Interview with The Play Master, Frank Forencich – author and creator of the Exuberant Animal system

Several months ago, I ran into a website called Exuberant Animal. I didn’t think much of it at the time, but it has really grabbed my attention the past couple of weeks. Sometimes, an idea needs to “bake” in the back of your mind before you see the true grandeur that it has to offer – and that’s exactly how I’ve experienced Exuberant Animal just recently. Prepare to feel the shockwave from a SLAP IN THE FACE to most traditional fitness systems…

The creator, Frank Forencich, has molded a health and fitness system that serves our primal needs, our practical needs, and our desperate need for play. One of the hallmark traits of the Exuberant Animal system is the infusion of play into every element. Naturally, going to play is a much easier decision to make than going to WORKout, and the vitality that Frank’s trainee’s display is inspiring to say the least.

I think one of Exuberant Animal’s main goals is to help people fall in love with movement, because when you’re playing a silly game, nobody even realizes that they are exercising (just like when you were a kid, right?).

Frank was kind enough to send me a copy of his Exuberant Animal Play Book: Secret Moves and Games of the Play Masters, which proved itself an invaluable learning tool this past weekend which I spent bumping hips, throwing toys, and “heckling” friends and family. Without a doubt, everyone had a great time and we all got a good workout.

This was the group Frank played with this past weekend at one of his seminars. You can tell the whole group had a blast. Frank is the one with the white shirt, kneeling in the middle.
This was the group Frank worked with this past weekend at one of his seminar's. You can tell the whole group had a blast. Frank is the one with the white shirt, in the middle.

Frank and I got on the phone today for an official interview, where we will delve much deeper into these subjects. Enjoy, and prepare to have your perspectives challenged!

John Sifferman Interviews Frank Forencich (27 minutes)

I want to thank Frank for doing this interview, and especially for sending me a copy of his Play Book. Just in my brief interactions with him, I can tell that he is a giver, someone who pays it forward every day of his life.

Exuberant Animal Trailer

To learn more about the Exuberant Animal methods, check out Frank’s site here:

If you’re a bookworm, like me, then I think you’ll especially enjoy the newsletter archives – but there is plenty else to check out.

To your health and success,

Fitness Professional and Play Enthusiast

P.S. Also, be sure to check out Frank Forencich’s book, EXUBERANT ANIMAL: THE POWER OF HEALTH, PLAY AND JOYFUL MOVEMENT

P.P.S. I conducted a short “teaser” interview with Frank through e-mail earlier this week…

Teaser Interview with Frank Forencich:

1) Could you give a little background about yourself and how you became involved in your line of work?

Personally, I was a sick little kid with a lot of health problems that went away when I started swimming in high school. Later I got involved in martial art, at the same time I was studying human evolution and anthropology at Stanford. It occurred to me that there ought to be some relationship between human history and modern movement practices; this generated a lot of questions in my mind, and in turn, a strong interest in paleo perspectives. Suddenly, the modern world of health and fitness started to look both fascinating and disturbing.

2) What needs were you trying to fulfill with Exuberant Animal that other fitness/health programs were not living up to?

There are several needs that just aren’t being fulfilled in big box fitness facilities. The first is the need for community. With treadmills and other exercise devices, most gyms keep people in isolation. But people learn best in groups. Second, people need more functional movement experience. This means more multi-joint, multi-plane, real world movement. Wobble boards, med balls and natural terrain tend to stimulate more functional experience. Third is the need for balanced sensation; we are over-stimulated in vision, but under-stimulated in touch. We need skin contact with natural surfaces and with one another. Fourth is the need for joyful play. Too many programs are grim. The modern proliferation of boot camps and trash-your-body programs take the joy out of moving. The final need is for relevance and meaning. The ability to squat a thousand pounds might be impressive, but it has no relevance for the modern human predicament. We need movement programs that are appropriate for the health and environmental challenges of the day.

3) You talk about the human predicament being likened to living as aliens on our own planet. Could you explain this and perhaps talk about the importance of habitat as a deciding factor in health success?

The modern world is “alien” in many ways. Obviously, it’s an alien kinetic environment (sedentary and sport specializations), an alien nutritional environment (“fake foods”), alien thermal environment (constant indoor temperatures), alien circadian environment (artificial, on-demand lighting), alien social environment (displaced tribal relationships), alien sensory environment (too much noise, not enough tactile stimulation), alien aesthetic environment (natural beauty is rare).

Clearly, alien habitats are hard on all animals, including humans. Some animals, such as rats and dogs, can adapt to wider ranges of habitat, but in general, the more the original habitat is altered, the greater the stress on the organism. In this way, chronic stress becomes one of the dominant threats to the health and fitness of the modern human body.

4) What does a holistic health regime look like in real life? Are most health program missing some essential elements?

We’re not sure what it looks like because we hardly ever see it. Perhaps some small town communities have a comprehensive environment for health, but it’s rare at best. Even the so-called champions of holism, the yoga practitioners, fail to deliver. Yoga is an indoor art that doesn’t study human locomotion or strength. Almost every modern discipline misses one or more elements of “primal holism.” Too many are indoors, and fail to develop a connection to the land or habitat.

5) How could someone start incorporating the principles and practices of EA into their life today?

The best way is to start spending more time outside, in habitat, with friends. Start paying more attention to the natural world and looking for ways to fit back into it. Keep your movement challenges simple and diverse. Use simple toys and tools. Be strong and endurant, but put the emphasis on cooperative experience. Avoid specialization. Start thinking about primal, functional movements such as squatting, walking, hiking, carrying and basic lifting.

Trainers can take the lead on this by promoting cohesive group experience. At Exuberant Animal, we don’t do boot camps, we do foot camps!

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