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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...

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December 09, 2008

Ultimate Frisbee

By Mark Sisson
92 Comments

Mark Sisson Playing Ultimate FrisbeeA common mistake people make when completely overhauling their lifestyle is excessive earnestness, none more culpable than the recently converted Primal Blueprint enthusiast. You know it’s true, at least at first. You read about the monumental implications of eating and living the way our Primal ancestors did, see a few before-and-after photos of people on the Primal plan, think about how you could eat all the (good) fat, meat, eggs, and nuts you want if you adopted it, and suddenly you’re cleaning out your fridge and tossing all the pasta, rice, and beans in your cupboards – and you’re doing so with the single-mindedness of a zealot. You roll your eyes at your friends and their bagels; you scoff at the top-heavy frat boy doing a dozen sets of inverted bicep curls at your gym; and you offer passing joggers tips on high intensity beach sprints. But despite your unbridled enthusiasm, something is wrong. You’re so focused on getting “in tune” with your Primal past that it becomes work – just another issue to worry about. And a big goal of the Primal Blueprint is getting away from the trappings and stresses of modern life. When our relationship with our Primal ancestors gets distilled into just a diet and exercise regimen, we’ve lost sight of that ultimate goal. By all means, pay attention to what you’re eating and how you’re exercising. Just don’t forget that the Primal Blueprint is intended to improve your life, not burden it.

A tenet of the PB that doesn’t get, but certainly deserves, a whole lot of attention is the importance of play. Remember when you were a kid and a friend would knock on the door? The question wasn’t “Can Mark come out and engage in some spontaneous freeform cooperative exercises?” It was “Can Mark come out and play?” Play. Everyone loves it. Animals play in the wild. Monkeys frolic in the trees. Dolphins employ at least 317 distinct forms of play with one another. Otters use makeshift water slides. Even children will play outside (if you unplug the Xbox or Playstation). And playing isn’t worthwhile simply for the fun factor (although that’s reason enough to engage in it) – as I’ve said before, playing is about the release of endorphins, the solidification of social bonds, and the mitigation of daily stresses. Most forms of play also provide a spontaneity that even the most freeform exercises can’t quite replicate. Try playing a vigorous game of freeze tag (but be prepared to look absolutely insane to passers-by) and you’ll be surprised at how sore you can get. Or, better yet, play one of my favorites: Ultimate Frisbee.

Ultimate Frisbee

You heard me right. Ultimate Frisbee – AKA Ultimate. No longer solely the realm of cargo short wearing ex-hackysackers nursing a weed hangover, Ultimate is actually a fairly widespread and legitimate sport that fits in perfectly with any Primal regimen.

Ultimate plays very similarly to rugby or football. The field has two end zones, and a team scores by catching a pass in the defensive team’s end zone. The defending team performs a “pull” (think “kickoff” in football) to start the match (and after every subsequent point scored). The offense moves the disc by passing to teammates in any direction. Once a player catches the disc, he must come to a stop as quickly as possible. From this position, he can only move his non-pivot foot. A player has ten seconds to throw the disc after catching it.

The disc changes hands either by turnover or after a score. A turnover occurs when a pass is not completed, intercepted, dropped, blocked, held for longer than the allotted ten seconds, or thrown out of bounds. The defending team assumes control of the disc immediately following a turnover, from wherever the disc lands on the field. There is no stoppage of play (unless a foul, injury or bad weather occurs).

Ultimate Frisbee Field

Ultimate is very Primal friendly. First off, you’re out there running, leaping, twisting, grabbing, throwing, and bumping into other players. You use practically every muscle in the body (if you’re not, you’re doing it wrong) and, rather than long protracted runs, you engage in short bursts of speed and activity punctuated by walking and brief jogging (almost like you’re on the hunt). Not only does it take keen, quick thinking, remarkable agility and throwing accuracy, and raw athleticism, but it also promotes good teamwork and sportsmanship. In fact, Ultimate has an official “Spirit of the Game” (SOTG), a sort of mission statement that stresses sportsmanship and honor. Highly competitive play is condoned, but not at the cost of general camaraderie. Taunting, intentional fouling, and a “win-by-any-means-necessary” approach to the game are generally frowned upon. When you’re playing Ultimate, you’re out there to have a good time and get some exercise, not crush the opposing team (although that can often be a side benefit).

Ultimate Frisbee Foul

It’s this SOTG that really drew me to Ultimate. More than any other sport, playing Ultimate invokes that sense of community and social play that I imagine characterized Grok’s world. When you play Ultimate, you’re working together as a team. You must work as a team. Basketball, football, baseball are all team sports, but they’re all typified by an individualistic attitude (at least at the professional level in the United States). A single player can take over a basketball court and rarely pass to teammates, and his team might still win; in Ultimate, there are standout players, but you simply can’t go it alone, or you’ll never get past the first pass. I somehow think Grok and his community would have loved Ultimate. Sure, they had individual displays of prowess (wrestling, races, dueling), but their individual existences were tied to the success of the collective, and a sport like Ultimate (or something like it – maybe Ultimate Rock or Ultimate Enemy Tribesman’s Skull) would have fortified those bonds.

Or maybe I’m just making fanciful conjectures. Either way, it’s pretty obvious what a positive effect Ultimate has had on me, and I urge you to look into it (if not for historical accuracy, at least in the spirit of Primal pragmatism). Try the World Flying Disc Federation or the Ultimate Players’ Association for more information on rules and leagues.

Of course, you could always just get a disc and a bunch of friends together, head down to the beach or local public field and draw some lines in the sand/grass. Follow the official rules to a tee or fashion your own; the important thing is getting outside in the sun with friends and working up a sweat.

Phish records optional.

Thanks to Eric Cotsen for the photo of me playing Ultimate.

kejadien Flickr Photo (CC)

Further Reading:

The Prison Workout

10 Ways to “Get Primal”

Intro to CrossFit

Clubbells

The Sandbag Workout

Build Your Own Slosh Tube

Kettlebellin’ for Strength

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92 Comments on "Ultimate Frisbee"

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Hipster Keller
Hipster Keller
7 years 9 months ago

Love the game, hate the name. Is there any other sport that needs to declare its value within its name? Or for that matter, what other good sport uses an adjective? If we renamed football “awesome football” wouldn’t that actually make it a little less awesome? Let’s call it Field Frisbee, eh?

Drewzer
Drewzer
3 years 11 months ago
As a person that reads comics, I’ve been bothered by the name Ultimate, as well. If someone were to say to me that they liked “Ultimate”, my response would be “Ultimate what?” There’s Ultimate Spider-Man,Ultimate Avengers and outside of comics there’s Ultimate Frisbee & the Ultimate Warrior. I understand that Frisbee is a trademark and that’s why they don’t call it Ultimate Frisbee, but there is this to consider: Trademarks that are originally distinctive can sometimes become generic over time, thereby legally losing their trademark protection. A word will be considered generic when, in the minds of the public, the… Read more »
Getmo
Getmo
2 years 7 months ago

I like Ultimate, it sounds badass.

Mark Sisson
7 years 9 months ago

Hey, Hipster, I’m….hip…to what you are saying. But as they say in New Yawk, “It is what it is.” BTW, many of my friends still try to call it Frisbee football (which it ain’t).

Son of Grok
7 years 9 months ago

Lol. Suprisingly Mark, my post just yesterday was on how much fun playing a game of tag is! I agree that some people have a major issue with trying too hard or making it too much work trying to stick to something too by the book. A “paralysis by analisis” if you will. That is something I have to work very hard not to do. Maybe I should get out for a game of Ultimate Frisbee here soon.. that is if it stops snowing.

The SoG

Mark Sisson
7 years 9 months ago

SoG, we play in the snow in February in Aspen (at 8,000+ feet altitude). Maybe THAT’S closer to earning the name Ultimate?

Jon P
Jon P
5 years 11 months ago

Hey Mark,
Will you be playing Ultimate in Aspen this winter? I’ll be living in Snowmass and I would climb a mountain in a blizzard to play a good game of Ultimate. Let me know who to get in touch with if you won’t be around. Gotta get that Ultimate fix…
~Jon

Mark Sisson
5 years 11 months ago

@Jon. RE:Ultimate in Aspen. If I’m there, I’m likely playing. Check in with the cat’s at Pinons to see when we’re in town.

Troy
Troy
7 years 9 months ago

Mark,

I love this site. Come here every day for inspiration, ideas, and recipes. Great article. Here’s some humor 🙂

http://stuffwhitepeoplelike.com/2008/09/23/110-frisbee-sports/

Son of Grok
7 years 9 months ago

Ultimate “Freeze” Frisbee? I like it!

The SoG

Jane
Jane
7 years 9 months ago

we did this a lot in college actually … especially during midterms/finals when we really just needed a break from the library and the books. just popped outside and starting playing. it was the perfect stress relief.

chris
7 years 9 months ago

Well said.

I’m not a fan of ultimate (can’t throw or catch to save my life) but I very much agree with the point you make about playing.

Most of my interests lay somewhere between “hobby” and “pursuit”. Every one in awhile, I need to remind myself that I’m doing them because I enjoy them and that they’re not a job.

Kirsten C
Kirsten C
7 years 9 months ago
yay! Love for my favorite sport. Regarding the name, yeah it’s annoying, but they can’t legally use the name “Frisbee” because it’s trademarked. 🙁 Some people in the community want to call it flatball, which is pretty hilarious but not really any more conducive to it being taken seriously. When I played back in high school we only used two “lines” for the front of the endzones… it makes for some interesting strategy when there is no out-of-bounds. In college I was on a fairly competitive team, and we had very rigid strategy which sometimes led me to entirely lose… Read more »
Rob
Rob
7 years 9 months ago
Another “sport” worth checking out is “Hashing” – a club that combines running and socializing. Warning however – many hash clubs drink excessive amounts beer, but most clubs do not require you to drink. There can also be an amount of debauchery that is more than you might appreciate. However, the runs, or “hashes,” are very creative. Just last night, I ran 6 miles that included back alleys, stairs, mountain trails, and about a quarter mile under ground in a large storm drain. At each hash, a different hasher sets the trail. You never know what you are going to… Read more »
Hipster Keller
Hipster Keller
7 years 9 months ago

Good points all around. Better ultimate than flatball or frisbee football. And come to think of it, there is another sport that uses the exact same adjective: Ultimate Fighting.

Andrew R - Go Healthy Go Fit
7 years 9 months ago

The first paragraph is a good eye opener… adopting a frame of mind that mirrors “the single-mindedness of a zealot…” can really happen if you’re not careful and you get too into eating healthy. Sometimes I’ll write about a topic for a week and then find myself picking fights with my friends about it. I’m gonna make a concerted effort to adopt a more SOTG attitude towards things.

Thanks Mark!

All the Best,

Andrew R

Alberto V
Alberto V
7 years 9 months ago

“nursing a weed hangover…”

This comment makes me question the rest of your wisdom. As a wise Tim Meadows once said, “There is no hangover!”

Regarding the rest of the article, I’m not sure I’m out of that “zealot” mindset right now, but I’m sure I’ll stop scoffing at my roommate’s morning bagel eventually.

Mark Sisson
7 years 9 months ago

Alberto V, I just Googled “weed hangover” and got 780,000 results. It must exist in the mind of someone 🙂

Alberto V
Alberto V
7 years 9 months ago

I’m mainly speaking from personal experience 😉

Also, existential question for stoner health nuts: is weed primal? Did Grok enjoy getting dazed and confused?

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[…] Ultimate Frisbee […]

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[…] Ultimate Frisbee […]

LEC
7 years 9 months ago

Mark,

Hey, where’s my photo credit? 🙂

Mark Sisson
7 years 9 months ago

LEC, end of the post

KristenM
7 years 9 months ago

Ah. I miss the days when I used to play Ultimate Frisbee. Thanks for bringing back happy memories.

Stephen Hubbard
7 years 9 months ago
Hi Mark, Your readers can check out the raw athleticism and skill of the highest levels of ultimate here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6wDvuBTj8Vk and watch a whole game at the highest levels here: part 1 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2qEgGgAIGNs&feature=related part 2 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tyHi2-8ZWnk Part 3 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ft2xYagC7as&feature=related I personally love ultimate so much because it is just plain funner than any other activity. How many things can one do with a football and how many times does anyone actually get to do something cool playing football? Few. How many things can one do with a Frisbee and how many times does anyone actually get to do something cool… Read more »
Kat
7 years 9 months ago

I like the reminder that we are meant to do this stuff because it’s fun and we want to, not because we have to .. I guess the trick is figuring out how to make a primal lifestyle a natural, everyday happenstance, rather than another ‘must-do’ on our already full list. BUt it seems that in order to get there we must first create that habit, which would require .. hmm .. adding it to our list! I guess that’s why reading good blogs makes things that much easier 🙂

Nathan
7 years 9 months ago

To echo the above sentiment – weed does not make an individual ‘hung over.’ And if it did, that would assuredly not be when an individual would engage in Ultimate Frisbee. They would do it while they were still high!

simon fellows
simon fellows
7 years 9 months ago

Please please please no shots sans yr shirt on(aside from on the Mark Sisson X rated site) as it makes you ‘look’ like Arse De Vany vis self aggrandizement and ‘the look at me i’m wonderful’ type of bloggers.

That said seasonal greetings to you and Clan and thanks very very much for such a varied and eclectic content of blog oer the year.

Jacob
Jacob
7 years 9 months ago

The correct spelling is ULTIMATE. ALL CAPS PLEASE!

Earth Beauty
7 years 9 months ago

That is funny that you make this post. Someone has been trying to convince me to play Ultimate Frisbee.

Ed
Ed
7 years 9 months ago

Ummm…soccer? Just as intense and team-oriented, fewer restrictive rules like only moving your pivot foot. Something tells me Grok wasn’t too into rules.

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[…] patterns and more, the Feldenkrais Method (think proprioceptive rehab), go play some ultimate frisbee, therapeutic movement goes mainstream, a conditioning lesson from a birthing book, why your friends […]

Mark Sisson
Mark Sisson
7 years 9 months ago

Ed, in fact we played a family-oriented pick-up game of soccer at that ULTIMATE (see, Jacob?) field every week for six years. It’s how my kids got to be such great soccer players. Alas, I couldn’t find enough adults to join in the fun. Seems more guys can fake throwing and catching a disc than bending it like Beckham, so we evolved to ULTIMATE every Sunday. But my kids still play on soccer teams and I love to watch a good match. It’s a great Primal sport.

Ed
Ed
7 years 9 months ago

Mark,

Sounds good…haha my main opposition to ULTIMATE is the fact that I can’t throw a disc to save my life.

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[…] One of My Favorite Pastimes […]

Jamie
7 years 9 months ago

Whoa! Flashback to college!

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[…] of Mark’s favs, as he recently shared. And don’t worry if you don’t find yourself in shirtless weather this holiday. Snow makes it […]

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[…] like a true runner just doing one set of these each week (and no other running except when I “play“). Nothing beats the flat, hard sand at low tide with the sun just coming up to make me feel […]

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[…] do the trick, try getting super Primal by ditching the gym, shoes, and structure for some free form activity. If this doesn’t keep things interesting we’re not sure what […]

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[…] frisbee disc de 175 g ( 75 RON) – pentru Ultimate Frisbee. L-am testat intai in parcarea magazinului, apoi in parc, de unde am fost izgoniti de ploaie. […]

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[…] grains and sugars. Follow the 10 Laws of the Primal Blueprint and get plenty of sleep and leisure time. Play games. Go on hikes. Enjoy life and live well, and I think you’ll find headaches to be a […]

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[…] structured, planned workout regimens. Hey, I understand where you’re coming from, which is why I play instead. Or why not try a totally spontaneous […]

Sergei Dolukhanov
Sergei Dolukhanov
6 years 11 months ago
Mark.. I’m honestly ecstatic that you posted this. I’ve an avid Ultimate Frisbee player.. i’ve been playing since I was 13 years old (thanks to my stepfather who started the team at pace university). I started an Ultimate program and I currently play at Oneonta State University in NY. I recently stumbled on your website and have since been amazed with the community you have put together here. Currently, I am in Krasnoyarsk, Russia studying for 3 months in my native language. Before I arrived in Krasnoyarsk, I didn’t take my body or my mind seriously enough; I have always… Read more »
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6 years 5 months ago

[…] LinkedIn […]

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[…] literate, showered (most of the time), and fully dressed (except Mark when he really gets into an Ultimate Frisbee game). We live in furnished houses, use toilets, drive cars, attend cultural events and […]

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[…] cocktails with a raised pinky, wave goodbye (especially if you employ the “royal wave”), play Ultimate Frisbee, or shoot hoops (with good follow through). If you plan on giving awesome high fives or becoming a […]

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[…] with good form. Throw a bit of weight on there if you’re feeling up to it. Play sports, like Ultimate Frisbee, that test your ability to change direction and subject your ankles to the full range of motion. Go […]

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[…] cocktails with a raised pinky, wave goodbye (especially if you employ the “royal wave”), play Ultimate Frisbee, or shoot hoops (with good follow through). If you plan on giving awesome high fives or becoming a […]

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[…] Primal Blueprint training gives me the functional strength and endurance to jump into an aggressive Ultimate Frisbee game, stand-up paddle and surf for two hours, take a 90-minute trail hike with sprints thrown in, […]

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[…] cocktails with a raised pinky, wave goodbye (especially if you employ the “royal wave”), play Ultimate Frisbee, or shoot hoops (with good follow through). If you plan on giving awesome high fives or becoming a […]

Blair
Blair
6 years 2 months ago

Hi Mark,

The World Ultimate Club Championships are currently taking place in Prague, Czech Republic. This week long tournament encompasses the best teams from around the world in Mens, Womens, Coed, and Masters (age 33+) divisions. Here’s a link to the site – has some good photos and videos with great Ultimate! I encourage anyone interested in the sport to check it out! http://wucc2010.com/

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[…] exactly constitutes “Primal fun?” Any group form of Primal Play could work, like Ultimate Frisbee, a group hike, or Grok Tag. But less traditional options are welcomed as well. Maybe your group […]

Nigel
Nigel
5 years 9 months ago

I liked the identification of theism with practical considerations, Mark; a breakthrough in religious belief will occur when it is generally accepted that “God” is a personification of “good”.

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5 years 6 months ago

[…] rather have a fantastic quality of life (which for me means plenty of lean mass, plenty of physical activity, and plenty of meat on my plate) than live a few extra, protein-restricted […]

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