3 Things a Primal Athlete Does to be “Fit for Life”

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What happens when you train hard for months with a race goal in mind, you get there perform well and then… what do you do after the event? Keep training hard, no worries? Or are you like most folks… do you lose motivation, stop training, have a few weeks off and then really struggle to get back into it.
This led me to think what is your motivation in the off season or with no race goal in mind.
Without having a race or specific goal in mind I keep motivated by the idea that if friends rang up and said lets go for a hike, a mountain bike ride, for a swim, a surf, to the gym to lift weights or a run I would be able to keep up, would I have enough fitness to finish the activity and not be too sore the next day!
This also made me think about what makes a good all round athlete. I have discussed it before about being a good “life all rounder” and what things we need to do to be able to be a good all round fit human that could do any activity at the drop of a hat. Sometimes with no specific goal or race to work towards, trying to get back the fitness you had is hard. It is hard to find the motivation to get out there and exercise. What are the things we should do to be a fit, healthy all round everyday athlete?
So three things I try and do are…

#1 Get stronger

This one is a no-brainer: stronger athletes are faster, less likely to get injured, and bounce back from hard runs or exercise quicker than those who don’t do any strength exercises. One of the Primal Blueprint Laws outlined by Mark Sisson is to be more like our primal hunter gatherer ancestors and to Lift Heavy Things.

This is great in theory, but how exactly do you get stronger? What exercises are best? When should you do them?

The three strength routines I do each serve a purpose and each one is athlete-specific and should make you stronger and faster.

The MSP (maximum sustained power) is a power/stamina workout for endurance athletes. It is designed to avoid muscle fatigue on the back end of long exercise. It builds strength in all the areas that athletes need, like the hips, glutes, abs, and lower back.

The Runner Specific Workout is a more challenging strength workout that focuses on hip and glute strength. These muscles are critical for injury prevention and speed, power and endurance during your runs (or any activity).

The Upper Body Strength Workout is specifically designed to increase the strength that you will need during your Spartan Races like grip strength, upper body strength, and the ability to carry odd loads. It helps functional fitness and strength and has a cross over into life in general. It should make you more mobile, injury free, more resilient and be able to carry out daily task with seemingly less effort. Exercises include the bench press, the deadlift, squats, presses and carries.

#2 Exercise Long-Endurance 

Most athletes need more endurance. If you take that simple concept to heart, you WILL run faster.

See, too many runners think they have to run faster to race faster. But most of the problem is not being able to maintain a fast pace – and that’s a problem of endurance.

And the long run is one of the best ways to develop that endurance. On your long runs aim to run 5-7 kilometres longer than your next longest runs of the week.

Even if you’re not training for a race, it helps to run one long run per week that’s about 20-30% of your weekly mileage. Keep working at it and focus on very gradual increases in distance every 1-2 weeks. This concept can be used for developed endurance for life in general and being able to run, swim, bike, hike etc when called upon and can be used for any endurance exercise.

#3 Run EASY!

As you are aware my training philosophy is in alignment with the Primal Endurance principle of making your easy days really easy, and your hard days harder.

Polarizing your training this way helps you gain more fitness on hard days while boosting recovery on easy days.

Not sure what “easy” really means? Just follow the “3 C’s” of easy running. Easy runs should be:

  • Comfortable
  • Controlled
  • Conversational

Prioritizing recovery and mobility on easy days will help you run even faster during more challenging workouts – and ultimately, your races.

These three strategies can help you cut your injury risk, gain more endurance, run a lot faster and be ready for any type of exercise when its needed.

I could add #4 Sprint, #5 Work on Your Mobility and #6 Rest and Recover to the things good all round athletes do but we might talk about those next week…
An example of a non specific race training week for me might look like this
1x Long Endurance Run of an hour plus.
1x Strength (Running specific, MSP or Resistance workout)
1x Easy Run or Sprint- less than 45 minutes
1x Body Weight Workout- 5 Rounds for time of…
  • Wide Push Ups (chest) 8

    Mountain climbers (abs) 20 each leg

    Side lunges (Legs) 6 each side

    Plank (abs) 30 sec

    Burpees (Full body) 8

    Air squats (Legs) 

    Bench Dips (arms) 15

    Rest 2 min

Primal and the Ketogenic Diet

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Welcome to Part 3 of my 3 part series on the ketogenic diet, you can find part 1 and part 2 here…

Why the Ketogenic Diet and Primal Go hand in Hand…

You have probably heard of Paleo more so than Primal as it has been a trending topic for several years now. You may have heard it called the Caveman diet or ancestral diet. Eating Paleo is a lot like eating Primal (I have a post on the small differences here) but simply put primal and paleo eating is about choosing real, whole foods the our hunter gather ancestors would recognise as food. We don’t even have to go back that far, stuff our grand parents would recognise as good wholesome foods, nothing processed with high amounts of sugars, refined grains and industrial vegetable oils. Things like meat from cows who eat grass on a farm, organic eggs from chicken allowed to roam, graze and forage, natural fats like butter, lard and ghee. We have become far removed from this way of eating. It is possible to ketogenic without being primal/paleo and you can follow primal/paleo without being ketogenic, but marrying keto with primal is like a “match made in Heaven” for your overall health.

The ketogenic diet is an excellent way to keep you carbs down and your insulin in check. Following basic keto/primal/paleo principles fits how our bodies are designed to work. For our Primal ancestors, they ate all parts of the animals they hunted along with fish, fowl, eggs, fruits, vegetables, nuts and seeds and one of the biggest sources of energy was from the animal fats they consumed. When food was scarce or they caught a big animal and ate a lot of animal fat, the thing that sustained their energy needs was ketones! Hunter gathers, due to their high consumption of animal meats and often long periods of fasting would have constantly been in a state of ketosis.

A state of nutritional ketosis occurs by increasing good fats, eating moderate protein and reducing carbohydrates. Backing this with a Primal philosophy for eating real, wholesome, nourishing foods will give your body overall health benefits that have been well documented on this blog as well as others including mental clarity, sharper focus and more vitality.

The Ketogenic Diet

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Welcome to my three part series on one of the most talked about diets in fitness, nutrition and healthy living; the Ketogenic Diet…

One of the biggest “trends” in nutrition at the moment is the ketogenic diet or as you may have heard to referred, Keto. I say trends in inverted commas because this is one diet that I believe should be here to stay.

The term ketogenic comes from the term ketones, which are the molecules that fuel your body when you are in ketosis, or when you are eating following a low carb high fat protocol. Ketones are a by-product of when your body burns fat and they are what your cells use for energy.

There are numerous peer reviewed research papers that suggest the ketogenic diet fixes a number of metabolic syndrome conditions like poly-cystic ovarian syndrome, diabetes as well as weight issues and there is even evidence it helps autism, multiple sclerosis, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and a host of other neurodegenerative disorders

The reason why I like it is for weight loss, lifestyle and long term control of weight.

There is currently a ketogenic diet revolution underway and its only going to gain strength. I believe it should be the way of the future for helping the obesity epidemic currently facing the world.

 For decades we have been told that the healthy diet is smaller portions, fewer calories, lower our fat intake, eat whole grains and limit meat consumption. There is a disturbing lack of evidence that this is true, in fact it could be the opposite.

But what is the Ketogenic diet?

At the most basic level the keto diet is one that relies on fat as the main source of energy. That may not sound like a big deal but most people are burning glucose or sugar for fuel and consuming large amounts of carbohydrates, sometimes as often as 300-500g per day, to meet those needs.

Burning fat as a fuel source is a much healthier and more efficient metabolic tool for improving health. Dr Steve Phinney and Dr. Jeff Volek, experts in the field of exercise and low carb high fat (LCHF) eating, note that sugar burners have approximately 2000 calories of available in their body whereas fat burners have about 40,000 calories worth of fuel.

To get your body to prefer fat as its fuel source it requires you to restrict carbohydrates (to somewhere below 50 grams per day), eat moderate amounts of protein and eat as much fat as it takes to feel satiated or full. It take a few weeks to become fat adapted, possibly up to about two months according to Jimmy Moore, podcaster for livin’ the vida low carb and author of several excellent books on keto and keto cooking. To me it makes sense that if you want to burn fat, you need to feed your body fat and become fat adapted. Calorie counting and exercise do not work for long term weight loss. The keto diet, where you are changing you bodies fuel pathway sources to prefer fat over carbohydrates, means you will burn fat as your primary energy source and therefore, lose weight and keep it off.

Part 2 in the series looks at how the ketogenic will heal your body…

Helping kids behave better, concentrate harder and become Primal.

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Kids are naturally inquisitive, engage in imaginative play and regularly exercise. This means they are, without knowing it, on their way to becoming a Primal human being. They naturally want to explore, play in the dirt and run around barefoot. But what happens when our kids when they get in a habit of too much technology, computers and  screen time. What can you do as a parent to break the cycle of dependence on screens? I know my kids become staring zombies, grumpy, irritable and less efficient when looking at a screen for even 10 minutes. They get focused on the screen and cannot communicate, let alone be distracted enough to listen to a simple request. There are several things you can do to help you kids become primal like diet and exercise but the big one is reducing screen time. These things, and more, will help improve multiple facets of your little one life’s including concentration, behaviour and even mood.

  1. Diet- Improving your child’s diet is the number one factor in your child’s health. If you can change their eating to more of a primal aligned diet they will have an increase in cognitive function, mood and behaviour. Things you can do to improve diet
  • Eat more plants and animals including lots of veges and a piece of fruit a day.
  • Avoid processed foods high in sugar and vegetable oils.
  • Limit intake of all sugars including juices, sweets and lollies.
  • Set consistent meals times and eat as a family at a dinner table, not in front of the TV.
  • No junk food the large amounts of vegetable oil and hidden sugars are inflammatory and equate to doses of radiation according to Dr. Kate Shanahan author of Deep Nutrition.
  • Control the portion sizes, especially with snacks.
  • Get your child involved in the making of a meal and the setting of the dinner table.
  1. Regular exercise- having your kids involved in regular exercise helps break the addiction of screen time. We all know that regular exercise has physical benefits and helps prevent childhood obesity but it can also help with concentration, sleep and behaviour. It increases blood flow, which helps with the transporting of oxygen to the muscles with helps nutrients to reach organs and tissues around the including the brain. It has also been proven to promote better brain function, memory, concentration. It has also been reported that anxiety and depression levels decrease in correlation to increased amounts of exercise which improves mood, confidence and self-esteem.
  1. Sleep Habits– Poor sleeping habits are linked to poor cognitive performance, mood, short term memory loss and an increase in food consumption due to disruption of the circadian rhythm and the hormones effecting hunger. Things you can do to improve sleep:
  • No technology before bed time and if you can try avoid TV or any blue light screen 30 minutes to an hour before bed.
  • Set a routine- same time every night, read a book, sing a song.
  • Make the room as dark as possible (tough with young ones who are scared of the dark).
  • No snacking before bed.
  • Have anything electrical with artificial light (clock radios, night lights) away from your child, the skin has receptors that detect light and this messes with our bodies sleep rhythms.
  1. Limit the use of technology- It is believed by many psychologists that a child’s poor mood and behaviour often results from excessive use of electronic devices. This causes hyper-arousal or “tired and wired”, where the child is agitated and exhausted. Excessive use of technology can also lead to poor social interactions as well as affecting sleep, circadian rhythm and hormones. It is recommended by the Health department that kids between the ages of 2-5 years have less than an hour a day. Getting children out into nature, getting sunshine and engaging in imaginative or structured play is primal in its nature and has many flow on effects including cognitive function, mood, fitness and behaviour.
  1. Social Interactions– Helping kids develop healthy social interactions teaches them the values, knowledge and skills that help them relate to others effectively and make positive contributions to family and the community, much like it would have been in primal times as hunter gathers. Team sports and joining community groups can help with positive social interactions. Other ways you can help you child in a “tribe” setting:
  • Teach them to solve day to day problems they encounter.
  • Help them to think through solutions to those problems.
  • Ask questions.
  • Encourage them to empathise with others- “how would you feel if…”
  • Encourage them to state their opinions and thoughts and discuss moral issues with them.
  1. Be consistent with expectations, routines and rules- be consistent gives children a known predicted outcome any given situation. If they know that there is consistency they will know where they stand, the expected values, knowledge and outcomes from their behaviour. Inconsistency can cause anxiety.

These simple and easy steps can help you child function better, concentrate harder and will improve their mood and behaviour. They are by no means hard things to implement and will help them Live Primal, which is in fact how we should live. If we can model good behaviours, like following the Going Primal blog post from a few weeks ago, our kids will inevitably want to do the same.