After being stuck at home for too long, initially nurturing a knee injury and recently dealing with an urushiol encounter of the third kind, I am really dreaming of getting back out there for heavy sweat, mild pain and frantic motion. In the meantime, I’ve been reading up on alternative training systems, wanting to bring more into my routine than simply running. So far, two characters and their ideas stick out of the crowd, David Belle and Erwan le Corre. What? Oh, yes, they both happen to be French.

The result, when taken to his extreme level, is very much like a giant jumping spider mutation of the human genome.

David Belle probably no longer needs an introduction. He is commonly credited as being the father of parkour, or free running. See my previous post about it. What I like is that he combines multiple disciplines such as running, trail running (for its balance), gymnastics, martial arts and climbing into a single, uninterrupted and challenging workout. The result, when taken to his extreme level, is very much like a giant jumping spider mutation of the human genome. A mutation that inherently accepts a disappearance of nature and digs deep into the urban core for adapted training grounds and a new exercising culture.

A the opposite end of the spectrum is Le Corre‘s approach. He was inspired by a training method and philosophy proposed by French physical educator Georges Hébert in the early 20th century, la méthode naturelle. Le Corre has adapted it to modern society and turned the original motto “Be strong to be helpful” into “Be strong to be free”, but without dropping the real outdoors as a prime training field the way parkour does. He advocates exploring one’s true nature via a very diverse training style and uses concepts such as the Nature Deficit Disorder and Zoo Humans, which I find delicious.

Here’s what he had to say about training, in an interesting interview with Men’s Health:

“Our workouts are domesticated, while the world out there is still plenty wild. In a pinch, can a man put gym-generated biceps and tank-tread abs to any real use? Could it be that our treadmill-running, elliptical-gliding, well-oiled Cybex world has turned us into show dogs who can’t hold our own in the hunt? I meet men all the time who can bench 400 pounds but can’t climb up through a window to pull someone from a burning building… [ ] I know guys who can run marathons but can’t sprint to anyone’s rescue unless they put their shoes on first. Lots of swimmers do laps every day but can’t dive deep enough to save a friend, or know how to carry him over rocks and out of the surf.”

Don’t know about you but it’s the best wake-up call I’ve had in a long time. In a few words: keep it real, keep it varied.

In the end, though, these people, methods and philosophies don’t necessarily have to become our gurus or gods or doctrines, and theirs might not always fit our own goals or capabilities. But they remain incredible displays of explosive human potential and watching them train and perform always lifts my spirit and pushes me to do a little more, a little harder.

So for now, I hit the keyboard keys with renewed intensity. One does what one can.