Today was crazy. Immediately after the welcome speech by Mark and Brad, and all the introductions, which went very smoothly, things started to change.
Although “choices” was the theme of Mark’s keynote talk this year, the weather gave us very few. It was cold, windy, rainy, and thundery (sure, that’s a word); we had planned for warm, still, dry, and silent. It started during the first (and last) presenter session of the day held outdoors. Just as Erwan was showing folks how to skillfully and smoothly swing themselves up on top of playground sets, big broad Star Wars blaster bolt-like sheets of water (but with better accuracy than the stormtroopers) starting coming in at a 45-degree angle, practically sideways. Everyone got soaked, had to come back to the Embassy Suites ballroom, and our initial plans to dine at Oxnard Beach Park, outdoors, got scrapped.
But another theme throughout the day that presenters kept coming back to was the importance of embracing the random fractal quality of life, of eating, and of movement. Rolling with the punches, pivoting, responding to things that most people would see as adversity. So when life rained lemon juice down upon us, we collected it, added some raw powdered stevia leaf, and created delicious PrimalCon lemonade.
Things were shuffled on account of the rain. The three presenters – Erwan, Kelly Starrett, and Billy Vives – had to share a ballroom and a hallway.
Erwan didn’t have jungle gyms to climb around on inside, but MovNat is way, way more than that. It’s jumping and landing, crawling and squatting, standing up and sitting down, standing still and moving quickly. All the daily movements we take for granted must be reexamined, because our instinctual predilection toward natural human movement is stifled from birth. Put that guy in an empty carpeted room full of willing interested listeners and magic happens. The only bad thing about his presentation was that I couldn’t get a single shot without some part of him blurring. Always, something was moving in the frame, maybe a hand, perhaps an attendee’s conception of human movement.
K-Star condensed a full-day of mobility seminar content into an hour, but this didn’t detract from the quality or delivery of the message. He introduced his midline stabilization concept, described how the state of your arch (collapsed or not) can identify and even predict “upstream” tissue problems, showed in explicit and hilarious detail how a movement dysfunction in one joint directly impacts it’s ability to generate force. He made pretty much everyone jealous of the ease with which he dropped into a full, stable squat (before telling people how to go about fixing theirs, plus their pushup). After his talk, I saw many a strong-looking dude and gal trying to squat the way he did.
And then Billy Vives, master of the kettlebell. Billy has the unique ability to not only convince someone who’s never picked up a kettlebell in their life to go ahead and pick one up (and with proper form) without fearing it, but also the ability to make that same person adept at swinging, snatching, and cleaning the thing. Every single step of his “picking up a kettlebell” process was highlighted, explained, and sequenced, so that although not everyone made it all the way to snatching a kettlebell, everyone made progress.
After a fantastic lunch of pulled turkey legs straight from Diestel Farms (literally pulled; Primal Nutrition staff pulled the tender bird femurs asunder to make gorging easier for attendees), Diestel cold cuts, grass-fed Kobe beef burgers (even the burnt, extra medium-well fluke of a patty I ended up with somehow stayed juicy and delicious), marinated artichokes, local strawberries, fresh cut watermelon, what seemed like twenty different kinds of nuts and seeds, and the gallon buckets full of raw almond butter and macadamia nut-cashew butter (it was a magnificent sight, let me tell you), Mark gave the keynote talk.
The cool thing about Mark’s talks is that they’re not canned. There are themes, obviously, and general trajectories, but other than that, they’re wide open. Same thing here. He kept coming back to the idea of choice – that everything is a choice, the deciding of which must be claimed by the person and owned. Choice means you can really mess up, and you have to own up to it, but it also means that you can do something really awesome for yourself and know that you did it – and how to do it again.
“There are no right or wrong answers when it comes to health. Only choices.”
Next, the question and answer period, which is always the bread and butter (note to self: we need a Primal replacement for that idiom… any suggestions?) of his talks. Topics ranged from ketosis to thyroid to carbs to fat adaption to training to post workout nutrition, plus more.
By then, the rain looked to be over, so we got a little cocky. Some of us trekked the 0.7 miles over to Chef Rachel‘s beach pad for a cooking demo (which I heard was fantastic), and some of us hung with Barefoot Ted. If you know anything about Barefoot Ted, it’s that he gets off on running (or “trotting”) barefooted on concrete just so he can throw it back in the naysayers’ faces. Well, there’s no concrete in a ballroom, and if we decided to just run barefoot on soft fuzzy ballroom carpet, we’d be proving them right. So of course we found ourselves following this barefooted madman, running outside, in the 44 degree F windchill weather, sand whipping us in the face and a big dark grey cloud sliding in from the sea. And sure enough, the sideways rain came down upon us. We ran back through the downpour, a procession of bare feet, probably looking crazy, trying to get out of the rain without sacrificing that light, delicate, silent gait that Ted instilled in us. It was tricky, but I think we learned a lot on that run back because we had to.
And because food was waiting for us. Delicious braised short ribs and gravy, turkey legs, shredded slaw in a vinaigrette, bone broth soup, pecan roasted butternut squash, whipped cauliflower, a goulash of some sort, a fresh salad. Tray after tray appeared and then wasn’t. Seriously, it was so good I think I saw a guy sifting through the short rib bones for leftover scraps of meat. Oh, wait, that guy was me.
At that point, things got chocolatey. Cups of gourmet dark chocolate chips were passed out. A chocolate bar appeared on the table. Various truffles were offered up. I partook of all things cacao, and, judging from the blackened teeth of everyone I talked to, so did the others.
A few brave souls did the ocean plunge. Given the cold weather nobody really wanted to, but there’s always that one guy who gets a look on his face and goes “Hey, why not?” This invariably sets off a self-perpetuating vortex of bravado and one-upmanship, a vortex that I always get sucked into. So instead of going home to a warm bed, I found myself running full tilt through high winds toward a raging surf with Bryan Barksdale (a Texas med/PhD candidate; yes, both) and Angelo dela Cruz (VitaMove specialist, massage therapist, wellness coach, Ninja Warrior, and all-around awesome guy). We didn’t want to do what we were about to do, but we felt compelled and did it anyway. How does that even work?
Boy, it was cold. Until the jacuzzi took care of business.
But you know what? The craziness and the hectic atmosphere made it all better in a weird way, brought us closer, made the laughs come a little easier. And tomorrow, when the weather returns to its regularly scheduled programming, PrimalCon will be better than ever.
Tomorrow looks to be a beautiful day, so stay tuned for that!