Last minute Holiday gifts Ideas (that are healthy for you & the planet)

Ah the holidays... where so many of us focus on the acquisition of more 'stuff' for either ourselves or loved ones in the name of fitting into to 'polite' society. It can be stressful and awkward, especially for someone trying to live a more conscious existence and 'opt out' of mindless consumer culture. 

There is a middle ground of course, and ways to be thoughtful and conscious about what we consume and what we force others to consume as well (by buying them a gift). Here's a couple of broad strategies. 

  1.  Buy gifts from small, domestic, ethical companies. Thankfully in the Internet age, this is not hard to do. Instead of supporting mega-corporations with your dollars, why not a support a smaller company where your money makes a bigger difference? For Natural Movement oriented folks, some of our fav picks are companies like Sweet Skins HempPansy Co, and Seed Yoga for movement-friendly clothing made from ethically-sourced hemp and organic cotton. For footwear that allows your feet to move like real, human feet should move, Earth Runners sandals and Soft Star Shoes are two of our favs. If you'd like to gift someone incredible, beautiful skincare products, we love FeatherEagleSky and PrimallyPure (their sensitive DO is the best non-toxic deodorant we've ever tried!). Or maybe you want to give someone improved immunity and recovery through the wild-crafted, thoughtfully-procured and curated supplement line at Surthrival. Of course, there are PLENTY more companies out there, doing things ethically & sustainably, these are just a few of the ones that we have used personally and really love. 
  2. Make some a gift! A classic way to opt out of the consumer cult, or uh, culture of the holidays is to make something. This can be a tricky one though because people often don't appreciate handmade items anymore, let alone the time and energy that goes into making them, so perhaps save these for the folks you know who can and will appreciate them. Or make things that don't require so much time or effort. A simple face or beard oil is pretty easy to make and put in a nice bottle for someone- a carrier oil and some drops of essential oils you might already have on hand is all it takes. (And if you don't have the essentials oils, its often only takes a few drops and then you can have these useful, potent oils on hand for your own lotions, potions, creams and salves.) A hand-blended tea or herb-infused oil is also incredibly simple to make and give someone. Save the handmade knitted scarves or hats for the people who can and will appreciate them.
  3. Don't give a 'thing' at all. A physical item often requires resources to make, store, clean, etc. A gym membership, a movement class, a session with a personal trainer, a dance or movement workshop or certification course, an herbal medicine making or wildfood foraging class- you're only limited by your own creativity here. Research indicates that we remember and value our experiences in life more than the possessions we accumulate so give someone an experience that will enhance their life and health rather than a thing that will all too soon become another time in the landfill. The bonus is that 'experience' gifts are great for last-minute shopping or for those hard-to-buy for people on your list who have everything. And there's nothing to wrap! 

In need of a last minute gift? We have a few things that might make a great gift for someone on your list. For local folks, we have an Intro to Natural Movement class starting on Tuesday, January 10, 2017. The 4-week class is just $60 and if you sign up now using the code 'getmoving2017' you can save $10.  For friends outside the local area, we are offering an online Primal Reset program (and it's on sale now for Christmas!) starting in January. This 3-week reset program includes a meal plan, shopping list, a MovNat® based workout program you can do at home or in the gym, daily motivational emails and access to our Facebook group for ongoing support. We also have our MovNat® Elements 1-day workshop coming up in May.  Gift yourself or a friend. If you gift a friend, let us know if you'd like to send an email to inform them of your gift. (We're happy to send a physical gift certificate as well if you really need something tangible to give them!) 

And of course, don't forget to make time to get outside and simply enjoy being with family and friends this season. The best moments are often the simplest ones. 

Living simply: reclaiming sanity + authenticity

I met a friend for coffee & bone broth the other day and the conversation strayed to evolution, ancestral health and the modern condition. (Friends who will nerd out with me on these topics have a special place in my heart.) She mentioned that in an anthropology class she took in college, the professor referred to the hunter-gatherer lifestyle as the "original opulence."

Though it might not seem like these people have a lot, what they did have was happiness, community and time. Even today, travelers in the poorest areas of the world are impressed with how happy and content the people are even when they have very little. From the study of more recent hunter-gatherer cultures, anthropologists estimate that an individual spent 15-20 hours a week acquiring all the basic supplies they needed for food, clothing, and shelter.

Imagine what your life would be like if you only had to work the equivalent of a part-time job to provide for your needs? You'd have more time to pursue your passions; the things that make you come alive. There would be more time for family and friends, to create art, to build community. More cooperation, less loneliness and isolation. Less negative impact on your hormones and health from the constant barrage of stress.

Can we even go back to this original opulence? Or has that ship completely sailed for the modern human? Can we recreate an adapted version of original opulence that doesn't completely isolate us from the modern world? One where our modern technologies serve us rather than enslave us?

I believe the answer is yes. There is a growing tribe of folks all around the world who are 'rewilding' themselves, their families and their communities. These people are creating their own paths, rejecting consumerist culture and choosing conscious, intentional lives. Yeah, they still have an iPhone and a huge social media following, but they are using this technology to inspire and lead this growing tribe. (And they make it a point to put this technology away and experience uninterrupted connection with nature and community.)

So how do you get started on this rewilding lifestyle of living simply and sanely, of recovering original opulence? First, there is no 'one-size-fits-all' approach to living simply and there is no sequential number of steps to follow. Think of it more like spiral-shaped path: you'll often come back to certain issues and themes, with new insights and understandings at each revisit. Where you end up doesn't matter. That you take the first step, does.

With that in mind here's some idea of places and or themes to start with.

  1. Food. This is where it all started for me. Getting back to the basics of eating real food. Stuff that looked like it came out of nature. It started with organic, but moved in from there to local, sustainable food choices. Now I am learning about growing, harvest and foraging my food (which requires a ton more movement, see below). As I understood more about the connection between food and health, I came to realize that food was the most important investment I made each day because it was an investment in my life, my health, my body, even my future. I spend a greater percentage of my income on food than most Americans and I'm OK with that, even though it means there is less for the new clothes, a big payment for a nice ride, cable TV package, etc. I value my body and my health more. Change your diet and see what shifts and opens up for you. I'm huge fan of a paleo/primal eating as a way of getting back to real, nutrient-dense, health affirming foods and diet that is sustainable for you and the planet.
  2. Movement. There was a shift that happened for me when I dove headlong into the MovNat community. Moving in nature, using only the elements at hand to get fit and grow strong, I realized that I didn't need the latest and greatest fitness training program or equipment to move well and be healthy. I don't even need that gym membership I never use. A heavy rock or two, a tree limb and a downed log will do just fine. Through MovNat,  I've come to see the environment and the elements not as something to shield myself from all time (and that require more clothing/gear to deal with), but something to be selectively and intelligently embraced to make me stronger and more adaptable. Try some MovNat training and see if it doesn't shift your perspective a bit.
  3. Stuff. The elephant in the room- sometimes literally. Our current economy is predicated on consumerism; buying 'stuff' you don't really need is the whole point. The 'gotcha' is that you have to work more to earn more to buy this stuff you didn't really need in the first place. Then you need a bigger house, more stuff to organize all of your stuff, a storage unit, etc. All of this requires you to earn more money, trading more of your time. Personally, the things I want out of life, turn out not to be material goods. At the core of many of the things I dream of doing and seeing and becoming, is a healthy, capable, adaptable body to get me there. I can actually give more focus to this goal with less stuff blocking my path. Start with room, closet, or maybe even just a corner of your home. Clean out the stuff there. Sell or give it away. Don't keep things for sentimental reasons; keep only those things that bring real joy, every day.

Many of these areas overlap for me and they probably will for you too. I have more money for high quality food when I choose less stuff. I have more time to be outside and play in nature when I can work less because I don't need as much money to buy all that extra 'stuff.'  I have more time to spend with my family and community as well. It's a journey and I'm constantly learning too. (I hope one day to convince my husband to sell most of our furniture and increase the spaciousness of our small home while getting more movement in our day by sitting on the floor.) The point being, when we do the bits and pieces of work to rewild ourselves, we begin to reclaim that original opulence. Yes, we create extra work for ourselves at times, but that's the work that makes us stronger and fitter- physically as well as mentally. We reclaim our sanity when we no longer carry the anxiety and frustration that comes from excess 'stuff' management, the burden of debt or or the stress of working long hours in a job we hate just to 'pay bills.' We can be mindful and joyful in the present moment, with the people and places that we truly love, living from a place of authentic luxury.

Strong to Be Helpful

"Be strong to be helpful" echoed in my ears as I ran up the trail. It seemed to echo and yet be amplified by the beat of my heart. I didn't know what to expect when I found him. He could be unconscious, injured, unable to ambulate or some combination thereof. My mind raced with scenarios and made a rough plan for what I would do for each one. I took stock of what equipment and supplies I had on me. 'Not enough,' was the short answer. A headlamp, some water, a knife, a cell phone with no service. The most useful things I had were my brain, which contained some emergency medical training and my body. It might not seem like much on the outside, but having spent the last several months immersed in the MovNat training tribe, I knew I had endurance, strength, balance, agility and possibly some human carry techniques at my disposable.

I didn't plan on this of course. When I pulled into the trailhead that afternoon, I had only planned for a simple 4 mile hike to the falls and back. I hadn't even packed a bathing suit to swim. One of the other things I have learned from my MovNat practice over the last few months is how less is more. We humans like to carry all this 'gear' when we go into the woods, thinking of it like a talisman to ward off potential dangerous scenarios. In reality, we need more to be comfortable. Yvon Chouinard once said something akin to 'most people pack according to what they fear, not what they need.' MovNat training has helped me fear less. The elements, temperature swings, getting dirty, even my choice of footwear, only help me become more adaptable when engaged intelligently.

I had passed him and his wife on the trail on my way up to the falls. He was struggling with the heat and mild incline then. As I moved steadily and quickly passed, I offered up a silent prayer of gratitude for my own health and fitness and committed to daily action to maintain them. At the falls, I moved through the brush to find a quiet, secluded spot down stream for a quick plunge. I reveled in the feel of being unencumbered by so many things- gear, clothing, ill-health, fear. I felt so at peace connected with nature and with my nature as a human being.  I'm fairly certainly I wore a beatific glow the whole way back down the trail.

On my way back down, I actually passed him at the bridge over the falls. He looked like he was contemplating a swim himself. (Later he would tell me he thought the water was too cold.) I was so blissed out from my time at the falls, I nearly floated down the trail and was back at the parking lot all too soon.

When I arrived, I saw his wife, wearing a very worried look, speaking with two other hikers. Apparently they had gotten separated, she had gotten lost, made her way to a house and the occupant had driven her back to the trail head. She expected that he had turned around and was waiting at the parking lot for her. He wasn't. She was asking the other two hikers what she should do. As I came up to them, I told her that I had seen him at the falls and she was shocked he had made it that far (1.9 miles from the trail head). The other hikers suggested she wait a bit for him and if he didn't show up to call the DEC/authorities. I watched them all get in their cars and drive away. Suddenly, the previously very full parking lot was almost empty. As I reached my own car, that's when the voice in my head began to echo, "be strong to be helpful."

This was it. This is what I had been training was for, even if I didn't realize it. Not to be a size 6. Not to be a certain weight, not to look good in a bikini. This is where being fit, strong and capable really makes a difference- helping another human being. This is part of the human experience- it's not exclusively the domain of one gender. I knew what I had to do. I knew I had more stamina, more speed, more strength, more knowledge and a better sense of direction than his wife, who was the only other person around (and incidentally is thinner than me. Which I only mention because in the current paradigm of women's 'fitness' the emphasis is on being as small as possible- weighing less, taking up less room. Not on strength or capability.) I told her to stay at the parking lot and wait for him in case he did the same thing she had done. I grabbed a headlamp from my car, gave her instructions to call the DEC in two hours when it got dark if she had yet to see either one of us, and told her I was going to go look for him.

Thankfully, I found him halfway up the trail. He was moving slowly, but moving on his own nonetheless. Going downhill was really staring to make his right knee throb and ache. He leaned heavily on a thick stick to steady himself. I told him I was glad to see him, that his wife was waiting for him in the parking lot. I also told him that I would walk back with him to make sure he stayed steady and safe and to take as long as he needed- I had a light source to find our way out in the dark if it came to that. I even took his backpack because it seemed to make him unsteady and have a harder time holding on to the stick that he used for support. An old fashioned sort of guy, he seemed a bit embarrassed that a woman half his size was helping him and carrying his things.

We talked a lot on the way back down about his health. How he use to lift weights and be strong and capable, but after neglecting his health for almost 20 years, he gained a significant amount of weight, developed a heart condition and numerous aches and pains. He had already lost nearly 60 pounds since last fall by changing his diet and getting rid of processed foods. His goal was to lose 40 more pounds and he had just started back to the gym to lift weights again 5 weeks ago. He had thought he was more capable of handling this trail then he turned out to be. He was grateful to not be alone for the hike out.

When we met his wife at the parking lot, she cried and hugged me. She said she couldn't believe that someone would go out of their way to help them like this. I was embarrassed by her praise as all I had really done was walk up a trail and back down with someone and carry an extra little daypack. As I ruminated on this later, I found it a sad commentary that she would be shocked at this. That's when the quote from Chris McDougall's book Natural Born Heroes came to mind.

Health = Heroism.

Humans are innately capable of extraordinary things, when they are healthy and fit. Unfortunately, there's a lot of folks out there who simply aren't healthy and fit. Maybe the other hikers left because they were too hungry to stay and help. Thankfully, I've trained my body to be able to use endogenous fat for fuel, so I wasn't worried that it was 'dinner time' and there was no food in sight. Maybe they were already achey and sore and tired from their own hike and needed to rest, not do any more hiking. Maybe they simply didn't have the confidence they could do anything useful even if they did help. It's all speculation on my part as to their motives, but either way, my experience solidified my gratitude for my MovNat training as well as my purpose to help others use this training to be more healthy and fit. We certainly need more people on this planet who are capable and willing to help others. Be strong to be helpful. It's a good mantra to live by.

Thoughts? Comments? I'd love if you share your experience or just keep the conversation going in the comments below. Does your current training help you be more capable? Do you have an experience where your capability made a difference or saved the day? 

Movement = Freedom

Today is a special day. A day those in America celebrate independence and freedom. On a barefoot trail run this morning, I found myself ruminating about freedom.

Movement = Freedom

In many ways, movement is the ultimate expression of freedom. With that in mind, it begs the question- are you as free as you think you are?

Here some ways in which modern or Westernized humans are not as free as they may think they are:

  • needing orthotics or specific shoes to walk without pain
  • needing canes, crutches or other supports to ambulate
  • needing glasses or corrective lenses to see
  • needing a specific pillow or bolster to be comfortable enough to sleep while laying in bed
  • needing a specific type of desk chair in order to be comfortable or pain free throughout the day
  • not being able to get off of the floor without support
  • not being able to go hiking or camping without needing poles and/or special mattress pads
  • needing an electronic activity device to tell you to move your body
  • needing a rigorous exercise routine to counteract the metabolic effects of sitting all day
  • needing to brace a joint so as to not experience pain when moving that joint

This list is not intended to be an indictment if you do need any of them currently. My challenge to you though, is to think more deeply about the ways in which you move your body throughout the day that are assisted, corrected or even outsourced to persons or things outside of your own body. Lack of movement eventually becomes the inability to move.

Lack of movement eventually becomes the inability to move.

Consistent use of footwear leads to a lack of strength in the foot muscles and decreased mobility in the foot joints, eventually necessitating arch supports and other corrective measures to walk or stand without pain. Increased screen time and lack of outdoor time leads to more focusing on near objects and failure to focus on objects far away. Eventually, corrective lenses are needed to correct this myopia. Sitting in chairs routinely means that the knee and hip joints are rarely flexed beyond ninety degrees and eventually, a deep knee bend (flat footed squat) becomes an achievement born of hard work instead of normal rest posture.

The ability to move and to move well throughout our entire lifetime is a key determinate of how much freedom you will enjoy in that lifetime. Choose to make movement an everyday practice so that you can ensure mobility and freedom for lifetime.

How to Grow Strong + Age Gracefully

Is it possible to grow to grow strong and age gracefully? We are lead to believe that it is normal for our bodies to become broken and defective as we age. This is simply not true. It only seems normal in our culture because our society as a whole is so sedentary- our current economy is predicated on stationary people.

The truth is that when you move your body regularly in the ways it was designed to move, it will stay healthy and strong for many years- long into "old age." You can grown strong and age gracefully. This is what we use to call "fitness," which is defined as the state of being fit- physically healthy and strong. Unfortunately, the modern 'fitness' industry has perverted this ideal in such a way that other definitions of 'fit' would seem more appropriate: "proper or acceptable: morally or socially correct" and "suitable for a specific purpose." Current fitness it would seem, is about having a body that lets you fit in, not one that is particularly useful to oneself or others.

What fitness should be about is adaptability. Can you execute practical physical tasks effectively? Efficiently? You can lift a box up off of the ground, but if you throw your back out in the process, was that really an efficient movement skill? If you can lift a barbell off the ground, but not a large log, is that movement skill really practical?

Consider the following list of basic movement skills:

  • Walking
  • Running
  • Balancing
  • Crawling
  • Climbing
  • Jumping
  • Swimming
  • Lifting
  • Carrying
  • Throwing
  • Catching
  • Striking & Grappling

Does your exercise or training regime regularly incorporate all the above skills? Is it progressive and adaptable enough that anyone at age can learn the basic skills and become a better mover? If not, is it perhaps time to reconsider your approach to training?

Training these natural human movement skills does not have to be exclusive to all other sports and movement modalities. However, if these fundamentals are trained first and given the first priority, it can ensure health and longevity, in sport and in life. Reclamation of these 'authentic movements' is the secret to grow strong and age gracefully.

Want to know how you can incorporate natural human movement training into your life? Check out our classes page to learn more about how we can help you.