Why I train by Karen Phelps

As a child growing up, I never thought about what I was doing as I climbed trees, sprinted from point A to point B, cartwheeled in the grass, and rode my bike everywhere. Who knows where these ideas come from? All I knew was that I had a body and it wanted to move in all these ways, it wanted to explore and know itself—freedom.

But then I grew up and entered a bizarre world called Adulthood where all anyone does with their body is “jog.” And maybe if you want a challenge, you run a 5K and eventually a marathon. If your knees are still functioning, you keep going until you’ve done all the ultra races. And so, not knowing better, I started jogging. But it just never clicked for me and my body never really loved it.

In December 2010, I came across an article that forever altered the timeline of my life. As I turned the pages filled with half-naked humans running barefoot, brachiating through trees, swimming in cold lakes, and carrying logs on their shoulder, I had but one thought—THESE ARE MY PEOPLE. This was my introduction to the movement system known as MovNat, a nature-based physical education modality that helps us explore the full range of human movement that honors our physiology. It is a modern remake of Georges Hébert’s Methode Naturelle (the Natural Method) which itself was a continuation of a tradition of European physical education systems that prepared people to be strong to be useful.

Being strong to be useful…yes.

This, my friends, lit me up. Instead of one skill (running) in one plane of motion (forward), I suddenly had a whole toolbox of movements in multiple planes with practical applications in the real world. And it didn’t end after a “workout.” It affected every movement I made all day every day: Squatting to clean a mess off the floor, lifting my daughter off the ground, carrying numerous bags of groceries because I can’t stand taking two trips, loading my car for a camping trip, helping a friend move furniture.

It contributed to a general sense of beingness in the world. That I am this person, this strong, grounded, prepared, aware, confident person. This was something that no guru or trademark could give me, no amount of hours spent on an elliptical or stair stepper could provide.


I’ve noticed when I’m out in the world how rare this is becoming. This is perfectly understandable given the perceived demands of the modern world on our bodies, our time, and our attention bandwidth, however it also underscores the importance of quality movement. For example, when I’m traveling by airplane, I enjoy observing others. I’m rather amazed there haven’t been more injuries as a result of accidents from folks retrieving bags from the overhead compartment on the poor, unsuspecting person sitting below! I grit my teeth at the baggage claim carousel as I watch travelers heave their suitcases around.

And so I train in order to not unnecessarily burden those around me. I train to be useful to others, always offering to help anyone who appears to be struggling with their luggage.

This ability to be physically independent is a gift, and it’s one meant to be shared. This beingness in the world, for me, is a return to the sense of freedom I felt as a child, and in that place inside I’ve found joy and purpose. In this way, it’s one of the greatest acts of self-love I can give to myself, and from that, only good things come.

If you want to start training and get back to that feeling of empowerment, check out the free MoveMore course for some ideas in how you take those first steps. If you want to bring movement back into your everyday life, get yourself some Movement Snacks, an accessible 10 minute series of movements that will keep you feeling good throughout the week and not just when you have time at the weekends to go outside and play.