What do Venice, walking like animals and entrepreneurship have in common? Nothing!
Well actually that’s not entirely accurate. They have nothing in common, unless you were at Kinnernet 2016.
Kinnernet is a unique, invitation only, three day event which has taken place every year since 2003 when it was first created by Yossi Vardi, one of the leading figures in Israeli High-Tech and innovation.
This year it took place in Venice from the 4th to the 7th of August and gathered together 130 of the most prominent entrepreneurs, artists, scientists and tech gurus from most continents.
Kinnernet is a very special type of conference whereby participants self-organise into interactive workshops, hands-on activities and discussion groups on anything from cooking to quantum-computing. All the events were hosted at the amazing H-Farm, one of Europe’s most prestigious Startup Accelerators providing for acres of historical countryside facing the Venetian lagoon.
Coincidentally, H-Farm has also been running the Technogym Wellness Accelerator Summer Programme 2016 and we at TRAIN ME Fitness are one of only four out of a few hundred startups that have been selected to participate. As a result we have been stationed at H-Farm for the past two months working on our TRAIN ME Flair Platform.
It was immediately obvious to the H-Farm events organisers to take advantage of the in-house Wellness skills and that is why we were asked to come up with a fitness-related fun activity for the Kinnernet-ers!
Our Commercial Director and Personal Trainer extraordinaire, Aaron Deere had no doubts – he was going to make the Kinnernet people walk like animals around the green spaces of H-Farm!
It turns out that there is method in the madness and a very old madness at that since we have been taking inspiration from animals for centuries especially where health and fitness are concerned. Animal Flow is a relatively recent revival of animal-inspired body weight training focusing on mobility, flexibility, stability, power, endurance, skill and neuromuscular development.
Its foundation rests on the practice of different stretches, walks and jumps each mimicking a different animal such as the crab, the horse, the ape, the lizard etc. At its peak it can become very acrobatic, almost dance-like with power moves that are reminiscent of yoga, originating from disciplines like calisthenics, ginastica natural and capoeira.
The emphasis of animal flow on full body dynamics makes it very versatile and amenable to integration within any other exercise regime at the warm-up stage for example or within circuit and HIIT sessions.
Because of Aaron, I found myself having to practice some of the basic movements beforehand just so I didn’t look completely ridiculous on the day of our workshop and although I am a calisthenics practitioner, I still found many of the movements refreshingly challenging for several reasons.
Activation of all stability points
Some of the animal flow movements will engage most of your stability points simultaneously. If we define stability as the ability to maintain or control joint movement or position we soon realise that during some of the animal flow progressions we are practising control of the shoulder joints, the scapulothoracic joints (where the shoulder blade meets the thorax), the lumbosacral joint (where the spine meets the pelvis) and the hip joint, all at the same time. There aren’t many exercises that combine this level of joint engagement, therefore if you are like me, you will probably find a good challenge there.
Engagement of the nervous system
Many of the walks that involve all four limbs (e.g. beast, lizard) are intrinsically complex and not only because of the physical effort required. They also require a great deal of coordination between the limbs. Aaron kept having to remind us every single time to make sure opposite limbs move at the same time and just when we thought we had mastered it, he would ask us to perform the walks backwards to the amusement of most bystanders. These are high-skill moves (as opposed to low-skill moves like bicep curls for example) that engage the nervous system which is being trained to find the optimal order of muscle activation in relation to timing and joint angles resulting in strength and performance improvements.
As a calisthenics practitioner, I found myself out of breath after most of the animal walks. It may say something about my fitness level perhaps, but I think most people would agree with me after a couple of rounds of lizard walk forward and backwards. These walks challenged my ability to continue exerting while getting energy from my aerobic system, that is, my cardiovascular endurance. So there is bad news and good news here. The bad news is that animal walks will require lots of oxygen for your muscles! The good news is that I can replace boring cardio training with fun animal walks!
What have I learned?
So we made some of the biggest entrepreneurs on the planet walk on all fours for a bit. In the process, I have discovered a versatile and engaging form of exercise that can be easily integrated in my own fitness and health regime. Ultimately, in an industry where finding ways to motivate people is the Holy Grail, I realised that what should never be underestimated is the motivation that comes from novelty and fun. I feel smug in my awareness that had we told the Kinnernet-ers we were going to work on their stability and cardiovascular endurance or to brace for a HIIT session, this blog post would not have been written. So there you have it, sometimes there are things in common between Venice, walking like animals and entrepreneurship.
If you want to know more about Animal Flow, here is a great article discussing its application in more depth.