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Primal Fitness

Note: As with many other pages, this one is still a large work in progress. keep checking in for added info!

To gain fitness, we must first know what it is. 6 time Iron Man winner Mark Allen was dubbed the “fittest man on earth”. He could swim 2.4 miles, bike 112 and top it off with a 26.2 mile run in less than 8 1/2 hours, yet, he could barely muster a high jump of more than 10″. I bet he would struggle lifting a 140lb log, or hopping in a pickup game of basketball, or attempting any feat that required great balance (say like, backpacking over rough terrain with a 40lb pack strapped to his back). In comparison, American decathlete Brian Clay can sprint, run hurdles, long and high jump, pole vault, throw shot, discus, and javelin, all at very respectable levels when each is considered individually. Brian is a much better example of what is considered “fit”. Much like ancient Caveman, Mark is not only lean, strong, fast, and very coordinated, but is physically prepared for any athletic feat that may be thrown his way, whether that be escape from a predator, track and exploit new food, climb a mountain, engage in a spontaneous game of pickup soccer, help a friend move into a new house, jump into a triathlon, go water skiing while on summer vacation and not be sore the next day, the list goes on and on…

The key is developing a broad range of skills and attributes that allow you to do whatever you want with a substantial degree of competence and minimal risk of injury.

The Primal Blueprint, pg. 166

The best source I’ve come across for defining these skills and attributes can be found in the Crossfit Journal, Vol 2 October 2002. Try to download and read the whole article if you can. I have a copy I can send if you can’t get it.  They list the general skills as follows:

If your goal is optimum physical competence
then all the general physical skills must be considered:
1. Cardiovascular/respiratory endurance
– The ability of body systems to gather, process, and deliver oxygen.
2. Stamina – The ability of body systems
to process, deliver, store, and utilize energy.
3. Strength – The ability of a muscular unit, or combination of muscular units, to apply force.
4. Flexibility – the ability to maximize the range of motion at a given joint.
5. Power – The ability of a muscular unit, or combination of muscular units, to apply maximum force in minimum time.
6. Speed – The ability to minimize the time cycle of a repeated movement.
7. Coordination – The ability to combine
several distinct movement patterns
into a singular distinct movement.
8. Agility – The ability to minimize transition time from one movement pattern to another.
9. Balance – The ability to control the placement of the bodies center of gravity in relation to its support base.
10. Accuracy – The ability to control movement in a given direction or at a given intensity.

Here also are Mark’s Primal Fitness Laws

Move frequently at a slow pace

Lift Heavy things

Sprint Once in While

Read the book to get a better understanding of each, but in a nutshell, these types of workouts simulate movement patterns that ancient caveman dealt with on a day to day basis, and hence his (and thus our) genes adapted to thrive off. They moved around slowly in search of food. They had to lift heavy rocks and logs to construct housing or weapons. Sometimes in search of prey, they themselves would become prey and had to high tail it to safety!

While it’s easy to understand the principles, putting them into practice is trickier, especially if you are the type who strictly adheres to a workout schedule and feels the need for chronic cardio (75%-90% of maximum heart rate, or zones 3 and 4 for you heart rate training junkies). Workouts in this range that last over an hour can actually do more harm than good:

even the Livestrong foundation has adopted Mark’s views

how about a third opinion just to drive the point home?

Alright already. Give those chronic cardio workouts up! Instead, focus on lots of low intensity moving about such as hiking or bike rides that keep you heart rate below 75% max. Throw in some intermittent strength and interval training and you’re set. It IS that easy! To make Primal Fitness even more appealling, you don’t need a gym membership and only need very minimal equipment, if any at all. You don’t need to adhere to any silly schedules. Workout when you can, and when you feel motivated. You should not have to feel guilt because you missed a workout due to other life constraints or just didn’t feel like it. Listen to your body!

Another beautiful thing about Primal workouts is variety. I never do the same workout more than once a week. Sometimes once a month. There’s so many different options that your body and mind are always left second guessing what’s coming next. Routine is the enemy. I suggest developing an “arsenal” of workouts to choose from so that whatever situation you are in, you’ll have something to do. Cold and wet outside? No problem, a little P90X. At a hotel with no equipment? Do some Cyclo-Core, yoga, or kenpo. Nice day out? Go for an easy ride, a trail hike, or an easy swim.  Short on time, do some tabata sprints.  The possibilities are endless. Just use your imagination, and listen to what your body is feeling like doing that particular day.

For more resources and ideas about workouts, I recommend these sites and fitness programs that I have used with great success since switching from a very cycling specific regiment to a broader, more comprehensive approach that not only has required less time and effort, but has indeed increased my fitness and reduced my chances for injury:

Caveman Power Fellow Caveman Practictioner Matt Emery provides some great ideas for workouts on this cool site

Mark’s Daily Apple Has a Buttload of ideas, tips, and videos for working out,  Caveman style

Cyclo-Core–  The first set of DVD’s I bought before even discovering any Primal living concepts. I was a very results- driven athlete just looking for an edge on my competitors. This program promised greater core strength and overall body stability (the -Core DVD), greater flexibility and recovery (the -Zen DVD), and improved neuromuscular coodination/speed ( the -Speed DVD). It delivers on all accounts. I frequently use the core and flexibility routines when I feel like it’s what I need to work on.

P90X “Power 90 Day Xtreme” workout program. Colleen and I first learned of this killer workout plan through an infomercial one Sunday morning. By this point, I was becoming more aware of the benefits of total body conditioning as well as practicing the Paleo Diet full time. The principles totally made sense and we bought a copy ASAP! I had never given ANY of those fitness infomercials  anything more than a 3 second glance, but when the term “muscle confusion” was thrown out there, I tuned in. This was just what I was looking for. There comes a point in an athletes journey where they are likely to “plateau” This is because your body adapts to stresses and after a while it ceases to improve when introduced to the same ole same ole stimuli. When you throw different workouts at it, it becomes confused all over again and continues to adapt until reaching it’s absolute genetic capability. Right when you start to plateau from 30 days of the same routine, this program switches it up and introduces workouts for another 30 days, at which point you start to plateau again so the regiment is again modified to introduce new stimuli. It’s a brilliant concept, and it DOES work. I took some “before” pictures and as soon as it warms back up and I buzz my fur coat I’ll take some after shots so you can be the judge. Here is what another blog fitness writer had to say about it.  Following the 90 day circuit, you can either do it again if you still want to lose fat/tone up, or you can randomly use the workouts as I do as part of my “arsenal” for maintenance purposes.

6 Comments leave one →
  1. January 3, 2010 8:20 pm

    Some very interesting and insightful thoughts. I like this.^_^ because I have a blog too.

  2. February 1, 2010 8:36 pm

    I really like your template, its simple but easy on the eyes and easy to navigate was it a paid or free template?

    • aardvark102431 permalink
      February 1, 2010 10:19 pm

      It is a free template at wordpress. i think its called vigilance.

  3. March 7, 2011 5:31 pm

    Good sources of wholesome fat are needed to nourish your brain, coronary heart and cells, as well as your hair, skin, and nails. Foods rich in particular omega-3 fats called EPA and DHA are particularly important and can decrease cardiovascular illness, enhance your mood and help stop dementia.

  4. March 9, 2011 6:09 pm

    While we’re dabbling in the area of Primal Fitness The Official Blog of Greg the Caveman, Wholesome consuming is not about strict nutrition philosophies, staying unrealistically thin, or depriving yourself of the foods you really like. Rather, it’s about feeling fantastic, having much more power, and keeping your self as healthy as feasible.


  1. Do You Realize? « The Official Blog of Greg the Caveman

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