WHO: Richard-Dean Sumares of Crawl Project
LOCATION: Cape Town, South Africa
SPECIALITIES:  Mobility, Fitness, Gymnastics
Richard is a packrat. I don’t mean that in a negative, he-never-throws-anything-away kind of way – it’s more about the way he has created Primal Flow, his own training method, by collecting the favourite parts of all the training techniques he’s experienced and has moulded them into one system. It harnesses the strengths of different training types, but still has its own complete identity and training flavour. I visited him for a training session, along with Nicole and Marisa of Wellness In The City.

HIS BACKGROUND: Richard is a certified Mov Nat and yoga instructor and has more than eight years of experience in gymnastics, CrossFit, kettlebell work, MMA training and even capoeira. This potent mixture of methods is as diverse as it is all-encompassing in terms of fitness benefits. He works at YogaLife and Redemption MMA but does most of his Primal Flow classes and individual client work at Tagg Crossfit in Greenpoint. And most important for you, he offers two FREE classes of Primal Flow there, on Thursday evenings and Saturday mornings. That’s right – free. You’ve got nothing to lose by trying it.

THE INTRODUCTION: Right from the start, I liked Richard, and what he was saying. Even before we spoke in detail, I watched him work with a private client. I was a little early, so I had a chance to see what he was doing (and saw the Burpee board at Tagg – loved the comments, see the image in the gallery). He was focusing on joint mobility, and it was easy to see how good he is as a movement coach. Once we started talking, the same influencers he follows are also role models for me: coaches like Ido Portal and Mike Fitch. He likes the expression and freedom that Portal puts into his style of training, and admires Fitch for his Animal Flow. “I’m an eternal generalist,” says Richard. “Extremes can be dangerous, especially when you specialise and go from one extreme to the next.” Richard promotes constant movement, body awareness and a focus on fundamentals – you slowly build up your body’s ability to move so that you sidestep injury and gain supple strength. Primal Flow teaches you how to sequence movement patterns to mimic real world scenarios as well as to create expressive, fluid ground based movement flows inspired by various martial arts and animal-like movement patterns. It’s not based on aesthetics, it focuses on how your body moves – body imbalances and unilateral strength are obstacles. If you’re looking to increase your bicep curl PB, this is not for you – this kind of training creates strength in a full range of motion. And if you scoff at that, I’d like to see you do a proper planche or the kind of movement that Richard does. And it does build lean muscle, a fact that wasn’t lost on Nicole or Marisa. “Richard is one of the strongest humans we’ve had the pleasure of meeting. His control, power and flexibility are impressive. It’s great how Richard promotes movement and regularly being active which is so liberating and a lot less pressure than the classes that judge your weightlifting abilities. We really loved his energy and calmness and he’s also not bad to look at either,” says Nicole.

THE CLASS: The class started with a mindfulness session where you sit and meditate and prepare for the session, similar to what is done in a Yoga session. It may sound flakey if you haven’t done it before, but it’s not – if you had a stressful day at work, or your mind is somewhere else – this helps to refocus you. This mind-body connection doesn’t stop there, it’s something that’s required throughout the class. “It was definitely refreshing that we were required to concentrate a lot more and be in tune with our bodies and every movement as opposed to just pushing hard at a gym class and not being as mindful,” said Marisa. Then we moved into a gentle movement introduction. We tried various crawling patterns as well as ways of getting up and down off the floor. As the class progressed, I realised it was all about dynamic strength and power in a full range of motion. Richard makes it look like a breakdance, a muscle sequence where you put all the technical movements together to make one fluid expression of strength. It’s like a fitness version of LEGO, where once you’ve found the right parts and perfected the technique, you build something impressive. “The movements are controlled, fluid but yet still extremely dynamic allowing you to not only increase flexibility but also develop strength from your pinky to your big toe,” says Nicole. There are times in the class where I was frustrated by my lack of flexibility, or where my balance let me down, but that also provided me with an instant pointer of what I needed to work on. And don’t be fooled by the fact that there are no bending barbells – this workout left me drenched with sweat and it taxed every muscle group. It’s also very scalable – just like calisthenics and gymnastics, there are always tougher moves and holds that you can work on. The other major benefits? “You’re not as susceptible to injuries compared to other high intensity fitness classes out there” says Nicole. Granted, it may appeal to people that are more flexible and with more of a gymnastic or yoga background, but it’s actually more important for men and women with mobility issues. Either way, he offers free classes twice a week. Even if you have a solid training plan that works for you, some mobility can only help to make you even stronger and more effective at whatever you’re training for, whether it’s a triathlon or a powerlifting meet. Check out our video of Richard showing one of his warm-up moves called the Lizard Lunge at the bottom of this write-up.

Play first, perform later. Richard provides a training environment with no pressure or competition, you simply work on the moves and mobility problem areas, and you start to put together the right movement patterns. The more you enjoy it and play around, the more you unlock your flexibility.
Don’t form bad habits. It’s refreshing to hear a movement coach talk about going back to the basics, and not letting people use quick fixes and shoddy technique that might work in the short term, but create bad movement patterns in the long term. Richard had a great example of this in calisthenics, the latest bodyweight, outdoor training trend. “While most of guys move really well, they are a few who take shortcuts to complete the moves quicker, or to get to a certain position. This enforces bad movement patterns, which not only hampers your performance later – it can also lead to injury.”
Focus on gymnastic fundamentals. Primal Flow works on basic movements that you start chaining together to make up fluid, expressive movement patterns. These are functional ones that will help you in day-to-day work.

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