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!

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.

Going Primal

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So you’re thinking about going primal.

Here is a brief summary of how I can coach you to completely change your life for the better…

The answer to optimal health and gene expression can be found in evolution. Going Primal looks way back into our past to determine how millions of years of selection pressure and environment created the perfect recipe for human health, lifestyle and longevity. Our genes expect us to be fit, lean and healthy, because if you weren’t back in the day you would’ve been eaten by a sabre tooth tiger! We can do this by following the diet and lifestyle of our hunter gather ancestors. You can reprogram your genes to respond to the signals they are given based on what you eat, what activity you do or don’t do, your lifestyle and sleeping habits and sun exposure.

Using our knowledge of human evolution we know that body prefers burning fat over carbohydrates. The standard diet or conventional wisdom tells us that grain based, low fat diet created by processed, sugary carbohydrate is the best. This is completely false. Going Primal shifts you from your carb cycle, sugar dependant way of eating into a fat based, all day energy metabolism that has supported human survival for millions of years. Humans have use fat as our primary source of energy for years. By eating more healthy fats (saturated fats are not our enemy) we can program our genes to prefer using fat for energy, rather than carbohydrates and glucose. Current conventional wisdom suggests saturated fats and cholesterol are bad and are linked to heart disease. This statement is only true when linked to high amounts of processed carbs and sugars. A high fat, low carb diet has been proven to reduce inflammation and oxidative stress which in turn reduces heart disease and cancer risk.

Exercise is ineffective for weight management and 80% of our body composition success is determined by how you eat. By ditching grains, sugars and man made, poly unsaturated vegetable oils and fats will promote efficient reduction in excess body fat, increased energy levels, decreased levels of inflammation in the body and optimal function.

Maximal fitness can be achieved with a minimal time with high intensity workouts. Just like our hunter gather predecessors who would sprint to catch a meal or run from a predator, we can use shout bouts of high intensity sprint or cardio to reach maximal fitness gains. Enjoy more benefits in a fraction of the time with high intensity and less of the cardio preached by conventional sports wisdom.

So going primal entails eating plants and animals and avoiding sugars, grains and vegetable oils. It involves moving more frequently, rather than being sedentary, stuck at our desk being Primal means getting up moving around, taking the little opportunities throughout the day to move more. Our hunter gather ancestors showed us the way with regard eating as well as exercise. They performed short bouts of all out efforts to catch dinner or to run from a predator.  They covered large distances over an extended part of the day to hunt prey or to move camps. They also had to lift heavy things, to make shelter and to carry large wildebeest back to camp to cook and eat. This shows our genes and predisposed to sprint occasionally, lift heavy things and perform long slow endurance cardio as our preferred methods of exercise.