Marks Daily Apple
Serving up health and fitness insights (daily, of course) with a side of irreverence.
4 Mar

Movement, Exercise, and Training: Getting the Results You Want

tireflipThe trouble with talking about fitness on a public forum read by millions and making recommendations based on the scientific literature is that we’re all different. I know, I know, you’ve read/seen Fight Club, and Tyler Durden says that we’re not all unique snowflakes, but he’s wrong on this one. We come from different environments and backgrounds and we all have different goals and desires and abilities. There is no one training plan, exercise program, or piece of fitness advice that is perfect for everyone, equally. Each person must find what works for them.

So when I tried to impart a universally-sound fitness principle, perhaps the only truly universally-applicable one of all – the best exercise is the one you will do consistently – a few people were skeptical. I understand, but my contention stands: single workouts don’t get you stronger or fitter, after all. Adaptations to cumulative workouts performed on a consistent basis get you stronger and fitter. And the greatest exercise won’t work for you unless you do it. The point of last week’s post wasn’t to suggest that doing what you enjoy necessarily leads to peak fitness, just that consistency is key when it comes to fitness.

So, what lies beyond just doing an exercise you’re willing to do? There’s got to be more to it.

Definitely. It helps to conceptualize the differences between exercise, training, and movement.

Movement is the first step above sedentarism. It’s the baseline for good health. It’s the 10,000 steps a day, the hiking, the walking to the store, the gardening, the commute to work on a bike. Movement is required for good health, but it’s not enough for peak fitness. It’s a good start, and maybe the most important part for some people.

Exercise isn’t focused on the long term. If an exerciser has goals, they’re more diffuse and overarching goals like “get healthier” or “get fitter” or “be able to care for myself when I’m elderly.” Exercise is about being active, moving your body, getting fitter, getting stronger, staying fit, staying strong, that sort of non-specific thing.

Training is something you do to achieve a specific goal, like “deadlift 500 pounds” or “complete an Ironman in ten hours.” Training implies a “training program,” consisting of progression (often linear), regimentation, and/or periodization. Trainees employ these training programs to bring them closer to their goals. They’re often competitive athletes – weekend warriors, amateurs, professionals – but they don’t have to be. All that’s entailed is a goal.

Okay, so how do you know if you should exercise, train, or just move?

First off, everyone needs movement in their lives. Constant, low-level movement is the foundation for health and fitness. This s non-negotiable. Plus, it’s a reliable way to “get a workout in” when you don’t feel like going to the gym. I know that however burned out, tired, sore, or run down I am, a hike always brings me back to baseline.

Who should be exercising? Who should be training?

If you’re happy with your fitness level, good. You’ve made it. Keep doing what you’re doing – whatever it is. You can be perfectly happy, fit, lean, strong, and healthy “just” exercising. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with exercising for the sake of exercising.

If you have a specific goal in mind, like bulking up 20 pounds, squatting twice bodyweight, running a five minute mile, competing in an event, running a marathon, playing college sports, you should be training. If you’re spinning your wheels, it might be time to set a goal or two and get training. Even if you’re simply struck by the vague notion that something isn’t working and that you could be doing better, try picking a goal and erecting a training program to achieve it. Note that training often involves doing exercises, movements, or drills that you’d otherwise prefer not to do. It’s challenging by design – to provoke adaptations as you learn to overcome the challenges.

Choosing a Goal

Goals don’t have to be monumental feats or massive undertakings, nor does training necessarily imply the shedding of precious red-tinted bodily fluids and the brandishing of ripped calluses and torn up shins over social media. They certainly can and you’re free to post what you will, but goals and their concomitant training programs take many forms.

There are performance-based goals. You want to beat this time, hit a PR, dunk the ball, or win a competition.

There are vanity-based goals. You want to be better than the other guy, prove something to yourself, prove something to someone else.

Or maybe you want to win some money, win a bet.

These are all legitimate goals and motivations. It depends entirely on what you want out of fitness.

I’ve been to that side of the fitness spectrum – the pursuit of elite performance to the blatant and necessary disregard of optimal health – and I feel like I can be a cautionary tale for others flirting with similar pursuits. You’re totally free to go for performance above all else, of course, and many people do exactly that without any complaints, but I couldn’t do it. There are inevitable tradeoffs (health, social life, diet, free time) and people need to be aware of them and that there is another way to approach training.

Me? My goal is to play better:

I want to be able to play Ultimate every weekend with guys 3o years younger (and keep up).

I want to go out for a paddling session whenever I want and not have it feel like work.

I want to hit the slopes all weekend and be able to drive home without my quads cramping up every time I hit the brake.

And I want to do all that while staying injury-free.

My training focus, then, is to maintain: my fitness, my muscle mass, the viability of my connective tissue, my bone mineral density. I’m not going for PRs anymore because it’s too risky at this stage while bringing me no closer to my goals. But that’s fine. I’ve found what works for me and my goals.

While I train for a specific goal, the details of my training don’t resemble the training of an Olympic lifter, a football player, an endurance athlete, a Strongman competitor, or even a motivated online fitness enthusiast. I enjoy my training and actually look forward to the hard work, but that doesn’t make it any less effective at helping me reach my goals.

As you can see, my goals are different than most. And that’s okay, because they’re mine. Your goals are fine, too, whatever they may be (even if you don’t have any). The important thing is that we have the conversation with ourselves to understand why we’re walking all these miles, paying these gym fees, lifting these weights, running really fast as if someone is chasing us even though no one is there, and grasping this horizontal bar lying overhead and attempting to touch our chests to it. It’d be a shame if we found out we were wasting our fleeting time.

To cap things off, let’s hear from you. Have you thought about the difference between movement, exercise and training? Which do you do? What do you want out of exercise? What fitness goals do you have? If you have one, how do you propose to achieve it?

You want comments? We got comments:

Imagine you’re George Clooney. Take a moment to admire your grooming and wit. Okay, now imagine someone walks up to you and asks, “What’s your name?” You say, “I’m George Clooney.” Or maybe you say, “I’m the Clooninator!” You don’t say “I’m George of George Clooney Sells Movies Blog” and you certainly don’t say, “I’m Clooney Weight Loss Plan”. So while spam is technically meat, it ain’t anywhere near Primal. Please nickname yourself something your friends would call you.

  1. Thanks for this thought-provoking post, Mark. These are important distinctions and they often get muddled together.

    Stacy wrote on March 4th, 2014
  2. Movement is always key for me, but I’d say I cycle through all three from week to week, month to month, and year to year. For instance, this week, I’m home sick with really nasty cold, resulting from pushing myself way too hard at work over the last few months (but the first in years, thanks to a really good eating/nutrition strategy), so this week, movement is all I feel up to.

    That said, exercise is probably where I spend most of my time, but occasionally I’ll get a goal in mind and train until I hit it, and then go back to exercise (hopefully rigorous enough to maintain whatever goal I’ve achieved).

    Ware wrote on March 4th, 2014
  3. i was thinking about fight club last night – nice quote to grab the reader, drew me in

    N.Lockard wrote on March 4th, 2014
  4. I know what my goal is. I want a six pack!

    Ripken Holt wrote on March 4th, 2014
    • congrats, you were born with one!

      Onto the next goal :)

      sjoshua wrote on March 4th, 2014
  5. This is a great actionable post! I agree that it is vital to define your goals, whether specific or broad, and then get to moving, training, or exercising. At the moment, I’m trying to bulk up and gain 10 lbs, so I guess I would be in training mode.

    Thanks for the awesome perspective!

    Byron wrote on March 4th, 2014
  6. Very timely! I have been thinking a lot about motivation lately, and this article kind of fits in with that for me – what is my goal in all of this? It boils down to: What kind of old person do I want to be? I’m pushing 50, so I feel like the next 5-10 years are going to make or break me. Sure, I’d like to look good naked, but that is just going to be a side benefit for me at this point – there’s only so much I can do about my body aging :-) Plus, I mean, if that’s what really motivates me, then how come I’ve been struggling with my weight and fitness levels all my adult life?? Yeah, something tells me vanity is really not that big of a motivating factor for me personally (if it is for others, then more power to ya!).

    So, I feel like I’ve found the door to my motivation to get and stay healthy. It’s really all about staying the hell out of the health care system for me. I’ve watched too many family members suffer with illnesses that could have been prevented – I will do everything I can for myself to keep that from happening to me!

    KariVery wrote on March 4th, 2014
    • Oh so, so true. Sometimes I envy the younger crown who seem to have all the time in the world to exercise, play and do fun things. But at the end of the day, I just want to be healthy, live to a reasonable age without serious health issues and be around to look after the children until they get old enough to stuff it up all on their own!

      Emily wrote on March 4th, 2014
  7. From an ex-athlete, I want to thank Mark for being in the best shape of my life. 2 bodyweight and 1 sprint session a week, lots of long walks. At 58, I even look good naked and have a six-pack (not that my gal cares that much anymore). The most important thing is being able to feel great and hopefully not need any help when I’m 90. Hope to be sprinting away from all the old single ladies.

    Nocona wrote on March 4th, 2014
  8. I’m sitting in a hospital waiting room for my sister to be brought out of the recovery room. She is having one knee replaced, with the second one to be done within the year. I believe it didn’t have to happen. (SAD diet, being overweight, maybe trusting doctors and CW too much).
    I’m taking care of her this week, and she definitely noticed the change in me since going primal Jan 8th (down 14 lbs so far, depression gone and tons of energy). she is now curious, so I hope to cook all good stuff once I get her home.

    This post helped me solidify what I do want for myself out of both eating primal and consistent exercise. I want to look good naked, sure, and I want to do lots of weight work, including a real pullup (or 10), so that I can climb very tall pine trees in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness this summer, after paddling in for 10 miles :) With any luck, maybe I will take my sister with me in summer of 2015 or so! Thanks for the thought provoking post, Mark.

    kay wrote on March 4th, 2014
    • Doing at least one pull up is my goal, too, along with paddling farther. Climb trees–not so much. Look good naked, well, after losing almost 110 lbs., that’s a bit iffy given some saggy skin. But I look pretty darn good in clothes.

      PawPrint wrote on March 4th, 2014
  9. Sensible advice. When all else fails, at least I take a walk to my favorite coffee place to hang out and people watch while I read the paper.

    My immediate goal is to squat as much as is possible. A double bodyweight squat would be terrific

    My long term goal is to be strong and healthy into my retirement years which I will spend hiking the National Scenic Trails.

    Diane wrote on March 4th, 2014
  10. I am training for my second degree black belt. I am also training to be strong and flexible enough to be able to do any martial arts movement I want (once the snow melts, I start tumbling – butterfly kicks here I come). Along the way, I am training so I can *eventually* put my body through 9 months of manufacturing (and passing) a human and KEEP ACTIVE in the process. Yikes.

    Nicole wrote on March 4th, 2014
  11. I’ve found myself in a bit of a rut lately…this was perfect. It’s scary how relevant and timely most of Mark’s posts are.

    Nate wrote on March 4th, 2014
    • Exactly, how does he do that! Been reading for years and at least weekly there will be a post on just something I’ve been ruminating about!

      Kelda wrote on March 4th, 2014
      • This phenomenon happens me as well!

        Paul wrote on March 4th, 2014
  12. My goal is to look like a certain Soloflex model from the late 80s. There was one picture ad in particular that motivated me. I used to have it up on the wall in my den where I worked out. That was a loooong time ago. I recently searched on Ebay and found the old ad. I didn’t buy it, but saved it on my computer to reference from time to time.

    Anyway, I’m looking for a muscular (but not overly muscular) low fat body. The type of body that looks great without a shirt, but would be somewhat hidden behind your average t-shirt. I’m getting there slowly but surely.

    On a side note, I have found that Bodyweight training, which I “discovered” about 3 months ago, is getting me there a lot faster than gym weights.
    I also “discovered” the beauty of Sprints a few weeks ago.

    Between the gym weights and long-distance jogging I used to engage in, no wonder I couldn’t put on much muscle mass.

    Sorry to go off topic btw! Just had to get that out. My point being, I have a goal and it is attainable, BUT it helps to have the most efficient & effective “tools”.

    Anthony wrote on March 4th, 2014
    • Yeah, I always wanted to look like that guy too…

      Joe wrote on March 4th, 2014
    • Anthony.

      I have the exact same goal. Not sure about the ad you speak of (link?) but I think I know the physique you want. I liken it to the actor Stephen Amell (the guy who plays Oliver Queen in Arrow), muscular but athletic, big but not so big he can’t move properly.

      My problem is I’m a little addicted to endurance sports. I’m training for an Ironman and trying to gain another 10lbs of muscle, needless to say I’m eating quite a lot, all primal approved of course but that’s to be expected when swimming, cycling, running and weight lifting! But I’m still throwing in a 24 hour fast once a week to really try and burn that last bit of stubborn fat (think I’m at about 10% at the moment).

      Anyway, just thought if share, good luck with your goals.

      Andy wrote on March 4th, 2014
      • Hey Andy, here is a link to the pic. Just have to click on the pic to make it larger:

        http://www.worthpoint.com/worthopedia/vintage-soloflex-poster-featuring-scott-madsen-23

        Googled Stephen Amell in Arrow. Yes, that’s what I’m looking to get to, perhaps not quite as muscular, though close.

        Funny, but guys built like that don’t look so huge in a t-hirt, but when the shirt comes off, it’s like BAM! lol

        My wife thinks the type of body I’m going for is just right too. Most women don’t like that huge look (or the fat one lol).

        Anthony wrote on March 4th, 2014
  13. I’m always torn between adding muscle & getting stronger, and eating for aesthetics or eating for health. Through the primal diet and primal training, I’m beginning to find these things are not mutually exclusive.

    BFBVince wrote on March 4th, 2014
  14. I took up skiing recently (2 years ago at age 48) and found I wasn’t very fit. Somehow this lead me to yoga, the exercise bike occasionally and general walking. By the way, yoga is a lot harder and a lot more physical than it looks. Now I can ski hard for 6 days in a row and not feel any bad effects. That makes me happy! A better diet was also crucial to shed a bunch of pounds.

    Peter Whiting wrote on March 4th, 2014
    • I always get “that” look from old friends when I mention yoga; “Its all sitting around making noises right?” but ironically the stuff I ended up doing is 40% body-weights, 40% stretches and 20% meditation! I have since moved onto doing primarily body-weights and there is alot of crossover (elements of the sun salutation seem to crop up!)

      Dan wrote on March 4th, 2014
  15. Ok, here goes:

    Male pushing 50 (like lots of other folks out there in Primal Land).
    I am 5’ 11”, 47 yo, 197 lbs at approx 16 pct BF

    Goals:
    – 34 inch waist (currently at 36 inch)
    – 182 lbs (currently at 197, down from 202) at 10 pct BF (losing at a rate of 1-1.5 lbs/week at most)
    Vanity goal: I want to look like Michelangelo’s David (without the over-sized hands ;-) If I could have a six pack I would be thrilled and amazed.
    – Functional all around strength, good power to weight ratio – I don’t need to look big
    – Maintain as much muscle for as long as I can
    – Maintain as much flexibility/mobility for as long as I can
    – Good joint health – currently recovering from chondromalacia patella (chronic cardio, running without any coaching etc.)
    Behavioral Goals:
    – 90 percent compliance with a training routine
    – 80 percent compliance with eating primal
    – stretch my cooking abilities and tastebuds

    Now the questions:
    – For goals such as joint health and mobility, what are the best surrogate measurements to use in order to check-in on how we are doing? (obviously I don’t have a bone density scanner or an MRI at my disposal… I can’t tell how much cartilage I have left etc. (not really sure that the Drs. can either — I don’t trust Docs as much as I once did))

    – For maintaining muscle mass into my golden years, should I work at “over shooting” my goal in order to compensate for age-related muscle loss? Are bodyweight exercises alone enough (I suspect that they are)?

    – When I reach my goal wt and BF pct goals and have my “6 pack”, what then? What kind of goals do other folks set once they’ve achieved “the Big Goals”?

    Joe wrote on March 4th, 2014
  16. Great timing. I’m in the process of re-evaluating my goals, as I’m getting out of the “bulking” mindset and more into overall fitness.

    I’m not interested anymore in setting PRs in squats/bench/curls etc., and I’m more keen to improving bodyfat levels, enjoying long trail hikes without my legs getting too tired to drive home (and stay awake), mountain biking, running around the yard with the toddler, stuff like that.

    beachboundforever wrote on March 4th, 2014
    • Beachbound —

      I want to do what you describe — I guess you could say that your goals would be similar to my “fun” goals. (which maybe are the most important goals of all…)

      Joe

      Joe wrote on March 4th, 2014
      • Exactly!

        beachboundforever wrote on March 4th, 2014
  17. When I was child back in the hills the elders would get fed up with us kids and send us out to the woods to play with the wolfs to get are exercise.

    Xanboo wrote on March 4th, 2014
  18. I have come to the conclusion that for most of my life I was overtraining, or creating exercise routines that would result in overtraining. I was obsessed with constantly upping the weight in every lift, increasing the intensity of every cardio session, etc. So, now I do a 20 minute GPP routine daily. I do not get obsessed with constantly upping the weight or decreasing the rest time. I just intend to reach a good level and maintain it.
    This leaves me plenty of time to work on specific goals or skills. I am working on a handstand and a front lever at the moment. I also have goals of a 400 lb Dead Lift, hold a planche on the rings, climb Whitney, and ski an entire Bump run non-stop without dying. I still only pick a few goals at a time to work on, and spend only 15 to 20 minutes a day.
    Since doing this, I have less nagging aches and pains, move better and feel great.

    Dan wrote on March 4th, 2014
    • GPP?

      Joe wrote on March 4th, 2014
      • GPP=General Physical Preparedness

        beachbound wrote on March 5th, 2014
    • I think I know what you mean Dan. About a year ago I was obsessed with my training programme. Running was my poison and I was convinced that every week I needed a speed session, a fast run and a long slow run. For months I did this and was never really injury free. I was always aching. Then about 6 months ago I decided I was only going to “train” for enjoyment. And I haven’t looked back. My running is now faster, more efficient, takes less time to recover from (almost the next day) and best of all, more enjoyable.

      Andy wrote on March 4th, 2014
  19. Good to hear, Andy.

    Joe, GPP is “General Physical Preparedness”. A simple routine to cover most of the basic needs. I do Simple and Sinister routine from Pavel. Kettlebell Swings and Turkish Get Ups.

    Dan wrote on March 4th, 2014
    • I second S&S as a great program, which can be knocked out in as little as 30 minutes a day (including warmup).

      Misabi wrote on March 4th, 2014
  20. Thanks Mark for the confirmation that I’m on my right path.
    I’m a 50 year old male who thinks he’s still 35.
    I’m a regular to the gym and often get accosted by the trainers there who want to know what I’m training for. They’re usually surprised and disappointed when I say I’m not training for anything, just enjoying exercise.
    I mix up my workouts with some heavy weights, some kettle bell sessions, some sprints and a stretch. Long walks when not at the gym. Classic primal.
    My gym time is play time. I often don’t have a plan when I arrive and just check in with how I’m feeling on that day. As long as I get a mix of activities in each week I’m happy. And, I simply work out for 30 minutes, have a stretch and go home.
    This is a big change to my younger days when I usually went too hard too often and then had to take time off because I was worn out or injured.
    Now, I feel better because I’m more consistent and enjoy what I do.

    Geoff McDonald wrote on March 4th, 2014
  21. Fantastic post. I love having overall goals and then piecing out smaller goals to help achieve them. My overall goal is to be a fantastic athlete in volleyball and softball. My smaller goals, to help me achieve that, include weight lifting, sprinting, and biking. I’ve also enjoyed doing new races each year (I like to compete, even if against myself), and this year have chosen to complete a couple triathlons to really test my physicality. Luckily, that fits in with being a great athlete. I don’t see myself making time for the gym without my overarching goals of playing volleyball and softball and finishing a tri. Of course, all aspects of the primal blueprint contribute to reaching these goals, especially sleep and nutrition. That’s why the PB is so amazing: it’s holistic and doesn’t ask you sacrifice one thing for the other.

    Stacie wrote on March 4th, 2014
  22. @Joe,

    You asked:
    “Are bodyweight exercises alone enough (I suspect that they are)?

    I’m no expert, but based on my experience, bodyweight training is not only enough, but I even find them to be superior to gym weights in terms of both gaining muscle and gaining functional strength.
    The short 3 months since I’ve been doing only bodyweight training, I’ve gained more muscle than any other 3 month period I was in the gym.
    If you research it, you’ll see that one of the biggest reasons (and there’s a few reasons) you gain more muscle is because more muscle fibers are being incorporated. In a nutshell, based on my own research, gym weight movements are very isolated, plus the body is not relying on balance at the same time.

    This is what I do (if you’re interested enough):

    I do push-ups (there are many variations too), dips, handstand push ups (with legs on the bed since I dont have the strength for regular ones YET), and hand stand holds with legs on wall (I go down a few inches and push up because that’s all I can do for now).

    The next day or two I do chin ups (couldn’t do 1 but now I can do 3) and Australian pull ups (I use the Ultimate Body Press which is what I use for dips too).

    So, all I have is a chin-up/pull up bar and the Ultimate Body Press. I also bought gym rings and use them to hang off my chin up bar sometimes so I can do push ups (which really incorporate more muscle fibers as you deal with serious balancing issues).

    As of a few weeks ago, I started Sprints which I also learned are far superior to jogging as it burn fat faster and also is considered anaerobic since it increases testosterone. There is even an article on this site about it:
    http://www.marksdailyapple.com/how-to-increase-testosterone-naturally/#axzz2v2MsaxTq

    Hope all of this helps :O)

    Btw, I’m going on 43 so not too far off from you age-wise.

    Anthony wrote on March 4th, 2014
    • Anthony,

      Yes, I’m very interested in your experience (esp. since you’re about my age). It sounds like even the so called compound weight movements (like a bent over row etc) are still not as compound as the bodyweight movements.

      I have switched, for the time being, from a upper body/ lower body split weight lifting routine 4 days per week (2 UB sessions and 2 LB sessions per week) to the PBF routine with the 4 Primal Movements two days per week. Did the testing and trying to follow the guidance provided. I am starting with two leg assist pullups (the pullup test was quite humbling ;-) ) When I did 40 bodyweight full squats, by the end I was really sucking wind. But I was pleased that I was able to do them in proper form without knee pain.

      So I’m doing the PBF routine, plus a rehabilitative routine for my knee (from Martin Koban – Total Knee Health). For my aerobic work I use an AirDyne cycle and I do sprints on it. I’ve only just started with sprints — I’m hoping that it will accelerate the fat loss.

      I actually have an Ultimate Body Press as well (I need to dust that thing off and use it!!). My other equipment: two squat stands, small standard barbell, standard adjustable dumbbells, incline/decline bench, leg ext/hamstring curl attachment for the bench, and a cardio step which I use for doing barbell hip thrusts (good for the glutes).

      I think I’ll be happier with the PBF bodyweight work as it will make my schedule simpler, especially while I’m doing the Total Knee Health rehab work. The thing with BW work is that you can’t get discouraged if you can only do a few reps (you are moving your entire body after all…).

      We should keep in touch and compare notes as we go.

      –Joe

      Joe wrote on March 4th, 2014
  23. so timely – I had to give away my Ironman dream due to injury and actually wasn’t too bothered. I loathe cycling so since that injury I’ve been ‘lost’. I love to swim and I love to run, I don’t like to race….

    This means it is all too easy to slack off because I have no goal. Sure I love to work out but I just as easily can sit on the couch.

    I have taken to walking LOTS and I am loving that.

    But now reading this post I need a goal. I need something to make me go to the pool and swim with the squad.

    I’m now going to take half an hour to establish a couple of goals.

    Thanks!

    jojo wrote on March 4th, 2014
  24. Consistency is my biggest obstacle. I’ll exercise for a couple months then stop it for three months. I’m 56 years old and I’ve always done this. I think the biggest difference now is the paleo diet I’ve been on for four months now. Without too much exercise I went from 197 lbs to 172 lbs. and have no doubt I can keep it off with the food so to my liking! I am a 9 to 5 working man though and I know it’s not a good excuse and you guys are very motivating.

    victor wrote on March 4th, 2014
  25. I’m a bit confused. You said if you’re content with your current fitness level, keep doing what your doing.(I’m not totally content with my fitness level but I just want to continue to be generally more strong, fit, and conditioned than I am now) But does that mean if you enjoy exercising, your strength, conditioning won’t improve even without a goal? Take crossfit for example. Can I continue to crossfit without a particular goal and just see where it takes me?

    Jered wrote on March 4th, 2014
  26. Or put more simply, will my strength and conditioning increase if I don’t have specific goals but just do crossfit?

    Jered wrote on March 4th, 2014
  27. @Jered:I will try to answer your question, but take into account, I do not do Crossfit. I am familiar with their training philosophy, though. Also, be aware that there are many different Crossfit gyms, which seem to do a myriad of different styles of training, or so it seems. Having said that, will you continue to gain strength and conditioning just doing Crossfit? Yes, up to a point. When a beginner starts out, obviously he will make progress, and with Crossfit he will get in great “condition”, if he can avoid injury. But, after doing it for a year or two, he will probably start to plateau. And even if he continued to improve, it would be very hard to measure that as Crossfit continually changes things up. So, what do you use as your measuring stick? A runner may use his/her time in the 10k. A swimmer may use the time on his/her 500 meter butterfly. A weight lifter may use how many times he can clean and press a 100 lb barbell in a twenty minute period. What will you use to measure your Crossfit training results? If you decide to use your time on a particular “WOD”, you then start training specifically to improve that particular WOD time. So, you would no longer be doing Crossfit.

    It should be noted that all the other forms of conditioning will result in plateaus as well. But, they have a measuring stick to monitor it and then they can try to push thru them.

    If you love doing Crossfit, do it. Because as Mark says, the best work out is the one you keep doing. And it will get you in great condition, at least by my standards. Regarding strength, it will get you strong, again by my standards. (But an olympic lifter would probably highly disagree). So, it comes down again to what are your goals. In other words, you have goals. You just have not defined them yet.

    Dan wrote on March 4th, 2014
  28. A great article!

    I sure agree with you that we are all different. We all have different bodies that need different varius of nutrition and training.

    My goal is to get fit, be more vibrant and more energetic. I have been training (and still do) for the past 7 years. training is a part of who I am, and as they say – once you see results.. you never go back :)

    dave wrote on March 5th, 2014
  29. I’m coming up 64 and am slowly getting more fit and strong again. I set personal goals:- 100 squats, I can now do that. 100 press ups, 100 dips between chairs, 20 pull ups, 30 chin ups and 100 sit ups, I’m working on these. Once I can do all or even some of them I may well set other goals. My long term goal is to be the longest serving police pensioner the world has ever seen, being healthy and fit until my last day on Earth.

    Nigel wrote on March 5th, 2014
    • Awesome goal!

      KariVery wrote on March 5th, 2014
  30. I’m just starting out on this journey to get myself healthy. At this point in time, I’m aiming for movement.

    Working at a desk 8 hrs a day for the past 10 years, unhealthy eating and when I quit smoking 2 yrs ago I allowed my weight to get the highest its ever been. I’m sure some of you know how it is.. No energy, health problems, back problems… when you feel tired and aweful all the time its all too easy to sit on the sofa but all one you see what you’ve become and wonder what in the heck you can do to fix it.

    The only time I’ve ever been able to lose weight (and I’ve been big since I was a child) was when I excersised like crazy and starved myself. Dr keeps saying I need to lose weight, and I keep trying. When your living off of 1200 cals a day and going to the gym 4 times a week, plus walking and all you can drop is 20 pounds.. its simply disheartening.

    So, thankfully now that I’ve found Primal and am losing weight I need to get the movement any way I can!

    Shelley wrote on March 5th, 2014
    • Oops, can’t seem to edit post:

      “but all one you see ” should read as: but one day

      Shelley wrote on March 5th, 2014
  31. Great post, going to recommend to my recovering patients.

    Dr Robert Israel wrote on March 5th, 2014
  32. I have been eating primal for over a year now. Lost weight been walking/jogging.
    I joined the new gym in town and I have found I love it.
    I’m working out with weights and treadmill. In the warmer weather I will also hike in nature. I’m lovin this Primal life.

    Shirley wrote on March 5th, 2014
  33. Balance…. Work towards continually improving strength, flexibility, endurance, speed, and explosiveness while eating clean and exercising the mind as well.

    Anon wrote on March 5th, 2014
  34. So refreshing to read something about fitness that takes into account individual needs. I’ve taken what I love doing (running) and turning it into training for a specific goal. It’s allowed me to go about it the right way. And by right way I mean, steady progression, most of my runs with my heart rate in the right zone and just enjoying myself. I’m also trying to get better at pull ups. I can do 10 now. My goal is 25. Why am I doing that? Not sure. Just want to be a bada$$.

    Trent wrote on March 5th, 2014
  35. @Joe,

    Great to hear you’re doing what you are.

    Yes, pull ups are very humbling. I can only do one. I can do three chin ups now which is three more than I was able to do a few months ago. I always struggled with push ups, pull ups, chin ups…bodyweight exercises. So, what did I do? I avoided them. Either they were too difficult strength-wise (pull ups) or too difficult endurance-wise (push ups). Now I’m going full head-on, attacking my weaknesses. Doing planks, etc. to strength my core too…another weakness I had.

    Btw, what is PBF? Sorry, I’m new to this site and am not familiar with all of the terminology.

    Anthony wrote on March 5th, 2014
    • PBF = Primal Blueprint Fitness

      Sign up to download the free ebook that Mark and crew have written. It’s clear and inspiring!!

      Joe wrote on March 10th, 2014
  36. I started reading your blog recently, and I haven’t come across to the “Best exercise there is” article previously. Thank you for linking it here – it makes a very good point!
    To me, as to many others that are just getting started, movement is the first crucial element to progress, whether your final goal is about health, good looks or competing, movement is always the way to go about starting things. Often as we progress, our next goals become more ambitious, so I guess it all gravitates from exercise to training and backwards if we want to keep up.
    Thanks for writing this, it was a great read!

    Jill Waterfall wrote on March 5th, 2014
  37. My fitness goals are 2, and they’re pretty basic:
    –I’m a late-life mom, and I want to not only see my grandkids, I want to be able to run around and play with them, which means maintaining my muscles and my flexibility.
    –I want to be able to do all my fun weekend warrior stuff–go on a long road bike with a friend, carry a heavy pack for a few days, ski all day in powder–spontaneously and without having to train specifically for each sport, and without feeling like s@$#% afterwards.
    What I’m doing for those goals isn’t very systematic I guess, but (so far) it seems to be working, in that I seem to have plenty of endurance, more so even than when I was running lots of miles every week. Yoga is what I enjoy most, so I do that 2, sometimes 3 times a week. I do a Crossfit session once a week to get in some weights and some anaerobic intensity. And I run hilly trails with my dog once or twice a week to get his ya-yas out and give me some outdoor time in the woods. Sometimes I make a little mini-goal along the way, just for fun–last year it was handstand.

    Mary wrote on March 5th, 2014
  38. I’m at the “moving enough” phase. I need serious motivation. I get discouraged when I walk for 1 mile and can barely move the next day because of combination of arthritis, neuropathy and heal spurs. I try to keep going but the pain often makes me give up. :( I’ve got the food down pat now after months of struggling with giving up certain foods. I’ll just keep on keeping on.. maybe one day.. I can walk a mile and not cry the next morning.

    Sharon T wrote on March 5th, 2014
  39. Thanks Mark,
    i need to move more! and eat better.. thanks for the reminder :)

    emma wrote on March 5th, 2014
  40. Good article. As an ex ski racer I understand the goal mindset. But now at 55 ( male) I am more into yoga, walking, and golf. Yes, I do an obligatory heavy weight session once a week – And thanks to paleo, that’s all I need. I’ve been eating paleo fairly strictly for 5 years. My body fat is at 10%, I don’t get sore, I feel great, and I can maintain my weight effortlessly – not missing the days of cardio at all :) If you are new to paleo – stick with it – it’s a huge payoff!!

    Rob wrote on March 5th, 2014

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