If you’re not familiar with Animal Flow, creator Mike Fitch knows what you’re thinking. So we asked him to get to the point of what it is and what inspired it.
He explains that the most important thing to understand is that the focus of the practice is “to increase communication, connection and function of the ‘human animal.’” Fitch continues, “We’ve specifically designed the system to develop or improve all of the body’s physical abilities, like strength, power, speed, endurance, coordination and mobility. The magic is in the multidirectional, quadrupedal movements where both hands and feet are in contact with the ground.”
Fitch did not study animals to develop the discipline, although he understood the fundamentals of this type of movement. He was first introduced to ground-based movement training and flow through his own exploration of parkour, gymnastics and breakdancing. Fitch says, “I had already been a career personal trainer for 10 years before I decided to start diving into these different bodyweight movement styles. Right away, I realized that my clients could reap huge benefits from similar training, but they would most likely never go to a breakdancing class or join a parkour gym.”
It became Fitch’s mission to create a totally new system: one that would allow anyone to feel successful right away. Fitch defines it more precisely: “A practice that could stand as one complete approach to exercise or be taken apart and used as individual tools.” This was the birth of Animal Flow.
24Life: What does Animal Flow do for us that other popular “at-home” workouts like running, biking, HIIT or yoga don’t do?
MF: The thing to bring to light here is the importance of breaking patterns or positions. With so many people spending countless hours at their desk, kitchen table or couch, the last thing that I would want them to do is exercise in a similar position, like a stationary bike. Not to say that biking is bad by any means, just that the body craves variety. Even running in the same direction every single time could potentially bring about unwanted side effects like over repetition injuries or poor postural adaptations. Instead, it’s important to choose movements or exercises that put the body in multiple positions, with as many different joint angles as possible. While Animal Flow is great for variety, you could really choose anything that breaks you from your desk posture and changes up any consistently linear movement.
24Life: Are there any misconceptions about Animal Flow that need to be corrected?
MF: Yes! There are two common misunderstandings about this form of movement.
The first one is that it’s all about acting like animals for the entire workout. While we do use some animal travels and animal names for our “base positions,” it’s really only one of the six components that make up the entire program. We’ve found animal locomotion to be an incredibly powerful tool for improving coordination and cardiovascular endurance and can be used in Flows as a way to add complexity and style to a sequence.
The second misconception is that Animal Flow is just another form of yoga or Capoeira. I’ve never been a consistent yoga practitioner and I’ve never taken a single Capoeira class. The misconception stems from visual association. When people see something that has similar characteristics to something else, it’s easy to mentally classify it as the same thing. The truth is that almost all movement disciplines will eventually have similarities, as there are only so many ways that the human body can move. The delineation between the different approaches then must be based on the why behind the movements, the techniques that drive the functionality of the movements and the goal of the overall practice. The goal of AF is specific to the individual’s needs. For example, you may teach Animal Flow to a yogi who wants to introduce more dynamic movement and fluidity to their practice, or a strength athlete who needs to be a bit more pliable. For some it may be a solitary practice, while for others it’s a way to get together and move with each other, whether that be online or in person.
24Life: Does Animal Flow is helping people connect better with one another in their pods, or could it?
MF: One of the things that we’re most proud of with the Animal Flow system is our community. We have thousands of instructors all over the world who are in constant communication with each other. That sense of community has trickled down into their clients and classes, as well as through those that subscribe to our on-demand channel. It has been our mission to figure out even more ways to facilitate the growth of the community, reaching as many people as possible. We’re driven to connect people through movement in order to enhance their human experience.
24Life: When it comes to movement, is there anything you wish we’d focus on, that we’re not?
MF: I truly don’t think that there is enough talk about the mental trauma that people are experiencing all across the world, due to the current pandemic. Or the connection between exercise and mental health. It’s important to start changing the conversation around exercise being used solely as a tool to lose weight or “get in shape.” Instead, we should promote the use of movement as medicine for the brain, body and mind.
Try This Animal Flow
Watch Mike Fitch demonstrate and coach you through three essential movements to open up from long stretches of sitting. Follow Animal Flow on Instagram @animalflowofficial.
Photo and video credit: Mike Fitch, Animal Flow