The popular story of how low-carb diets work goes something like this: Reducing your carbohydrate...
Let me introduce myself. My name is Mark Sisson. I’m 63 years young. I live and work in Malibu, California. In a past life I was a professional marathoner and triathlete. Now my life goal is to help 100 million people get healthy. I started this blog in 2006 to empower people to take full responsibility for their own health and enjoyment of life by investigating, discussing, and critically rethinking everything we’ve assumed to be true about health and wellness...Tell Me More
Print this out. Bookmark it. Send it to friends who don’t quite get the Primal thing. Consider this a valuable resource for all-things Primal. It’s a nice, alphabetical encapsulation of what it means to lead a Primal lifestyle. It’s not everything, of course. You can always dig deeper into the details, but this summary gives a high-level look at just about everything.
Without further ado, I present The A-to-Z Guide to Leading a Primal Lifestyle.
Avoid chronic cardio. I spent about half my life running (and later, with triathlons, swimming and cycling) myself into the ground. I thought the more miles I could log, the healthier I’d be. That’s the mindset many people have, and it’s absolutely wrong. Running a ten-miler is different than running a ten-miler every day. We have the capacity to go long distances and even outlast wild animals upon which we’re preying. We don’t have the capacity to do that every single day without consequences to our health. Run long distances if you love it, compete if you love competing, but know the cost it incurs.
It happens to the best of us. You start sneaking a few more bites of bread when out to dinner and trying your buddy’s delicious-looking pizza. Your workouts trickle to once a week, sometimes none. You walk less, couch more. And then one day, you realize you’ve gone off the wagon. You’ve gained belly fat. You’re getting winded going up the stairs. Your once-pleasurable hikes have become grueling affairs that you dread and end up avoiding. Your fridge is full of takeout boxes and you realize you haven’t cooked in two weeks. You need to restart your Primal lifestyle, and fast.
How do you do it?
Turns out there are more than a few ways that you probably haven’t considered. Let’s explore them:
Late last year, I introduced the idea of the minimum effective dose: the lowest dose to produce a desired outcome. Whether it’s calorie intake, exercise, sunlight, carbohydrates, or work habits, we often think we need much more than we actually do to get the results we want. Why crank out those extra reps, put in those extra few hours, choke down another chicken breast if they won’t make you any more prepared to handle what life dishes out? Failing to heed the minimum effective dose costs you money, time, and mental real estate. Figuring out the minimum effective dose for the various inputs shaping our days can make us more efficient and open up the rest of our life to do the things we actually want to do.
What, exactly, are the minimum effective doses for exercise? How little do I have to train to stay and/or get fit? And what kind of effects can we expect to get from said minimal doses?
Not the barbell. Not the bicycle. Not the rower, the Airdyne, not the pullup bar. I’m talking about the Smith Machine, of course, specifically the squats and curls you can do within its elite confines.
Just kidding. It’s the Versaclimber, folks: the most brutally effective piece of fitness equipment you’ll ever use (but probably haven’t).
Most people don’t know about it because no one talks about it, few use it, and gyms don’t stock more than one if you’re lucky. Is this because it’s a useless piece of machinery? No. The Versaclimber is almost too good, too effective, too intense an experience for most people. The few that have used it almost invariably quit because it’s so hard. And gyms don’t have many because they can’t convince people to use it, to actually go all out like they’ve never gone all out before.
For today’s edition of Dear Mark, I’m answering two questions from readers. First comes from William, an officer in the Navy who likes lifting heavy but also needs to score well on the physical fitness assessment, which involves a 1.5 mile run, pushups, and pullups. His taste for basic 5×5 strength work has left his running performance lacking. What can he do to improve the run without eating into his strength numbers? After that, I explore whether sitting on a footstool or medicine mall in the squat position is better than just sitting in normal chair.
Let me get this out of the way: treadmill running is better than sitting on the couch reading blogs that outline the reasons running outside is better than running on a treadmill. If it’s your only option – or even just the way you prefer to exercise — have at it. You have my blessing. The best exercise is the one you’ll do, remember. But there are limitations, risks, and biomechanical changes that occur when treadmill running. It’s not the same as running outside, and there’s evidence to suggest it might be worse in some respects.
So let’s explore the potential problems associated with treadmill running: