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#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:
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.
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
Top Ten Fasting Tips:
1. Drink Water– drink plenty of water, stay hydrated and use it as a satiating mechanism to cope with any hunger.
2. Stay Busy– you will find that not having to make, think, worry about and prepare food is liberating. It frees up a lot of time (and money). This does have a drawback, however, it that if you don’t busy yourself at work, home or with some tasks you may find yourself bored and thinking of food (See point 10). It might be a good idea to fit into your life when you are busier but not stressed or over worked and lacking sleep. Stay active, go for a long walk in the bush or spend time at the beach but make sure you keep busy, especially around meal time.
3. Drink Coffee- black coffee acts as a mild appetite suppressant and is full of beneficial anti-oxidants.
4. Drink a home-made bone broth– bone broth has minimal calories and chock full of minerals that help the immune system, like collagen, glutamine, glycine and proline. These helps the gut lining and reduce inflammation.
5. Ride the hunger waves- hunger won’t last, tough it out and see it as an act of self-discipline. It will make you stronger. I find that I get hunger between 950-10am every time I do an intermittent or 24-48 hour fast. Strange but I can tell the time by when I am hungry. Hunger pangs, must be 10am! That being said ghrelin, the hormone responsible for hunger or telling us when we are hungry has its own circadian rhythm, or 24 hour cycle, like everything else in our body!
6. Don’t tell people you are fasting- with telling people you are fasting comes the questions and the judgement. Why would you want to do that? You have to eat something or you will go into starvation mode? You’ll breakdown muscle. All untrue. However, if you plan on telling people you are fasting or you have a party and you don’t want to eat, think of an excuse that won’t having the judgement of others. I often say I have already eaten if it’s an afternoon thing or say I am not hungry.
7. Give it time– give yourself a month at least to try intermittent fasting or day long fasts. Don’t be discouraged or feel guilty if you give in to your hunger just try again another time. Being more of a fat burner helps (check my blog on burning fat for fuel here) as your body will prefer the clean burning energy and will switch to burning the abundant stores of fat on your body (over 40,000 calories!!!)
8. Follow a nutritious diet on non-fasting days– don’t eat poorly (high sugar, refined carbs, industrial oils) on your non fasting days, it really defeats the purpose. Stick with good nutritious non processed whole foods like meats, eggs, fish, chicken, vegetables and fruits and when breaking a fast do not chose junk food. Eat a small, nutrient dense meal. If you are hungry have a larger meal a bit later (1-2 hours) as you don’t want to make yourself ill by bingeing on food.
9. Don’t binge- either breaking the fast or on non fasting days.
10. Fit fasting into your own life– don’t try and be un realistic about it or do it on days of high intensity exercise or stressful periods of the week or month. Fit it about your schedule and you are more likely to succeed!
There has been a lot of talk about fasting in the fitness and primal worlds of late so I thought I would share the few fasting protocols that I have found extremely beneficial for weight loss, performance and longevity.
Firstly, we should start with what is fasting? Simply, fasting is going without food or drink for a period of time. An absolute fast is refraining from everything, food, water, drink and supplements. There is also varying forms of intermittent fasting using bone broths, coffees and teas and supplements. A water fast, as the name suggests in drinking nothing but water for your fasting period.
There are a wide range of health benefits to fasting. These include:
- Weight loss– studies have shown that fasting is an excellent way to reduce body fat. One study in 2015 found that participants lost 7% body fat and reduced inflammation markers without sacrificing muscle mass using alternate day protocol.
- Normalises insulin levels– one of the markers for ageing, diabetes and inflammation is insulin levels. When you consume too many carbs and sugar you body releases insulin to bring the blood sugar levels back to normal. If this cycle happens too often your body’s natural production of insulin can breakdown- hence type 2 diabetes! Fasting can lower insulin levels and reduce insulin sensitivity helping to stop type 2 diabetes.
- Normalises ghrelin levels- Ghrelin is the hormone responsible for telling your body you are hungry. Being fat adapted and being able to fast for extended periods of time allows your ghrelin hormone to normalise, following its correct circadian rhythm and tell you when you are actually hungry.
- Lowers triglyceride levels– triglycerides are a indicator for heart disease. They rise in relation to bad cholesterol. Fasting helps to reduce or lower the amount of triglycerides in your blood.
- Allows cellular autophagy– Cellular autophapy is the bodies mechanism for cleaning up debris in the cells causes by oxidation, metabolism and excess consumption of carbs. Autophagy is programmed cell death. If we are constantly feeding the body with food and fuel our metabolism is high and the body thinks we need to be always making new ells. Whilst this is good to some regard if you are wanting to build muscle, being go go go all the time doesn’t allow the body to heal and repair itself through this celluar clean up. Fasting allows the body to stop, slow down and repair. Fasting is a great way to rid the body of pre-cancer cells and allow our bodies to get rid of damaged cells (which is what cancer cells are!)
- Promotes the secretion of Human Growth Hormone-according to Dr Axe HGH is naturally produced by the body and it has been effectively used to treat obesity and help build muscle mass, important for burning fat. HGH also helps increase muscle strength, which can help improve your workouts, too. Combine these together and you have an effective fat-burning machine on your hands.
So now you know what fasting is and some of the many benefits, what are some of the fating protocols you can do to get all these great benefits. The following 4 fasting protocols (and there are hundreds of others out there) are ones that I have personally used and have found to be efficacious in weight loss and management, better performance and building muscle.
- 18/6 Intermittent Fast– this protocol involves fasting for 18 hours with a 6 hour re-feeding window. This is my favourite fating type and I will do this 5 days a week. It involves eating dinner about 6pm and not eating again until bout 12pm then next day. I then will have two meals, lunch at 12pm and dinner again at 6pm. I will also have a snack in between. As you can see by the name you fast for 18 hours and then are ‘allowed’ to eat in the 6 hours between 12pm-6pm at night. I like this time frame but other people like to use 16/8 or 14 hours. This is a really good introduction into fasting and helps you get an understanding that you wont die from not eating, that it is actually quite easy to do, makes you feel like you have achieved something through self discipline and frees up time.
- 24 hour fast– As the name suggests you don’t eat for 24 hours. I do some travelling on day trips on an aircraft and I like to use this one where i know I cant get decent food. I usually eat dinner about 6pm one night, then not eat again until 630pm the next night, so as you can see you are eating every day, just 24 hors apart!
- 3- day fast– I have tried this one on several occasions but this one takes some discipline and preparation. I prepared bone broth, as well as supplement drinks as I knew this would diminish my electrolyte levels. Be very careful with this one. I found that the second day is hard but once you push through the initial hunger late on day two, you feel like you can go for ever!
- 5:2– the 5 and 2 periodic fast has been popularised by Dr Michael Mosely. I have tried this protocol and didn’t like it that much as it felt like the 18/6 IF but only for 2 days and you ate whatever you lied on the other days. It works for reducing Insulin Like Growth Factor 1 (IGF-1) which is a marker for longevity but I feel (and I am not a doctor like he is …) you get more benefits from the 18/6 with regards to performance and weight loss. This protocol entails eating normally for 5 days a week and severely restricting your calories on 2 days a week, usually the weekend.
So there you have it what fasting is, the benefits and a few protocols to get you started. If you have any questions or comments about your own fasting protocols, I would love to hear about them in the comments section. Stay tuned for my Top Ten Fasting Tips in the coming few days!