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

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During our period of no defined race goals and just getting back into exercising I thought I would touch on the next three important areas we should focus on to make you a good all-round athlete that can perform any given activity at any given time when called upon That might be an intense Crossfit session, a long run or even a swim. Last week I discussed the first three key concepts to focus on. These where Get Strong, Exercise Long and Run easy. The next big three are Sprint, mobility and rest. If you look at the Primal Blueprint, the 10 must do Laws developed by Mark Sisson to become “Primal” you will notice my to do list is very similar. From an evolutionary stand point it makes sense that we follow, as close as we can in this modern life, the things that helps us evolve into the people we are today. It makes sense to get stronger, to eat good, healthy unprocessed foods like meats, vegetables and fruit and it makes sense to perform long slow endurance activities. It also makes sense to sprint once in a while, to be agile and mobile to avoid predators. It also makes sense that we get adequate rest and recovery so we are able to perform these tasks again and again.

#4 Sprint

Once every week, try and perform a high intensity sprint workout. This could be as simple as 5-10 all out sprints over 50-100 metres. It could be up a hill, on sand dunes, at the beach or around a 400m track. Even repeated, intense intervals on a bike. These short bursts of intense activity increase the level of human growth hormone and testosterone. These adaptive hormones are released to improve the body so that if this kind of intensity is needed again in the future the body is better adapted and ready to perform.

#5 Mobility

This isn’t so much a Primal Blueprint law, but it would be on my list of must do’s for a modern athlete. Being able to perform when called upon relies on the fact that you are fit and able to do the activity required of you. If you are injured, imbalanced or inflexible you might not be able to perform to the best of your ability, you might be in pain or may even injury yourself due to being muscularly imbalanced. This is the reason why I believe it is imperative to perform corrective exercises, foam rolling and strengthening exercises 2-3 times per week.

#6 Rest and Recover

The body needs time to rest, recover and adapt from the hard workout or exercise in able to perform better the next time it is called upon to perform that task. Exercise in itself is a stress on the body. It creates (good) inflammation and oxidative stress that the body must then heal itself to become better. The problem is if we keep piling up hard, intense workout after hard intense workout the body becomes too stressed and overwhelmed by the oxidation that exercise becomes detrimental. That is why I like to prescribe no more than 4 workouts per week (in periods of no defined race goals or the “off season”) so it gives your body a day or two to recover. Performing exercises like Stand Up Paddle Boarding or long hikes are a good way to “actively recover” by doing something that is less intense but still gets the body moving at much lower heart rate intensity. Recovery doesn’t mean doing nothing. In fact that is much worse. Keep active, move around but just keep that intensity down!

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

Reducing Childhood Obesity

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We know the answer we just aren’t applying it!

Movement is the answer. This is a little carryover from my recent blog about movement and how that can help create a resilient, injury free all rounder who is ready of any thing that life throws at them be it in sports, fitness, work or home life for you kids.

Get kids standing to reduce Childhood obesity?

Childhood obesity is and is going to continue to be a massive problem for us as a society. According to the Australian Government via the Australian Institute of Health and welfare, 1 in 4 Australian children aged between 2-17 were overweight or obese in 2014-15.

We know NOW the massive problem we have with childhood obesity. They are eating the wrong foods-too many processed foods with high amounts of sugar, grains and industrial oils. They aren’t moving or exercising enough and spend too much time on technologies like ipads, phones and too much screen time. Stand up desks in schools will help kids keep in constant motion by standing, moving and changing feet position. Being a former high school teacher, I recognise that kids cannot learn in the old sit still and shut up model we have been running for decades. Times have changed, get kids standing up at their desks. Kids with ADD cannot actually learn whilst concreted to a sitting desk. They need to move to keep their brain active, they think better and behave better this way. Stand up desks allow kids to interact and develop social skills. They are actually a better way for people and kids to write, it improves neatness and handwriting skills. Studies have shown that kids sit for about 4 and half hours a day. Think about it, we sit to eat breakfast, sit in the car or bus on the way to school, sit all day in the classroom, come home, sit to eat dinner, sit to watch television, ipad or computer. We know the answer- get kids standing up and moving to help create fit, all-rounder that are resilient and less likely to get injured. Obese kids with stand up desks at school burn 25-35% more calories per day! Kids are more engaged in a standing classroom and can interact better, increasing social skills and group work. In the very least it creates a discussion around movement being the norm and according to Stand Up Kids, a great US based website highlighting the benefits of movement in the early years, it creates a “movement rich environment and as one researcher put it, physical activity is cognitive candy”. In other words it helps their brain function as well as their physical and motor skills. Other benefits to stand up desks in classrooms include:

  • Reduces disease, orthopedic dysfunction and impedes children’s ability to learn.
  • Obese kids burn up to 35% more calories per day.
  • Classroom management is easier for teachers
  • If kids are given the opportunity to move through the day they will take it.
  • When students move more, their education improves.
  • Kids are happier when they are not restricted in a chair.
  • Behaviour improves with active learning and kids have more creativity.
  • Students can shift their bodies and change position when they need to stay focused.
  • Standing prevents the body’s tissue adaptation to static positions-short hip flexors and hamstrings, rounded shoulders and back positions), it doesn’t erode the child’s physiology like sitting does.
  • Standing maintains the integrity of the complex motor skills required for optimal physical function.
  • Reducing sedentary time reduces cell aging which means kids will live longer and be healthier.

According to the Stand Up kids website moving more is the key to better cognition and learning. This next part comes straight form their website, I couldn’t say it better myself…

“Sitting still has been our dominant model for learning in schools. For decades, the educational and scientific communities seemed to believe that thinking was thinking and movement was movement, and each was as separate as could be. We were wrong.

Research definitively shows that movement and learning are connected –

In order for children to learn, they need to be able to move.

Students who are engaged in daily physical education programs consistently show not just superior motor fitness, but better academic performance and a better attitude toward school than their students who do not participate in daily P.E.

MOVEMENT IS KEY

In September 2014, the journal Paediatrics published research that found kids who took part in a regular physical activity program showed important enhancement of cognitive performance and brain function. The findings “demonstrate a causal effect of a physical program on executive control, and provide support for physical activity for improving childhood cognition and brain health.”

Physical activity is clearly a high, high-yield investment for all kids, but especially those attentive or hyperactive, maximizing the utility of time spent in class. The improvements in this case came in executive control, which consists of inhibition (resisting distraction, maintaining focus), working memory, and cognitive flexibility (switching between tasks).

Another study found that a 12-week exercise program improved math and reading test scores in all kids, but especially in those with signs of ADHD.

There are many reasons kids aren’t moving enough any more:

  1. THE LOSS OF PHYSICAL EDUCATION

PE has been cut or dramatically decreased in most American schools. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans recommendation of at least 60 minutes of daily moderate-to-vigorous physical activity. Today, however, only 4 percent of elementary schools, 8 percent of middle schools, and 2 percent of high schools provide daily physical education.

In Los Angeles, physical education class sizes rose to 80 students in some cases, making effective teaching nearly impossible. Only 31 percent of California students passed a statewide physical fitness test last year, in part because of budget cuts wiped out physical education programs. In a 2011 survey released by the California State PTA, 75 percent of California PTA members said their children’s PE or sports programs were cut or reduced dramatically.

  1. KIDS DON’T WALK TO SCHOOL

Among students living within 1 mile of school, the percentage of walkers fell from 90% to 31% between 1969 and 2001.

According to the CDC, only 13% of children walk to school today compared with 66% in 1970.

  1. INCREASE IN SEDENTARY ACTIVITIES

A groundbreaking study conducted by the Kaiser Family Foundation showed that children between ages 8-18 are spending, on average, 7.5 hours/day in front of a screen SITTING, regardless of socioeconomic status.

Combine that with the time sitting at school (between 4-6 hours/day), driving to school, sitting at meals, and doing homework at kids are spending 10-14 hours/day or 75% of their waking hours in sedentary positions.

In 1980, there were 81,000,000 TVs in American households. Today, there are 324,000,000 TVs. At the same time the number of TVs has tripled, the number of obese children and adolescents has also tripled.”

I for one will be championing for more physical education time in schools, get kids moving more, out in nature and getting stand up desks! Get these kids active and moving from an early age and we will reduce a myriad of health issues in the future!

 

 

 

 

 

Get off your chair. Why Movement can Create the Ultimate All Rounder.

 

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We are living in an age where the all rounder is the king. Gone are the days when you specialised in one thing-sports, jobs, and life. You need to be adaptable and ready to perform anything at any time.

Just have a look at the exercises we are now performing- Crossfit, obstacle course racing, hiking, Trail running, swimming, Olympic lifting, etc. You need to have a wide range of skills, have cardio vascular fitness, strength and power. Lean is in, huge bulky beefcakes are out! So how do we prepare the generalist for a ready state, a state of fitness readiness for what ever is thrown at you. Can you go for a 10 kilometre hike, a stand up paddle, a kayak, move furniture, chase your kids around at the park at the drop of a hat? How do we prepare people so they don’t get injured, have the foundation to learn new skills and perform all these activities that the all rounder needs. The answer is movement. We need to move more, be supple, get up out of the chair, stop sitting and start moving.

According to Dr. Kelly Starrett of mobilitywod.com, a physical therapy doctor, Crossfit box owner and one of the leaders in movement practices, we cannot sit in a chair in a mechanically good position. Our hips are neutral, our pelvic floor turns off, we lean forward, our breathing and diaphragm are compromised, head and neck move forward and spine is a in poor position. Everything shuts down! Starrett says we can sit in a good position on the floor as that is what our bodies are designed to do. We never take our hip to full range of motion any more. We sit down on the chair (hips at 90 degrees), getting up out of bed (90 degrees), sitting in the car, plane, bike (90 degrees), then we head to the gym and get on the elliptical machine or run on the treadmill. One great activity for this is the Caveman Squat (you can view the video here). This squat hold position puts our hips in full range on motion, increasing Anterior Tibialis (front muscles of the calf) flexibility and movement as well as increases the dorsiflexion of our ankles and this allows to move better. Taking our hips to end range of motion helps keep our hips stable.

Of course sometimes we have to sit- flying on a plane or driving in the car for example. But other than that we need to be in constant motion, always moving. Stand up desks at work or if possible walking treadmills. This make us move as well as helping us burn more calories and increase productivity. We can take frequent movement breaks- for every 30 minutes sitting get up and walk around for a few minutes, do a cavemen squat hold, some push ups, dips or dead hangs.

We know the answers, we just aren’t applying them!

We know the massive problem we have with childhood obesity. They are eating the wrong foods- too many processed foods with high amounts of sugars and industrial oils. They aren’t moving or exercising enough and spend too much time on technologies like ipads, phones and too much screen time. Stand up desks in schools will help kids keep in constant motion by standing, moving and changing feet position. Studies have shown that kids sit for about 4 and half hours a day. Think about it, we sit to eat breakfast, sit in the car or bus on the way to school, sit all day in the classroom, come home, sit to eat dinner, sit to watch television, ipad or computer. We know the answer- get kids standing up and moving to help create the fit, all rounders that are resilient and less likely to get injured. Kids with stand up desks at school burn 15-25% more calories per day! Kids are more engaged in a standing classroom and can interact better, increasing social skills and group work. It creates a discussion around movement being the norm and according to stand up kids, a get US based website highlighting the benefits of moving, it creates a “movement rich environment and as one researcher put it, physical activity is cognitive candy”.

Activities like Crossfit test our full physical capability running, full range of motion activities (kettlebells), mobility exercises and power and Olympic lifts. Crossfit is helping to create the all rounder who is ready for any activity walking, lifting, and helping a mate move house. Getting ready for life.

If you think about what are brains are designed or have evolved to do. It is designed to receive information then interpret that data to help us move through the environment to find food, shelter, water and to reproduce. You must be able to think to move through your environment and you must be able to move well through the environment to survive. We need a movement practice to help us be come good thinkers and problems solvers. We need to have a regime where we are constantly working on flexibility and movement exercises.

To become the ultimate all-rounder and have a ready state for anything we need to have all things in our life in order- nutrition, sleep, hydration, mechanics and MOVEMENT.

Living Primally

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In the upcoming weeks I will be writing a more in depth post on some of the following subjects but in the mean time, to give you an idea or guide to start living primally, here are a few topics to think about.

  1. Eat Plants and Animals- eat good quality organically sourced, in season fruits and vegetables as well as organic, free range meats.
  2. Avoid Grains, Sugars and Refined Polyunsaturated Vegetable Oils
  3. Move More Frequently- whether that be taking “movement” breaks at work after sitting for too long, taking the stairs instead of the lift or parking further away so you have to walk. Find more ways to move more often throughout the day.
  4. Get Plenty of Sleep- at least 8 hours!
  5. Play- have fun, move around, enjoy time with your children
  6. Get lots of Sunlight- Vitamin D is essential for many processes in the body and we can get an abundance of Vit D from the Sun.
  7. Lift Heavy Things.
  8. Sprint once in a while.
  9. Try Intermittent Fasting- not immediately, but once you have become fat adapted (I’ll talk about that in coming posts) you can tinker with not eating 😉

These are adapted from Mark Sisson’s Primal Blueprint Laws. For more of Mark’s excellent teaching see his blog at marksdailyapple.com