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

Winging It: Fun, Spontaneity and Intuition in Your Primal Life

We’re well into the third week of the Challenge, and I’m thinking these days about fun. Yes, fun – the pure amusement, pleasure, and self-indulgence of it. Did Tuesday’s active entertainment post tip you off? A challenge, of course, implies goals, structure, progress, and the associated measurements of these. While indispensable, I get a little bored with them from time to time. Hands? Why can’t a healthy lifestyle be about fun and spontaneity? Why can’t it be about enjoying life rather than parsing it out in pre-approved steps? Oh, wait. It can.

It’s a simple but vital dimension of the Primal Blueprint – the concept of the journey itself. Yes, many of us have particular “highlights” we’d like to hit, but there’s plenty to savor along the way. Living the PB, after all, is about living “whole,” living fully – or at least relishing the attempt anyway. The heart of the PB of course isn’t the diet itself or the exercise or the sleep. Sure, these are all essential components, but there’s something bigger, more expansive, more ambitious and radical at the core.

The Primal Blueprint is a broader reclaiming of our evolutionary model – as much of it as makes good and useful sense – and molding it to promote better health and contentment in our lives today. While we have a lot to learn from our ancestors’ diet and movement, we can learn something from their overall approach to life. For example, I don’t imagine Grok carrying around an anti-stress checklist or putting a reminder on his smartphone to “play” at 5:30 today. I don’t envision him logging onto his FitDay profile multiple times in an afternoon or counting his lunges and burpees.

Are all of these modern tools great? Can they be immensely helpful and make healthy living (particularly a Primal transition) easier? Absolutely. I’m not out to knock them today. (I use them myself after all.) My thought today is simply this: taking a day to wing it.

In committing to the Primal Blueprint Challenge, most folks are naturally focused on results. They’re out to lose those ten pounds. They hope to improve some ominous lab numbers. They want to lift more, run longer, or push harder. Go for it. I hope you’re well on your way toward that goal, but I wonder if this point in the Challenge opens up another possibility. How about taking a respite from the mechanics of the process? How about releasing our attachment to any goal itself?

What would it mean, for example, if you didn’t keep track of anything today? No lists, no FitDay, no schedule (for Challenge related pursuits), no menu? I’m not talking about chucking the inclination toward healthy, Primally minded choices. I mean putting aside for a day (or more) the self-designed, individually imposed plans. Surrender some of the energy that goes into that structure. Turn your focus from any eventual goal to what Primal living can offer in this moment.

Think about your day today – or tomorrow – or the weekend (or better yet all of the above). What can be thrown out to make room for playing it by ear? What could a day look like in which you took every possible moment (excluding work and basic family care) to just do whatever felt energizing, even life giving in the moment? Accept the irony for a second. Sure, we’re talking about setting a vision for spontaneity, but too many of us forget, I think, what innumerable and incredible possibilities are even available.

I’m talking here about both unstructured activity and inspired diversions. How about skipping your scheduled gym workout and playing instead. Climb trees. Lift every large planter or stone lion you see lining the street. (And be prepared to sprint when the owners see you.) Play sack of potatoes with your kids. Set up an obstacle course for you and your dog. Go out dancing. Run the length of your local football field screaming chants for yourself.

Whatever you’d planned on eating tonight? Make a real, bonafide dining experience of it. (No eating over the kitchen sink.) Maybe it can be a picnic or campfire event. On the other end of things, maybe it could be a candlelit table setting with wine and music or a boisterous meal with friends that runs into the night and earns you a noise ordinance notice from the condo co-op board.

Put aside your stress management routine for a night and forget about managing anything while you soak in the bathtub. Play spa night on yourself (menfolk too). Or forget your own problems by offering hugs to passers-by or by sitting on a random street corner with an “Advice: 5¢” sign displayed.

Forget the strategic sunlight outdoor time allotment, and go for broke. Sleep outside. Eat outside. Wash your dishes outside. Wash yourself outside. Sit outside at eleven at night just because. Heck, bring your furniture outside and set up your living room in the backyard. (Thoreau did it.)

Whatever you do, don’t keep track of anything that doesn’t need your immediate attention for secured livelihood or survival (e.g. small children). Live the day as off the charts, off the grid, and off center as you can. Go big and bold – or not. Lay in the grass and do nothing but watch the trees and nap. Whatever. For the purpose of this experiment, think purposeless and all-consuming. Wherever the moment brings you. Go beyond spontaneous and push the boundaries of your impulsivity.

Why do I say this? A few reasons actually. I’m not trying to throw all the type As and competitive freaks out there into a mental tailspin. (Yes, I am both of those myself.) In a challenge kind of setting particularly, we can become too attached to the goal, too caught up in the outcome. Not only is this kind of limited focus unsustainable for most people, it’s frankly unsatisfying. The Primal Blueprint aims to be gratifying in both its end results and everyday journey – wild in many ways, indulgent at turns, vitalizing in no uncertain terms. If we get too zeroed in on the end result, we run the risk of missing out on some of the deepest rewards of the Primal experience.

Finally, the PB is a scaffolding more than structure, a principle instead of program. Ultimately, each person must make it his/her own. It’s a grounded but loose design that looks and feels different when shaped to each individual’s life. Though we can get a jump start by following a laid out formula, we eventually have to internalize and personalize it. I call it the Primal lens – the ability to judge and select from the choices of our environment with the context of general Primal principles. It’s about letting go of the map and feeling your bearings – best done in a wider scope and wilder state.

How will you go unstructured and unfettered? Let me know your thoughts on winging it Primal style. Have a great end to the week, everyone!

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 recovering from an unfortunately timed fever and am taking a (semi-forced) second day off work. This is a well-timed and inspiration post Mark – now I don’t feel guilty and see my day off as more of an opportunity!

    Jasmina wrote on September 29th, 2011
  2. Can’t agree enough with this post. It comes back to the issue that many people in our society seem to have – the inability to be “present” and just BE in the moment. We’re all so caught up in what happened in the past, or what will happen in the future. It’s such good advice to let all of that go for a while. Thanks, Mark for another excellent post!

    Nick wrote on September 29th, 2011
    • Exactly. Live in the moment. Why worry about something that happened in the past? Why wish you would have done this or that 10 years ago? Why fret about the future. In general, we have no idea what the future holds. Sure, I am pretty damn certain that my sister will be getting married on October 29.

      But, most things, we have no idea. Not a damn clue.

      Live today folks! You never know when something from space will come crashing down and destroy all of humanity!

      That brings up people who believe the world is going to end… really?! Well, it will at some point. That earthquake in Cali… we have no idea when that will happen! If you want to live there then do it! Don’t worry about an earthquake that may not happen for hundreds of years!


      Primal Toad wrote on September 29th, 2011
      • This all is easy said when you’re in your early 20’s and nothing bad whatsoever has ever happened to you or any loved ones.

        The picture looks quite differently when the spouse dies and one of your children has an incurable disease.
        Or those who ruined their lives with credit card debt…and others who accidently got someone else killed and guilt eats their soul.

        Arty wrote on September 29th, 2011
        • cheery…

          Tim wrote on September 29th, 2011
        • since when is something worth doing easy?

          alex wrote on September 29th, 2011
        • I am sorry about your spouse…

          But how can you possibly claim that noting bad whatsoever has happened to me?!

          People need to stop assuming. You have no idea… not a clue based on what I just read. I was not given this lifestyle. I struggled for it. I just have the right attitude about life which has given me more opportunities then most. I enjoy capitalizing on these opportunities so I can live the life I want to live.

          To a good life!

          Primal Toad wrote on September 29th, 2011
  3. I agree with what you say here Mark, 100%. As Robb Wolf said in the AHS podcast, the fact that you have a passion for “play” is going to be huge for this movement. Your Reconnect book will be a #1 NY TImes Bestseller because folks like Robb and I will make it be.

    “What could a day look like in which you took every possible moment (excluding work and basic family care) to just do whatever felt energizing, even life giving in the moment?”

    I feel so blessed. I live like this most days. 2 days ago I did not touch my computer from 11 am to 10 pm. I had zero plans of doing so but was enjoying myself on the beach. I took about 100 pictures of crabs along with paddleboarders and more. It was awesome.

    Are you living or existing?

    That’s the ultimate question.

    Primal Toad wrote on September 29th, 2011
    • That avatar makes me nervous…;-)

      Alison Golden wrote on September 29th, 2011
      • Lol. It was a massive stump. Looks like a rock which would be scary… my bro and I had a lot of fun with it.

        Primal Toad wrote on September 29th, 2011
        • OK, I did think it was a rock. That it’s a stump makes me feel a bit better. But just a bit. 😉

          Alison Golden wrote on September 29th, 2011
    • Well put Primal Toad. We’ve been doing a bunch of playing out here in DC. My girlfriend and I put together a 1-minute video of playing outside in anticipation of this post:

      Bob Ewing wrote on September 30th, 2011
  4. Funny this blog hits 5 days after I decided to to just that. Chucked the scale, chucked the tabata timer, chucked even counting reps…chucked it all this week completely. don’t get me wrong here, i still maintain 50 grams of carbs per day, avoid grain and sugar but I’ve learned to eyeball my food and know what’s what. Maintaining the “grease the grove” approch to exercize. just do it til i can’t, nice and slow. riding my bike, I even learn where my heart rate stays aroun 75% of max. Having much more fun. Great suggestion, Mark.

    Dasbutch wrote on September 29th, 2011
    • I don’t know why but your comment brought to mind something someone said about ballet.

      This is not an exact quote.

      ‘You practice to your best perfection until you are able to set yourself free and just dance from the heart.’

      Maybe what Mark is saying is that we should get to a place in our lives where we can all “dance from the heart.”

      At least some of the time.

      Sharon wrote on September 29th, 2011
  5. “With the past, I have nothing to do; nor with the future. I live now.” ~Ralph Waldo Emerson

    the best goal is no goal… living random and primal.

    been primal for 29 days… and doing great… looking great… feeling great!

    Fel wrote on September 29th, 2011
  6. I pretty much live on the fly every day. I make it up as I go along. I have no problem leaving things undone that can be finished later if something more interesting comes along.

    I cook like this, making up a dish from what ever is on hand. I make art like this, sliding from one medium to another. Lately I have been exercising like this.

    I know that I don’t accomplish as much as others but since I am an old person and I have pretty much been like this all along, it probably is not going to change.

    I guess because of being of this nature, I have been dragging my feet big time about starting a new business to sell my art. I have been talking about doing this for about 3 years.

    I have enough experience to have some idea of the time commitment involved so I always seem to come up with some excuse not to jump in. Soon I will run out of excuses. Then what? The downsides of not being goal oriented.

    Sharon wrote on September 29th, 2011
  7. This post hits on the very essence of my understanding and desire for the Primal way of life. Our need to count reps and win the race is obviously rooted in the success of our evolution. However, the pace of our modern lives combined with the number of opportunities we face daily to try and win, create a major imbalance. To have that Yin without the Yang seems a sure road to failure. I started my Primal journey in December of 2010 after a long two-year back surgery recovery. Your concise and thorough approach takes many different thoughts and concepts and delivered them in a unique and fantastic way. Thanks Mark I truly appreciate what you do! I am currently working on being your next Midwest success story!

    Marshall wrote on September 29th, 2011
  8. I see this with geocachers. Geocaching can be a very primal hobby since it encourages us to frequently move slowly. (For details see But, some people get so focused on following their GPSs to the goal that they miss the journey.

    Linda Sand wrote on September 29th, 2011
    • I love geocaching!!!
      Can’t wait to have enough money to do this outside the US…gonna be so much fun and it’s a good reason to go places other than just being a ‘tourist’.

      Arty wrote on September 29th, 2011
  9. No can do.


    Debbie_Downer wrote on September 29th, 2011
  10. how ironic… i had today off work, and no preschool for the kiddo. i have plenty of housework and errands to do, but i figured, let’s just have a day of nothing, just do whatever comes to mind. we have so far ended up staying home all day but we read books all morning until the sun finally poked out. then we played pirates all afternoon, killing sharks and rescuing a monkey (i really have no idea where that came from). afterwards we had a picnic lunch in the pirate ship (swing set fort). i figured i’d just check today’s post as she naps blissfully in the hammock.

    kelly q wrote on September 29th, 2011
  11. Exactly the post I needed today, thanks Mark! After being introduced to some visible muscles this week for the first time in a very long while, I started putting a lot of my energy into thinking and dreaming about a slimmer future. While it’s nice to think about the goal once in a while, it can make “sticking it out” just to see visible physical results difficult.

    Today I’m going to be happy at how great I feel and enjoy myself on the first day of my last week on this six month working vacation in Mexico! Back home to Canada soon….

    Bex wrote on September 29th, 2011
  12. haha, I did just that this morning in the pool. was counting laps ( talk about boring!), started to feel bad about how slow I was and so forced myself to not count, sort of kept my eye on the clock but just swam until I didn’t want to anymore. nice.

    charity dasenbrock wrote on September 29th, 2011
  13. This is what I appreciate about being primal – the focus on the QUALITY of one’s life and changing/tweaking/omitting those things that keep you from living life to the full. Good post!

    Crunchy Pickle wrote on September 29th, 2011
  14. Any tips on letting go of planning? I have a hard time letting go of planning everything because when I don’t, I get bored and then depressed.

    namelesswonder wrote on September 29th, 2011
    • I like to plan too and much of the time it can be alot of fun like planning a trip or a special meal. A tip I suggest is to just try one or two small spontaneous things every once in a while just to see how it feels. In my opinion, it feels fun and puts me in a good mood. One of my last spontaneous actions was that I drove two hours to a hiking trail that I had not been to in ages and spent the day there. The weather was nice that day, and I had planned on mowing the lawn, grocery shopping and the usual weekend chores but, on a spur of the moment, I headed for that trail instead.

      Jenny wrote on September 29th, 2011
    • I suffer from depression and my therapist and my doctor have told me I absolutely must have structure or I’ll fall apart (true). You can still have spontaneous moments while engaging in loose structure. Last week I planned a hike with my mom and as we came to the end of the trail, she suggested we turn around and go back the way was came! A great idea that wasn’t planned. Also unexpected fun stops on the way home. Plan, be flexible, and keep your eyes and ears open!

      Debra wrote on October 3rd, 2011
  15. Dude, what an AWESOME & timely post! We are heading out tomorrow for a 72-hour Primal camping excursion – sleeping, cooking, cleaning, playing, resting, and pooping outdoors in one of our National Forests. It is our bi-monthly get-in-touch-with-ourselves-and-nature, rejuvenating Wild weekend.

    Dara Cramp wrote on September 29th, 2011
  16. I’m on it Mark! Thanks for the inspiration of the day. I have been working on this concept for months now and its still a work in progress. I have a hard time still working out how to drive without the aggressive “trying to get where i’m going” mentality that has been bred into me since childhood (from california), and just enjoying the trip and slowing it down some. I got all everything else down though! My favorite is walking around (barefoot, naturally) in Eugene and just exploring without a destination at hand and enjoying the world, and playing pickup games where I can find them, or checking out what is happening wherever I end up. Love it! I Encourage everyone to expore this world!!

    jake wrote on September 29th, 2011
  17. Mark, I love finding and implementing primal stuff to get healthy. Here is one example. An old mini trampoline and 16 lb bowling ball. Grunt..grunt..argg. Primal fun at it’s best, and cheapest.

    Ryan J Pitts wrote on September 29th, 2011
  18. I think this is one of the best posts you have ever written. A type A myself, I tend to get way too hung up on all my personal goals and lists I create for myself every day. I, perhaps subconsciously, feel that if I have met all those goals by the end of the day then I have really done something. My husband is always telling me to relax. What would happen if I didn’t have any plans in my head and just focused on … whatever … in the moment? Relief, that’s what. Relaxation. The ability to enjoy whatever is going on … just because. Great post, again, and I so needed a reminder today…to relax. Thanks.

    Dawn wrote on September 29th, 2011
  19. “Live in the Present and the future will take care of itself”

    Primal Andrew wrote on September 29th, 2011
  20. I think not having a routine and playing it by ear is one of the key principles of the Primal Blueprint. Grok’s life was different almost every day I bet – the complete opposite of what most people strive for today. Thankfully I agree with Mark in that it is very fun to break routines and social norms. Be healthy while having fun? Yes please! 😀

    Mauricio wrote on September 29th, 2011
  21. I am fortunate that I control my own time and at least once a week I go off my to-do list and on to my intuition. Usually Fridays.

    I do whatever pops into my head. I feel a lot less pressured and my brain reminds me what is the most important thing. Somehow, this way, things don’t feel so onerous…

    And some days I don’t feel like doing anything except the essentials. So I don’t.

    Alison Golden wrote on September 29th, 2011
  22. Oh, the freedom is so wonderful…..I love being in love with food, life, and FUN! Thank you Primal people, you rock my world!

    Jill Pontiere wrote on September 29th, 2011
  23. Primal Lens reminds me of the Lens of Arisia, from the classic SF Lensman series (which I have read like 4 times!)

    WildGrok wrote on September 29th, 2011
  24. Pretty sure I live just about every waking moment trying to be as spontaneous as possible. Makes life interesting. It’s actually how I ended up in my career.

    TheCrut wrote on September 29th, 2011
  25. Words to live by! I have been enjoying a couple of days of hard-earned play with my family at a waterpark hotel. Climbing stairs and adrenaline rushing the day away. Managing to eat grain-free and reasonably well in the hotel restaurant (thank goodness for the build your own omlette bar!). We don’t get enough reminders to PLAY in our modern lives. Thanks for a push in the right direction.

    Clementine C. wrote on September 29th, 2011
  26. ah the 12-hour shifts of a school teacher in september. i needed this reminder. come saturday I’m going to…do what i want. maybe chase deer around the forest with my new rifle, or maybe stay home and drag a string around for my cat. maybe embark on a big canning/cooking project…or maybe get to that sewing project I’ve been happily planning. maybe ride my mtn bike. maybe swim laps at the gym. or work on my book. it’s gonna be whatever i feel like when I wake up in the morning! (after sleeping in)

    DThalman wrote on September 29th, 2011
  27. Thanks for the reminder, Mark. I really need to do more of this, like I used to once upon a time. Then I think I let myself get caught up in my grownup life…work, kids, and so on. It’s time to refocus on letting myself loose again. Even for just a little bit, to start.

    Greensprout wrote on September 29th, 2011
  28. GREAT idea!

    glorth2 wrote on September 29th, 2011
  29. Text fluently, clear view, with rich content and like you in the paper.

    shamballa bracelets wrote on September 29th, 2011
  30. I’ve always winged it, more or less. I don’t look too far ahead and never have. At my last job (recruitment, which I didn’t like much) we had a trainer in. I think I exasperated her because I couldn’t come up with any goals. I was pretty happy with the status quo. I ended up getting fired (I hadn’t made enough placements due to the recession, which was fair enough, but my boss also mentioned the lack of interest in the trainer) and am now working at a school teaching PE part time. The job came along by accident (a friend works there and they needed a PE teacher in a hurry) and I wouldn’t have considered it myself, but I’m really happy there. Life throws all sorts of things at you – plan too much and you can miss all sorts of opportunities.

    Indiscreet wrote on September 29th, 2011
  31. Ok, well, since becoming a recent empty-nester I am finding loads of free time but I am one of those type-A, planner, fill every moment of the day with something people. I have journaled every bite of food and every exercise I have had and done for the last 5 years (!!!). Living a primal lifestyle is definitely helping me with this aspect of my life (my family thanks you for this…daily!). For the record…I have “planned” a no-plans weekend, no journaling either! Looking forward to it, too!

    Andrea wrote on September 29th, 2011
  32. This is such a good post. I am part of the Autism community (and Down Syndrome…daughter has both,) and we are always planning, always worried about the future, and always taking care of business. It is so important for us to let it go and just BE for a while. We forget that our kids need it too, and we need to model it for them. It IS quite difficult because Autistic kids are not known for being able to let go and go with the flow, so the moments are few and far between, but this post was a good reminder.

    Julie wrote on September 30th, 2011
  33. What is “sack of potatoes”? Does it involve throwing tubers at my children?

    Efrain wrote on September 30th, 2011
  34. Oddly enough I am actually the unstructured/ unfettered type- only recently have I been more adamant about schedule and structure- with that said I plan on going to a concert with friends this weekend ( sure of the moment- they had an extra ticket), and I am going to surprise my husband with an outdoor activity of some sort ( he usually plays video games and stays glued to tv on weekends while I do other things grr) I may even chase birds… Have you ever chases birds? It is random, and funny especially when people stare at you during…

    Lexxy wrote on September 30th, 2011
  35. Is that Spiderman in the photo?

    Lee wrote on September 30th, 2011
  36. YAY! Great post—-thank you!

    Samantha Moore wrote on September 30th, 2011
  37. I LOVE this post, Mark! One thing I really enjoy about the Primal approach is that it IS less structured, because I know myself well enough to know that I tend to overstructure and then get bored or rebellious and wander off.

    Also, I’m finding after nearly a month of doing this that I simple have more energy for fun and friends, and am more relaxed at the same time. Is this win-win, or what?!

    Kate (Cathy Johnson) wrote on September 30th, 2011
  38. I’ve spent the last couple of days doing this and it feels GREAT! Nothing like breaking out of routine for a couple of days over a few weeks to really feel like you’re “cheating” the system! – without cheating the system!

    Thanks for a great post Mark!


    ArchiPammy wrote on September 30th, 2011
  39. Great post! This is just the “goal” I’m working toward by going primal. Yes, the leaner, stronger, healthier body is wonderful, and I do love to see the right numbers dropping. But even better is how primal has taught me to savor life in both big moments and small. I now can get great joy out of serious play, routine tasks made fun, and just sitting still to watch the grass grow. All good!

    Marianne wrote on September 30th, 2011
  40. I like this post. It’s way too common for people to get wrapped up in goal-oriented, measurable results and forget to enjoy the journey :)

    Josh Frey-Vitamin Source wrote on September 30th, 2011

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