Facing the Primal Blueprint Fitness Challenges

Primal Blueprint Fitness PyramidFor this next introduction – or re-hashing, for some of you – of an essential Primal concept, I’ll be covering the three basic Primal laws of fitness (click the image to zoom in). This one can be the most difficult hurdle for some. If you’re carrying a personal history of weight gain, for example, you’re most likely somewhat inactive, too. Being overweight, you see, leads to inactivity. And yeah, being inactive can perpetuate the weight gain, but it usually starts with a bit of added weight and the sluggishness that comes along for the ride. Good times, right? They end this month.

As often as I make the case that “diet is 80% of the battle for body composition”, and as often as we take apart Conventional Wisdom for its misguided views on diet, exercise, and weight loss, exercise does matter. Sure, if you could make just one change to your lifestyle to effect positive health changes, diet would arguably be it – but we aren’t single-minded, simple creatures. We can chew gum and run sprints at the same time (actually I wouldn’t recommend that…). Getting healthy, losing weight, and, most importantly, maximizing your overall enjoyment of your precious time on this planet requires a multi-faceted approach to living – and working up a sweat and lifting heavy things a few days each week are part of that.  Luckily, CW did get it terribly, terribly wrong when it comes to the volume, frequency, and composition of your workouts. If you thought replacing your old boxed, processed food with butter, bacon, and fresh veggies was great (and incredibly easy!), you’ll love the Primal Blueprint 30-Day Challenges for exercise.

As expected, the fitness challenges all revolve around my Primal Blueprint Fitness program, which in turn is based on the simplest, most effective modes of movement and activity. These are the types of movements that people have been making for millennia – the movements our physiologies are literally constructed to make. If you buy the idea, as I do, that people are best adapted to an evolutionary, ancestral eating plan, and that following that eating plan will lead to robust, sustainable health, the next logical step is to assume that following the ancestral movement plan – working out the way our bodies have evolved to work out – will lead to robust, sustainable physical fitness. Okay: so what comprises the ancestral movement plan?

Challenge #3: Move Frequently at a Slow Pace

Just move: It’s that simple. Just get out there and move. I challenge you to align your low-level aerobic activity with Primal Blueprint Fitness. If you don’t already have the free fitness program grab it now. Get 3-5 hours of walking, hiking, light cycling, swimming, etc., each week. Do it all at once or in batches. Use the logbook at the back of PBF and your forum journal to track your progress.

(This is just one of many challenges. Learn about all of the 30-Day Primal Blueprint Challenges here.)

We are highly efficient slow movers. We walk, we hike, we slowly stalked prey until they fall from exhaustion. We walked the Bering Strait. We made it to every hospitable corner of the world, using not much more than our own two feet. If you examine our bodily structure, it makes sense: largely hairless, for easy sweating and quick cooling; obligate bipedalism, for walking hands free and standing up tall to see our surroundings; large butt muscles, for supporting our upright stance. This month, I want you to put that heritage to work. Walk! Cycle! Hike! Heck, you can even do a light jog on a trail. Just don’t regularly and consistently maintain an elevated heart rate for too long; this is meant to be an easy, pleasurable endeavor, not Chronic Cardio. Take along a loved one and enjoy the company. Have a deep conversation. Take a business partner on a mobile meeting. Go alone and do some thinking. This is your time. It’s not about burning calories; it’s about moving.

So move!

Challenge #4: Lift Heavy Things

Lift your body: If you want to build lean muscle mass and stay strong into your golden years you have to lift heavy things. Align your weightlifting routine with Primal Blueprint Fitness and perform two bodyweight workouts each week. See chapter 3 of Primal Blueprint Fitness for all the details.

(This is just one of many challenges. Learn about all of the 30-Day Primal Blueprint Challenges here.)

It’s not all easy peasy, of course. PB Fitness is also about intensity. It’s about lifting heavy things over your head, putting those muscles to use, and sending your body the hormonal messages to repair bone, sinew, tendon, and muscle.

Of course, in this case, that heavy thing you’ll be lifting will be your own body. You could do the gym thing and get out the barbells and the machines, but I’m about streamlining this process for as many people as possible. I want you to be able to work out on the road or in your living room. And so I’m just asking you to follow the PBF plan for a month and complete two bodyweight workouts each week. It’s an easy concept to get, and it’s even easier to convince yourself to do two short workouts – but in practice, these things are tough, full-body affairs that force you to use your body as a holistic group of moving parts, all working together to complete a task. The Four Essential Primal movements (pushups, pullups, squats, planks) may be familiar to you, but I doubt you’ve ever faced them like this before.

You’ll be sweating, sore, and worn out, so prepare yourself. They’re short, but they’re rough. Download the PBF ebook if you haven’t already and get lifting!

Here are a few additional articles from the depths of the MDA archives on Lifting Heavy Things:

Challenge #5: Sprint Once in a While

Just move… very fast!: Too many people neglect to include sprinting in their workout routines. They’re the perfect Primal fitness hack that can be done in as little as 10 minutes. I challenge you to perform one sprint workout each week during this challenge.

(This is just one of many challenges. Learn about all of the 30-Day Primal Blueprint Challenges here.)

Everybody forgets sprinting. Some people say it’s too hard, while others say it’s too easy. The end result is that it gets left out of way too many routines, even though our big glutes are also good for generating lots of power and speed. The reality is, of course, that both camps are right: sprinting is both hard and easy – and that’s the whole point! When you run sprints, you are giving maximum, all-out effort. You are pushing your body to the limits, which, if you’ve heard me talk about simplifying fitness and avoiding overtraining, might sound like something I’d be against. I’m actually all for pushing the limits, as long as you do it intelligently. Pushing the limits for ten seconds is far different than pushing the limits for a three hour marathon.

In the right dose, maximum efforts are excellent for body composition, muscular health, and hormonal balance. Doing one sprint workout – whether it’s traditional running, cycling, swimming, or even Grok crawling – each week just happens to be the perfect dose.

Here are a few additional articles from the archives on Sprinting:

Challenge #7: Play

Get playful: If you’ve forgotten how to play, this challenge will jog your memory. Grok did it and it’s why I train. For the stress-reducing effects, to get you moving without even realizing you’re moving and for the sheer fun of it, I challenge you to participate in each of the four Workouts of the Week this month. Each WOW during the challenge will be decidedly playful. Be prepared to print out the rules, gather your friends and have a blast.

(This is just one of many challenges. Learn about all of the 30-Day Primal Blueprint Challenges here.)

While play doesn’t get a prime spot on the Primal Blueprint Fitness Pyramid it is central to Primal Blueprint Fitness. Let me explain. I sprint, lift and move slowly in large part so that I am both able to do the things I enjoy (weekly Ultimate Frisbee outings, snowboarding in Aspen, playing sports with my kids) and do them without fear of injury. If PBF is the “what”, play is a big part of the “why”. Additionally, play is a built-in feature of PBF, with Workouts of the Week (WOWs) often incorporating playful routines that can be done with friends and in groups. (If you have your own idea for a group WOW game submit it here.) Check back each Monday for a new WOW.

And here is a little inspiration for Play:

I know what you might be thinking: “Ugh, who has time to take actual walks around these days? Or run sprints – who does that anymore? And strength training means getting an expensive gym membership and paying an overpriced personal trainer. I can’t do any of these things.”

Between work, kids, fixing dinner, and watching TV, finding three to five hours of uninterrupted temporal space in which to do not much at all, an hour to strength train, and ten to fifteen minutes to run really fast might sound tough. But c’mon – there’s always something to do. That will never, ever end. That’s life. There’s always someone to see, a movie to watch, an email to answer. Your health is worth more than that, though. All I’m asking is for a few hours out of your schedule each week and a small pint jar or two of sweat… is that too much? Now get out there, get Primal and don’t forget to play!

About the Author

Mark Sisson is the founder of Mark’s Daily Apple, godfather to the Primal food and lifestyle movement, and the New York Times bestselling author of The Keto Reset Diet. His latest book is Keto for Life, where he discusses how he combines the keto diet with a Primal lifestyle for optimal health and longevity. Mark is the author of numerous other books as well, including The Primal Blueprint, which was credited with turbocharging the growth of the primal/paleo movement back in 2009. After spending three decades researching and educating folks on why food is the key component to achieving and maintaining optimal wellness, Mark launched Primal Kitchen, a real-food company that creates Primal/paleo, keto, and Whole30-friendly kitchen staples.

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