MOUNT NEBO, W.Va. -- For the past four years, a campground overlooking Summersville Lake has hosted five-day training camps for a rapidly growing worldwide fitness movement.
In fact, Summersville Lake Retreat was the first American base of operations for Erwan Le Corre, "the Frenchman who may rank as one of the most all-round physically fit men on the planet," according to Men's Health magazine.
Le Corre is the founder of MovNat, a fitness concept that teaches people how to get reacquainted with their childhood ability to move naturally, and to do so with ease, power and grace. He developed MovNat while living in Brazil, where he began training men and women from around the world in a remote outdoor setting. After Men's Health produced an 11-page, 16-photo article on Le Corre and his fitness approach, he said he was deluged with inquiries from people wanting to learn the MovNat process.
"Brazil was too far away for most people, so I came here," Le Corre said, in an interview last week at Summersville Lake Retreat, during the fourth of four five-day training sessions held here this summer. "A guy from Virginia who I know had spent some time here and recommended the site to me. I did some Internet research and decided to come to wild and wonderful West Virginia."
During his first session here, Le Corre was the sole instructor and MovNat staffer.
"The first year, we had three bear encounters -- they got into our food and ripped up a tent," he recalled. But the area's rugged terrain and the presence of Summersville Lake, accessible by trail from the campground, more than made up for any adrenaline spikes caused by bear sightings.
While other fitness programs make use of barbells, resistance machines, treadmills and elliptical trainers, a MovNat workout can involve rocks, logs, water, ropes, trees -- even picnic tables.
"Here, people don't exercise for the purpose of burning calories, losing weight or building up isolated muscles," said Le Corre. "We go way beyond worrying about the size of your biceps or how toned your butt is. Here, you start by learning to move naturally -- think of what works for wolves, bears and eagles. From there, everyone can attain some level of power, grace and agility, if they go about it mindfully."
While climbing, crawling, running and jumping on natural features can be involved in a MovNat workout, "we don't do crazy things, like you see on 'Jackass,'" Le Corre said. "It's just movement-based fitness with safe, progressive conditioning and a lot of camaraderie."
Le Corre believes that being fit, healthy and useful to others in the event of an emergency is part of being a good citizen and a good person. "We all need to be able to run, jump, climb, lift something heavy, and be able to help ourselves and others," he said.