the tram, which takes you up a steep beautiful canyon, whisking you from 2,500 ft. elevation up to 8,500 in a few minutes. Up at the top it is a beautiful alpine environment. This is where calamity struck as our mother tripped and fell on a trail. I saw her go down and it looked bad, but after a few minutes it was clear that other than damaged glasses and scrape she was okay. It was a scary moment, and I feel some responsibility as I had not considered the effects of taking a couple of elderly flatlanders on a fast ride to elevation. Our final outing was to take brother Crane and nephew Thomas to a local outdoor shooting range, something they don’t get a chance to do in France. Friend, and expert shooter Dimitri came along with some bolt action .22s and a very fine scoped .308. I brought with a couple handguns, an old Russian SKS rifle and a German 8mm Mauser. Thom excelled with the .22s and the .308. Actually shooting that Mauser was the closest thing to exercise I got during the whole visit. Then of course there was the food…

These French are unbelievable, everything revolves around food and wine. Crane, my brother, took over my kitchen. He is a wonderful cook. He would serve up breakfast, and while eating “petit dejeuner” the conversation would turn to the menu for lunch! And any time left after cooking and eating had to be spent shopping for more food. And wine. And shopping is like doing a big wall. First the menu and ingredients are decided upon, but when we get to the market the planned ingredients look less than perfect. Now begins an endless process of inspection, re-planning the menu, and improvising. And then there is shopping for wine. Food is food, but the wine is serious business. We have a local chain called BevMo, which stocks thousands of wines including many French. I think in the last two weeks we paid their rent.

It was wonderful and I have no regrets, but I feel fat and wasted. It was epic. Now I’m back on a diet and fitness is job one. Got crushed in Yoga class last night. Pilates tomorrow with Roger, better get 12 hours sleep tonight.

The subject of diet and nutrition is the “third rail” of personal training…

This is an area many trainers do not like to get involved in. It can get personal, and people can be very dogmatic about their foods. So what I am going to do here is talk about the foods I eat and some of the experiences which led me to the diet which I thrive on today. I fully expect to learn more as time passes and so this blog topic will grow as I do.

I am not going to try to make the argument that there is one perfect diet for the entire Human Race. Each of us has to find our own way given our options, tastes, goals, genetics and ethics.

I began making decisions about my diet in my early twenties. I was a music student living in New York, and I decided to quit eating red meat and poultry (which was served in abundance in the home where I was raised.) A complexion problem which had bothered me during high school cleared up right away, and I felt I was on a good track. I did a lot of carb loading before climbs, runs or bike rides. My athletic performance was excellent. I stuck with this pattern of grains and pastas, veggies and fruit, eggs, fish, and dairy and fish for a long time.

Fast forward almost twenty years. My diet remained unchanged except for the addition of occasional chicken or turkey. I knew nothing about organic foods, rarely cooked for myself and ate in restaurants frequently. I was climbing hard and a lot, and was beginning to have joint pain in my shoulders, fingers and feet. Someone gave me a copy of “Eating Right for Your Type,” by Dr. D’Adamo. Following his advice for my type O system, I cut back substantially on wheat and grains, especially pastas. I was amazed that the pain I had been having went away entirely. So I was living on veggies and fruit, dairy, eggs, fish and chicken (and since I was eating out a lot I had no idea what kinds of oils, sugars and so forth I was consuming.)

Then came an injury, a badly shattered wrist. Surgery went well, but two months into the healing process it was apparent that I had stalled out. My doctor asked me about my diet, and suggested strongly that I eat some meat. I didn’t want to go there, and did not really pay attention. But then I was walking past the meat counter at the market and something bizarre happened. The meat really looked good. I was standing there staring at the steaks, and it was like they were talking to me… “Eat me… eat me…” I explained my situation to the butcher, asking for his recommendation for a person who has not eaten meat in a very long time. I took home a few thin slices of “all natural” London Broil. It was great! I cannot prove the connection, but as I ate more meat my wrist healed well.

Gradually I became more interested in quality ingredients and cooked more for myself. In 2004 I moved in with my companion (and soon to be wife) Barbara, and took up the cooking duties in our home. We are both very motivated to be fit and healthy and so food is a constant topic. Barbara bought Mark Sisson’s book The Primal Blueprint and I have been following this diet closely for several years now. Pushing the carbs down to <100 grams / day took about a week for me to adapt to. Then, suddenly my energy came back without the ups and downs I tended to have before. My energy used to fluctuate a lot, and if I felt even slight hunger I would have to eat right then or bonk. Now, after a few years of eating Primal I’m much more stable. So going along with the basic diet outlined in the graphic below, we have a few rules about our food in this house. No processed foods. No refined sugars. Beef is pasture raised organic (no corn fed hormone and antibiotic feed lot meat.) All other meats are organic. Chicken is free range organic.  Fish is wild. I eat a lot of can salmon, sardines and stuff like that, Barbara not so much. As much as possible all the fruits and veggies are organic.

I like cooking batches of food, enough for the two of us for a few days. The slow cooker is great for this, so are meatloaves and that sort of thing. I’ll start blogging some recipes here that are not labor intensive, are nutritious and taste good (to me at least.)

Click the image below to take a closer look at the Primal Diet food triangle:


Free Shipping Offer – Switch on Your Fat Burning Genes

Movement Naturale: MovNat

Two weeks ago I attended a “power and agility” workshop presented by an organization called MovNat. The event was hosted by the Monrovia Team Crossfit Academy. When I first heard about MovNat (the name is short for “Movement Naturale,”) I went online and looked at their information, and I saw a lot of principles and ideas which resonated with me. I signed up for the weekend program; two days learning and practicing the basics.

When I arrived I found myself to be in a group of 18, most on a track to become certified as level one or two MovNat trainers. For them this was not an introductory workshop, it was professional. They were there for four days, and were going to be tested and certified. I was surprised to find out that the attendees had travelled from all across the country for this event. As I chatted with other members of the group I found out that most were already working trainers in Crossfit or other disciplines. I was the only Pilates teacher in the room, and I was guessing that I was twice the median age as well. To be honest, at first I felt like I had just jumped into a shark tank and was about to be torn to pieces. However as the day unfolded I quickly realized that being in this intense group was entirely to my benefit. All I had to do was relax, open my mind and do my best, and I would be fine.

The session began with our two MovNat Trainers, Kellen Milad and Jeff Kuhland, giving a verbal and whiteboard presentation explaining the fundamentals and the progressions we would be working through. I could see that I was about to be challenged by activities like jumping, which I am not very good at. But I was pleased by our instructor’s repeated emphasis that quality of movement would be our primary goal. They put a lot of emphasis on moving efficiently and naturally, even instinctively. What I would learn would be practical. A final comment about Kellen and Jeff; these guys are fit! They are fine examples of what MovNat stands for.

After Kellen and Jeff’s well organized presentation and a short Q&A, we began to practice the fundamental MovNat techniques (and variations) for efficient walking, running, jumping, balancing, crawling, climbing, lifting, carrying, throwing and catching. Some of the material was familiar to me, for example they teach a barefoot running style similar to “pose running” or “chi running.” They had some good cues which were new to me, and I think my running technique improved although I did manage to take a nasty tumble during a backwards running drill. Oops.

We did balance work on 4 foot lengths of 2x4s laid out flat on the floor. This is a great idea since it is safe, but can be quite challenging. If you think it sounds silly, try this: Make a line out of 2x4s and stand on one end facing forward one foot in front of the other. Now squat down in control, place your hands on the board in front of you and walk them out until you are in a crawling position with a neutral spine. Now sort out how to begin crawling along the board. Only your imagination can limit the number of fun and challenging games you can play on these boards; forward, backward, pivoting, jumping, moving under or stepping over hurdles, carrying heavy objects, and so on. I now have a set of ten 4 foot long 2x4s and work with them regularly.

There were a lot of areas where I needed help. Jumping was a big one. To jump well I would have to learn and practice a sequence of movements – momentum and balance from the arms, and properly timed explosive power from the legs. To quote the MovNat manual: “The more in sequence, the more efficient the movement.”

I made some progress with jumping that day, to the degree that I could produce the sequence of movements somewhat properly. We learned the technique in reverse, first how to stick a landing using the arms to control balance and momentum, secondly we learned to get airborne using the arms to initiate and create momentum and time the jump from the legs. I have been practicing this a lot since then, and today – after less than two weeks – jumping onto a 24” box from standing is easy for me. This is something I could not commit to even trying previously, being worried that I’d miss the jump and drag my shins down the edge of the box. Yeah, I know, a 24” box jump is pretty puny but it’s a step forward for me. There were a few people in the group who could make beautiful clean jumps onto boxes twice that high.

Another group of movements which got my attention were the various crawls and forward rolling. We learned five crawls, three prone and two on the back. Proper quadrapedal movement is done contra laterally, that is moving the opposite arm and leg together for stability. This gets tricky when you are tired or trying to go fast.

Next was the forward roll. Now as a rock climber, I am programmed to avoid falling head first, so this relatively simple movement was foreign and a little scary for me. Kellen saw that two of us were intimidated by this little tumbling move, so he took us aside and patiently broke down the sequence for us. Before I knew it I was doing a reasonable roll, and this, like the broad jump and vertical jump, is a movement I have been able to perform with confidence since then.

After we had worked our way through the basic movements, we began to design and move through “combos.” A MovNat combo is a set course, a bit like an obstacle course, we would move through for a certain number of repetitions or for a specified time. We divided our 18 members into 3 groups of 6. Each group developed and set a course and tested it, and then we rotated so each group tried a course which was set by another team. Each course setting effort would then be critiqued by the entire group. For course setting, I deferred to the members of my group who were there for certification. The decision was made to create a beginner’s course, suitable for someone’s first MovNat experience. This is actually tricky because on the one hand it has to be interesting and offer some challenges, but on the other you want to avoid any “show stopper” moves which will cause the group doing the course to bunch up. Our beginner combo looked like this:

1. Walk the length of a 2×4, then balancing on its end (one foot in front of the other) perform a broad jump landing on a 12” box about 3 feet away.

2. Low jump off the box onto another 2×4 and continue with a series of jumps on crosswise 2x4s at random distances and angles.

3. Walk or crawl another set of boards and at the end pass over or under a hurdle.

4. Vertical jump to a bar located laterally on the monkey bars. Traverse, hanging from two parallel bars across the bars the short way, reset on the lateral bar on the other side, dead hang a moment in control, drop and return to the start. Repeat as many laps as possible in the allotted time. The biggest problem with our course was people bunching up at the hurdle as they tried more and more difficult variations on each lap.

The combo my group had to actually do was set up on the other side of the gym which has a large area of artificial turf. It went like this:

1. Vertical jump to a bar, do three good kipping swings followed by a braking swing (knees to chest at the apex brakes your momentum.)

2. Drop off the bar onto the turf into a forward roll followed by crawling about 40 feet to a pylon.

3. Round the pylon and run / jog back to the start and repeat as many times as possible in eight minutes never doing the same crawl twice in a row. There were three lanes set, so each of our six could move continuously.

Everyone enjoyed this combo, which was strenuous. The critique was that it could have had more elements.

The third combo was the best; there was a fellow who took the lead in this group who obviously had lots of experience as a trainer and in gym management. They set up three stations, one for balance on 2x4s stepping over a hurdle while carrying weights, one for climbing on monkey bars, and the third for jumping – two broad jumps to a box jump to a low jump followed by two more broad jumps. The jumping station had three lanes with different height boxes to choose between. The group doing this combo would divide, two per station, rotating every two minutes.

On the second day, after more drills in the gym, we went outside. Our destination was Monrovia Canyon Park which features a beautiful trail that wanders up a creek / canyon in the local San Gabriel Mountains, ending at a waterfall after about two miles. There were lots of opportunities to improvise using terrain features and trees. Logs were vaulted, stones were lifted and carried, gaps were jumped, trees and rocks were climbed. There is one fallen tree by the trail which rests at just below chest height. Several of the guys were able to do beautiful running vaults over this object. I’ve re-visited it now a couple of times since then and I am still working out the sequence. Vaulting this log is pretty committing, and missing the vault could have consequences. One of these days…

Last but not least, this is an approach to moving which anyone of any age can use keeping in mind the fundamental goals of quality and efficiency of movement. When we were up in the canyon park vaulting the fallen tree passersby would stand and watch. Several young kids had a go at it. Of course it was a very high obstacle for them, but they could run up to it, mount it, stand and jump off. Then everyone cheered them on. Then we noticed an older couple out for a hike who were watching intently. I think it was Kellen who realized that the woman was considering trying it, and he encouraged her to give it a shot. She did not take the risk of attempting a flying leap, but she made a nice agile crossing of the obstacle and we were all impressed, as was her hiking partner.

I have to say that this MovNat experience was a real wake up call for me. Don’t worry; I still love my Pilates and rock climbing, but the kind of practical movement, power and agility, which MovNat teaches is great stuff. I have already added a lot of what I learned at the workshop into my own training and I’ll be sharing many of these ideas with friends and clients as well.