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

Sprint for Your Life: A Primal Workout

For the modern Grok, sprinting is generally an elective endeavor. His animals come pre-slaughtered, his honey comes bee-free, and the once-constant threats of predator or rival clan usually fail to materialize nowadays. He doesn’t “have” to run. If he runs fast, it’s probably because he chooses to do so – for sport, for fitness, or perhaps to catch a bus. But especially in matters of developing one’s physical potential (and, I suppose, when pursuing public transportation), speed still matters. Your sprints should be actual sprints, if you want to get the most out of them; you should be running at or around your maximum speed. But can we really squeeze out every single ounce of power without the threat of instant death or starvation licking at our heels? Is the modern sprint truly a sprint without the mortal urgency? Heck, even Usain Bolt seemed to let up on the intensity in his record-breaking 100m run, and he had a few billion eyes on him, not to mention the weight of a nation’s expectations bearing down on him. Can a mere mortal expect to give it his or her all?

I’d say so, yes. We can manufacture urgency. That’s what sets us apart from the other animals, after all – our ability to imagine and self-motivate. With few exceptions, animal behavior corresponds to physical stimuli. The cheetah sprints all out in pursuit of the wildebeest because some raw instinctual urge compels him: hunger. Man, however, has to rationalize it. We still operate on instinct when the situation necessitates it, but in situations where instinct has no place (like, say, when gearing up for a set of hill sprints), you call on will. You make the conscious decision to run up that hill, and whether or not you run up that hill as fast you can depends on your force of will.

Or your imagination. Remember the “Bringing Home the Bacon” workout video that won the contest? It got me thinking about putting together a conceptual sprint workout that gets you in the mindset of Grok in full-on (instinctual) sprint mode. Why did Grok sprint? Which situations called for rapid bursts of speed? If we narrow that down, I think we could come up with a great workout that gets us a little closer to Grok – physically and mentally.

We often imagine Grok sprinting after (or as) game, but I bet a lot of his displays of speed came in friendly (but heated) competition with companions. In fact, sport has been around probably as long as modern humans have lived. Cave art from 30,000 years ago depicts ritual archery, Native Hawaiians were the first surfers, the Mayans and the Aztecs played ball games, and Native Americans engaged in foot races, wrestling, and a lacrosse-esque sport. It’s obvious that we have a natural inclination to compete with one another in displays of strength, foot speed, and agility, and I doubt Grok was any different.

With that in mind, I think a little competition might be the perfect motivating tool for a Primal sprint workout. For optimum results, you’ll need at least one other person (or an especially vivid imagination, but the padded white walls may get in the way). You could just do something as simple as a foot race – line up, pick a destination (no more than 100 meters away), and go! – or you could make things more elaborate. Now, there’s something beautiful about simplicity, and five or six full out foot races between you and a couple pals is a great workout. The competition will force you to actually sprint, and you’ll find it’s hard to let up or give up when you’ve got a friend or two there for support (or ridicule).

I think we could make it even more interesting, though, with a bit of role-playing.

Here’s how it works:

For what I have in mind, you’ll need a sandbag weighing 70-100 pounds. Scale the weight down or up depending on your strength. You’ll also need a partner for this. This is the perfect opportunity to introduce an unfamiliar friend to the Primal mode of working out. You’ll have a partner to motivate you, and you’ll be showing someone that fitness doesn’t have to be boring and miserable.

Leave the sandbag on the ground and walk away. Choose a starting point about 50-100 meters away from the sandbag. The distance isn’t exact; it’s just a guide. You can go longer or shorter depending on your speed and fitness levels.

Race your partner to the sandbag. As you get closer, you’ll notice something strange. The sandbag is no longer a sandbag – it’s a thick, juicy, mammoth leg! That’s dinner for a week, and this other guy’s trying to take it from you. If you care about your tribe, you’ll get to it first.

Did you make it? Good, you deserve it. Grab the leg, heave it up to your shoulders, and make a run for it. Try to make it back to the starting point. The other guy has to catch his breath, of course, so he’ll be resting (for ten seconds), but after that he’ll be right on your tail. That huge piece of meat will be weighing you down, so you better sprint with everything you’ve got left.

Inevitably, the other guy will catch up. When he does, there’s a brief struggle (for realism’s sake, you can actually turn this interlude into a wrestling match; your partner has to wrest the sandbag from your grasp), and the leg exchanges hands. (Take 30-45 seconds of collective rest here) Now he’s off with the leg (with a ten second head start), and you take off after him to repeat the process. That’s your damn dinner, and you aren’t giving up that easily!

Keep this up as long as you can. Eventually, the distances traveled will become shorter and shorter, and the sprinting will turn into shuffling – that’s when you know you’ve had enough. The mammoth leg will, disappointingly, also turn back into a mere sandbag, and your friend will cease to be your mortal enemy. You, on the other hand, will be closer to Grok than ever.

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. I’m loving the Primal Blueprint Fitness. I’ve been doing primal primary movements for a while but without your hierarchy which I love because they are totally pushing me to another level. Now here’s my problem, I recently tore my knee playing basketball and I’m not planning to have it repaired until near Thanksgiving for many different reasons. I’m walking well and taking stairs well and can even run straight ahead. However I can’t sprint and not sure I’ll be able to until I get it fixed. Any ideas of other things I might do to get similar results of a sprint workout in my situation? Thanks!

    Josh Schoenly wrote on February 29th, 2012
  2. This post makes me want to sprint. Sprinting is so great, especially when you want to simply exhaust yourself (endorphins kicking in are awesome). Long-distance running from time to time is also okay for me. I don’t agree with all principles of the Primal approach, but I definitely agree with sprinting and other “primal” activities.

    Matt wrote on April 14th, 2012
  3. I know this is an old post, but I just had to chime in… sprinting totally makes sense. I’ve always hated jogging, when they made us jog in high school I just hated it! It made me feel tired and like I had to drag myself around. Instead, I loved sprinting! It was so much more enjoyable for me… I felt free, I loved feeling powerful and fast… It sure left me out of breath, but it didn’t leave me tired (there’s a difference)… I felt vital, instead, I guess you can call it the “good” kind of tired. Sadly, I have no open spaces or hills to sprint on now, so I just do jump rope intervals… not the same, but breath taking (literally) too.

    But yeah, sprinting is fun!!

    Lillian wrote on May 29th, 2012
  4. Double-unders or triple-unders with a jump rope are really close to the intensity of sprinting, but are somewhat more convenient; you don’t have to go get to an open stretch and can even do them inside.

    frd wrote on January 7th, 2013
  5. Did my first “bike and ride” this Sunday.

    Teams of 2 , 1 mountain bike., lots of mud and lots of overly kean triathletes using this as some kind of training session.

    You take turns in running – very fast- then having a “rest ” on the bike.
    Keep it up for 1 – 2 hours, depending on how fast you were, for a 16K course.

    It reminded me of this work out.

    In hindsight I guess I liked it.

    Pat wrote on November 28th, 2013

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