8 Ways You Might Be Inadvertently Sabotaging Your Fitness Routine

Last week, I went over a few ways Primal Blueprinters experiencing a weight loss plateau (or fast approaching one) might be inadvertently sabotaging their own weight loss efforts. This week, I thought I’d do a similar post on how we tend to sabotage our pursuit of fitness. What do I mean by inadvertently sabotaging your fitness routine? For a PBer, they do this a little different than the average person. You’re probably not wasting your time with endless amounts of bicep curls. You’ve probably seen the light and avoid excessive amounts of Chronic Cardio. You’ve got the basics down pat, you’ve got calluses from holding barbells, and you know the difference between Olympic lifting and powerlifting. All that said, you’re not perfect. Mistakes can be – and almost certainly are being – made. By identifying some of these common, sneaky mistakes, and hopefully identifying with a few of them, you’ll be able to make real strides toward improving your fitness.

Let’s take a look at what I’m talking about, shall we?

You’ve taken “less is more” a little too literally.

Simplicity is great, and less often is more. Sticking with the Primal essential movements – squats, pushups, pullups, planks – will get you strong and fit. No question about that. And I’ve always said that making your short workouts shorter and more intense is the key to an effective training program. However, if you end up taking that “less is more” too literally and reducing the load, the variety, the volume, the duration, and the intensity, you’re making a mistake. As Clifton Harski explains in a recent blog post, zeroing in on the basic movements can get you strong and give you good body comp, but many trainees interested in overall fitness would be well served trying out new things, new movements, new lifts, new activities. In other words, “less is more” should be applied to certain aspects of fitness, but not to all of them. Otherwise, you’ll end up doing almost nothing at all (and “something is better than nothing”).

You’re overly wedded to one school of thought.

Reading “Starting Strength,” discovering Leangains, or joining CrossFit can be a revelation. In the case of SS, it offers the sort of no-nonsense, extremely detailed form instruction for the major lifts that you’d usually have to get from a highly skilled coach in person. With Leangains, you get a way to gain strength and lose fat that seems effortless. And the camaraderie, variety, and intensity of CrossFit becomes addictive and truly effective, especially at first. But I’ve heard from people who read the book, followed the program, and now feel like anything less than low bar squats three times a week for perpetuity is a waste of a workout routine – even if it’s no longer the most effective way for them to train. I’ve heard from people (like a Worker Bee who did Leangains a couple years back) who felt like having a bite to eat before a workout was sacrilege and whose fitness suffered as a result of paralysis by overanalysis. Then you’ve got CrossFit, which can be a dangerous tool when wielded by an inexperienced coach. These are just examples of popular and effective fitness schools of thought that, if hewed to without question, might limit your options and overall development. It’s not an indictment of the programs themselves; it’s a warning against inadvertent, self-imposed limitations. So, if you’re a low-rep, high-weight guy or gal, try adding a bit more volume. Try 20-rep breathing squats. Do some easy “cardio”; haul out the old bicycle for a day or hit the trails for a hike/jog/fractal persistence hunt. Try MovNat.

You’re on the wrong program.

Maybe it’s been three years and you’re still trying to maintain linear progression. Maybe you’re on an advanced program when you’re actually a beginner. Whatever the case, you need to be on the right program if you want to get the results you should be getting. Obviously, I can’t tell you what program you need, because there are thousands of “yous” reading this. What I can say is that you should make an honest appraisal of your progress. If you’ve been keeping a training log, review it. Have you been getting stronger, or have you been stalled out for a few weeks or months? Are you getting faster, or are you running in place? See where you fall on the scale of strength standards to determine if you’re a novice, an intermediate, or an advanced lifter, then pick your program accordingly.

You’re not incorporating nature into your workouts.

You don’t need to work out in nature to get good results, but it definitely helps. Research shows that exercising outdoors is superior for improvements in mood, self-esteem, stress reduction, and mental health. Though the research doesn’t show any difference between strength gained or stamina accumulated – the most common barometers for fitness progression – we do know that reducing our stress load will improve our response to training and improving our mood will help us be more consistent with our workouts. Try taking your workouts outdoors. Ditch the treadmill for the forest path, the trail by the creek, the beach, or even the suburban street. Lug the kettlebells (or even the barbell) out to a park. After all, nature is our baseline. It’s not just extracurricular; it’s home.

You focus on one aspect of fitness to the detriment of others.

You don’t have to be a jack of all trades, but you should be able to ride a bike, swim a lap, hike for an hour, run a mile, and lift some heavy things if you want. I find extreme feats of athleticism impressive, of course, which is why I was drawn to marathons and triathlons for so long: there’s something, well, awesome about being a top performer in an elite sport. But you definitely have to sacrifice your overall athleticism to make it. You have to give something up to make it. Back when I was one of the top runners in the country, I was far, far weaker in the weight room than I am now. I was stiffer, less mobile. I couldn’t do anything but train for my specific sport. Today, I’m probably an overall better athlete (accounting for age, of course) than I was then, and I’m doing just a fraction of the work I did back then. I’m not going to win any marathons, of course, but I’m far more able in just about every other physical arena.

You’ve forgotten about mobility.

As PrimalCon presenter, CrossFit coach, doctor of Physical Therapy, and supple leopard Kelly Starrett would say, “position is power.” If you are unable to get your limbs and your joints into advantageous positions, you will be unable to generate as much power as you otherwise would, you’ll be forced to rely on inefficient movement patterns, and you will open yourself up to injury. By definition, selling your power production potential short is limiting your fitness. Being inefficient with your movements is limiting your fitness. Being injured prevents you from training and moving effectively (or at all), which absolutely limits your fitness. Get yourself some lacrosse balls, a foam roller, and maybe some bands, and get to work on your joint mobility. Sit in a Grok squat whenever you can – when you brush your teeth, wait for the bus, or even when you use the toilet. Incorporate mobility into your everyday life and your mobility under load will become that much better.

You’re not having fun.

Workouts should be hard, they should be challenging, but they should not make you dread their arrival (except maybe heavy squats), nor should they make you hate your life. Taking on a workout routine needn’t require Norwegian death metal, head butting the power rack until a mild concussion sets in, and the reception of three to five hard slaps to the face to get you psyched up. Any one of those is perfectly acceptable, but if you require all three, you’re likely not having any fun. If not having fun is your thing, cool. What I’ve found, though, is that the perpetually hard and miserable and balls-to-the-wall workout routine is a recipe for disaster and ruin. Remember what I always say: I train so I can play. If you can make your workouts look and feel like playing, even better. Play some sports, get a workout buddy, get a dog.

You’re still not sprinting!

Now, I don’t want people rushing into full-on all-out sprints if they’re not prepared. That’s a sure fire way to blow a hamstring. And if you’ve got bad knees/ankles/hips/feet, I don’t expect you to leap out of your chair and head down to the track right this instant. But if you’re able-bodied? If you regularly sprint to catch a runaway child, pet, or train without hurting yourself? If you’re lifting religiously? You need to be sprinting, too. Pound for pound and minute for minute, sprinting is the best exercise for transforming body composition, improving strength and power, and bestowing stamina and speed. It’s over quickly, it doesn’t take an hour, and it requires no equipment. If you aren’t quite so able-bodied but still want to get the benefits of sprinting, you might try cycling, swimming, stair-stepping, elliptical riding, pushing a car or weight sled, or even uphill sprinting (reduces the impact on your joints and the distance your leg travels, thus reducing knee pain and the threat of hamstring pulls; plus, it’s more intense than running on a flat surface).

These aren’t necessarily huge deal breakers, obviously. You can probably be fairly happy with your progress even if you have some deficits in the areas outlined above (plenty of people do; I see it everyday). But you can do better. I can. We all can. And by taking an honest look at your own fitness routine with these issues in mind, I think you’ll find that addressing the deficits will be in your ultimate best interest. Fitness will become more enjoyable, more effective, more sustainable, and safer.

Thanks for reading, folks! Be sure to let me know what other common mistakes people make when putting together a workout routine!

Grab a Copy of The Primal Blueprint 21-Day Total Body Transformation and Start Getting Primal Today!

About the Author

Mark Sisson is the founder of Mark’s Daily Apple, godfather to the Primal food and lifestyle movement, and the New York Times bestselling author of The Keto Reset Diet. His latest book is Keto for Life, where he discusses how he combines the keto diet with a Primal lifestyle for optimal health and longevity. Mark is the author of numerous other books as well, including The Primal Blueprint, which was credited with turbocharging the growth of the primal/paleo movement back in 2009. After spending three decades researching and educating folks on why food is the key component to achieving and maintaining optimal wellness, Mark launched Primal Kitchen, a real-food company that creates Primal/paleo, keto, and Whole30-friendly kitchen staples.

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114 thoughts on “8 Ways You Might Be Inadvertently Sabotaging Your Fitness Routine”

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  1. I’d be interested on your take on the P90X program. I’ve completed the entire program twice and now I only do the 3X/week weight routines. (I sprint 2 days per week and do some skiing, biking, walking, kayaking, etc. depending on the season). I’ve seen reasonable, steady progression in the amount of weight I can lift, number of pull-ups I can do, etc. I like the program mostly because I can do it at home. Is there enough variety/challenge in this program to keep working at it as my main “muscle” workout program going forward?

      1. Thanks, Abby. I do agree with Mark’s comments that to do an hour a day, six days a week, is unsustainable for most people (including me). That’s why I took the program apart and just do the weight training portion mostly with dumbells and pull-up bar. Usually takes me 45 minutes (3x/week). Guess I’ll see how my strength gains go over the next year or so.

  2. MovNat and I are in love. I’ll probably become a certified trainer next year.

    And I think WALKING is huge. It’s difficult to walk too much unless you are me and decide to walk 65 miles during your first 5 days in Austin, Texas.

    Walk, walk and walk folks. Do you take the bus? Great! Get off on at least one stop before the most convenient spot for you!

    Go downtown and explore. I could explore Austin forever.

    I personally don’t have any fitness “goals.” I just wanna have fun, look good naked, perform well but most importantly, FEEL AWESOME.

    I’m definitely on the right path. 🙂

    1. I agree, walking is great. You don’t get the increase in cortisol from walking that you can get from prolonged intense exercise and there is almost no stress to your joints. I am trying to walk more by going on hikes and stuff like that. It just sucks that it is getting really cold here.

      1. I am 45 and have never been in better shape since I started walking up mountains. i get so excited about my next adventure that I regularly started doing weights and the elliptical in between. It is a major motivator, and when you do an intense hike you burn a zillion calories while having a great, fully social time!

    2. Same for me, Toad. Really just want to feel good and have energy. My focus in class has dramatically improved since I went primal.

    3. I like the idea of MovNat but certification? Really? I was training Cross Fit style for years and wish now that I had slapped a brand name on it. I’ve been running through bush-lands and climbing trees for years too and now I find out someone’s slapped a brand name on that as well! Sheesh!

  3. Why do I nearly pass out when I stand up after Grok squatting? What am I doing wrong? I can get down regularly comfortably, but when I stand up, if I don’t have something to hold on to, I’m making an uncontrolled descent.

    1. might be a blood pressure thing–search MDA and forum, I’m pretty sure it’s been discussed, especially as an issue transitioning into PB

    2. Get a blood panel done. There are a lot of reasons you can grey-/black-out when standing up abruptly.

      You can also try eating more salt. If you have consistently low blood pressure, that can help a fair bit.

      I had the same symptoms through my late teens/early twenties. It got better once I hit 25, so waiting might also fix it 🙂

    3. How long have you been actually squatting? Many people that just start squatting wrecks your body, like your brain is saying “Whoa, whoa what are you doing? You sit on a 90 degree angle, stop it!” When I started squatting it hurt my knees a little, then I squatted for the same time everyday about…well what’s comfortable.

    4. sounds like postural hypotension. You might just have to ensure you are drinking lots of fluids and be prepared to ascend slowly so that your body has time to adjust to the change from squat to stand. I have very low blood pressure and i have compensated by being aware of it and trying not to ascend quickly from any low position

      1. wow! i never new that was the name of it. i have the same “problem”. makes sense to stand up slowly to give the body a chance to adapt to the new posture. especially for those folks whose blood pressure is on the low side – like mine.

      2. Definitely postural hypotension- it’s actually a normal physiological response and can be more marked in people who have normal or low normal baseline blood pressure. It’s all physics- when u squat your leg muscles contract the blood out and more central in your circulatory system. When u stand the blood rushes to your lower body, thus less blood to your brain causing the light headed feeling. When this happens don’t “fight” it or else you could pass out and injure yourself- sit or lie down. The prevent or minimize this, stay hydrated, change positions slowly and if u don’t have high blood pressure, consider being a little more generous with your sodium intake to help retain intravascular fluid. Hope that helps.

        1. If you are young, what I had probably isn’t the cause of your lightheadedness and Ryan has it right. I had what was known as Adrenal Fatigue for years. One of the symptoms was feeling like passing out when abruptly standing. It’s an imbalance of Salt, water and Potassium that causes this in people like me. So if you get your blood taken, check the sodium and potassium levels. High potassium and low sodium is bad. My Doctor has me drink salt water. It should be a good all natural salt (I use himalayan pink salt). It helps keep your blood pressure up. (From James Wilson’s book “Adrenal Fatigue in the 21st Century”)

        2. If postural hypotension becomes a problem in your life you need to be evaluated for dysautonomia.

        3. I turn to orange juice and blackstrap molasses to ensure I’m getting enough potassium.

  4. Ah I love it, lots of great points here! Moral of the story? If it isn’t working, fix it! Make sure your fitness routine is in line with your particular goals too…

  5. I finally invested in some Kinect dance games. WOW!! What a fun workout! I can do the treadmill but feel like a hamster when on it so I only use it for short sessions (and quick sprints).

    1. but still get out on Sunday mornings to walk with a friend. And very lucky I’m not chained to my desk.

  6. Mark, or anyone who would know: I want to do sprints, but at 24, I’ve developed arthritis in both knees. Is sprinting safe? My goal is to never need a knee replacement, ever. Is sprinting still an option? If Mark or anyone has a link, a suggestion, anything, it would be greatly appreciated.

    1. Have you tried finding a hill and doing the “sprints” on a bike? There’s a pretty steep hill near my house. I’ll go up and down it five or six times. Very good workout and I’d expect that may be easier on your knees.

    2. Knee arth.? Don’t rule out a knee replacement, never say ‘never. I’ve been priveledged to work in an aquatic therapy environment which puts folks back in the game of life. Re: bicycling…a recumbant bike is the gentle knee option. Arthritis Foundation supports exercise. Challenge yourself, and see how you feel.

      1. It may sound irresponsible, but the only cardio I’d like to be able to do is full court indoor basketball, think that’s out of the question?

    3. I’m 54 and sprint no problem. Biggest issue is the fats you consume. Your joints need lots of healthy fats and try adding some bone broths. Eat the bits of soft tendons around the bones when they are softened. Also try some pilates type gentle squats and balance work first before you start your sprinting. Arthritis is not natural for our species and can be eliminated by cutting the crap out and getting plenty of the right fats

      1. And don’t waste the marrow. It’s like nutrient paste. Using your hands and teeth to snap and crack bones to get at the marrow is fun.

    4. One common and often overlooked cause of arthritis is food allergens such as gluten and dairy. You may well see major improvement/reversal of your symptoms once you cut these out of your diet entirely. 24 is too young to be having these symptoms primarily due to wear and tear. I really hope that you find something to address the root cause of your pain.

      1. Sabrina is right. I had terrible problems with my joints until I cut out gluten. My knees were so bad I switched bedrooms with my daughter so I didn’t have to do stairs in the morning. I cut out all gluten and now my knees and ankles are much better. Try it for a month and see what happens.

        1. I agree w/ Sabrina, but one month might not be long enough. It’s well worth the wait, and you will stop missing it.

    5. A friend of mine had serious knee problems, after jogging for years. She went to physical therapy and worked specific muscles in the legs and around the knees for support. This helped her rebuild her strength and now she is a great hiker.

  7. “you should be able to ride a bike, swim a lap, hike for an hour, run a mile, and lift some heavy things if you want.”

    I’m poor people. We don’t swim. The end. Good on the rest of it.

    1. I’m poor and swim occasionally. I’m not especially good at it and don’t swim for a long time but I take advantage of natural bodies of water. Swimming out against waves is really good exercise.

      1. whoever has no debt is rich! by today’s standards at least, when the majority is in debt up to their ears.

  8. I just ordered some adjustable dumbbells. I know it’s not primal but I have to do something more and dumbbells, floor work and walking are probably the only things I can make myself stick to regularly.

    1. My kids bought me Bowflex adjustable weights this year. I love them. Enjoy yours!

    2. Lifting rocks, patio stones, bricks, etc. above your head is good free exercise that you can get done quickly if you do it at high intensity, and it’s certainly primal. Once I took a decorative rock from beside a building and carried it part way through town back to a shelter I lived at. It was exhausting.
      Moving wood is another way to get good exercise. Recently I was adding to a fort someone else started and went barefoot at a leisurely but adequate pace. Taking down small trees is fun. You can climb part way up and use your weight to bend and snap them. You can break them in smaller pieces by wedging them between two solid trees and pushing or pulling one end. Tearing them out of the ground is also fun. Sometimes all that stuff takes maximum effort and uses lots of stabilizing muscles.
      I tend to enjoy exercise a lot more if I’m getting it through work or recreation. That’s how Grok did it. In my experience it’s easier to shape your muscles to your preferences if you use weights and machines but you get just as much functional strength from natural exercise.

  9. Mark,

    Let me begin by saying that the earth is just over 7,000 years old. We were created – we did not evolve. Reading Gensis will illuminate you about clean and unclean animals. In the beginning, man was created to be vegetarian. Read the Book.

    At the same time, I understand your approach. What about lipids and the over consumption of meat that you indicate.

    1. Okay, I am officially speechless.

      Why are you concerned with physical exercise? “The Book” sayeth nothing about it, IIRC. By that logic, exercising must be ungodly since we were all created in “his” image and improving upon ourselves is consequently blasphemy.

      Sorry, but talk like this just pushes all the wrong buttons with me.

    2. Animals were also vegetarian before sin and the fall, but they are clearly not vegetarian today. I agree with your statement on evolution but think there was a drastic change after the fall of man, not only with us but everything in the universe.

      1. if you read the story of Noah, notice that God told him to EAT ANIMALS after the flood…if you believe in the bible, then realise as a decendant of Noah, you NEED the meat, and it is ok to eat it!

      2. So that’s why sabretooth tigers went extinct. They had a hard time peeling and chewing fruit. Now it all makes sense.

    3. For the record I firmly believe in evolution because of this thing called science. But I was also schooled in the Bible and God prefers meat to grains. Look no further than Cain and Able.

      Cain was a crop farmer and his younger brother Abel was a shepherd. When they presented their offerings to God, who did God side with? Abel because he brought the fat.

      This is the origin of the saying “the fat of the land”. Notice it is “fat”, not “produce” or “grain” of the land.

    4. Genesis is relevant to Primals, but not because it is literally true. The Fall of Humanity (I refuse to use the patriarchal and sexist term ‘Man’) is allegory for the decline in quality of life in humans since agriculture. The hunter-gatherer had to live by the law of the jungle, survival of the fittest, but the fit lived long and prosperous lives. Members of the tribe were equal and spirituality was an important part of life.

      Agriculture increased the population but cut the lifespan of the individual by at least half. Social class developed resulting in inequality and lack. Men subjected women as patriarchy was established. Religion replaced spirituality.

      The Fall of Humanity (I refuse to use the sexist and patriarchal term ‘Man’) did not corrupt the universe. The Earth, Nature, and the whole universe are still perfect. It’s only humanity that’s (messed) up.

    5. Do people actually still believe that? Surely you are taking the mic?

    6. Sorry, don’t care much for fiction, so I’ll pass on The Book.

  10. Let me say this: I love sprinting. It has been hell for me not to do it since I started with the PB some 12 weeks ago, due to first a gimpy Achilles and then a sprained ankle.

    Sure, I have substituted 123 and some WOWs, but there is nothing like the near total collapse, muscle fatigue and lung burn than sprinting can bring along with the absolute knowledge that what you just did was a real workout with real benefits.

    I look at sprinting (rather than play)as the culmination of all work out efforts.

    I am also sure that my weight loss would be more than the 15-18 lbs thus far had I been able to really sprint once a week-all other things being equal.

    In addition, the 3-5 hours of moving slowly has been difficult to accomplish.

    I guess what I am really trying to say is, Keep it simple, follow the plan and everything should work out…after all we are not in a big hurry here as this is a permanent lifestyle change.

  11. Right on about the “overly wedded” topic, Mark. I found a particular bodyweight program really helpful for getting back into shape, but keeping with it (and being a bit Type A) I started to suffer from overtraining. So I decided that since I’m fit I’d adhere more to your suggestions about keeping workouts spontaneous. Makes it so much more fun for me, and since I’m addicted to the rush of an intense workout, it’s not like I’ll wimp out without a strict program.

  12. I would like your take on injuries. Recently I was working on my farm and developed a bad case of tendonistis in my right shoulder. I still run and do situps, but any upper body strength training is painful, risk a rotator cuff tear, and delays recovery so I stopped these all together.

    1. Keith, I cannot recommend this book enough, it teaches you how to self-massage your myofascial trigger points. It has helped me immensely, after 3+ years of suffering, I no longer have shoulder/trapezius pain. All it cost me was the book and a lacrosse ball for massage.

      1. Which book? I’m recovering from an injury right now & this sounds amazing but I’m not sure which book you were referencing. Thanks!

  13. I can’t seem to both squat and sprint during the same week. My quads just don’t recover enough within a one week period. I was wondering if anyone else has this problem. If so, do you alternate between “squat weeks” and “sprint weeks”?

    At the moment I am doing a Body by Science styled workout once a week.


  14. I love weight lifting but if it gets more popular, I’m never going to get a turn on the squat rack.

  15. I play on my Cellerciser for 60 minutes daily and I have the hardest time getting off from it because I just can’t stop jogging, dancing and bouncing and jumping. When I keep my diet around 1600 calories I maintain my weight. If I go down to 1200 calories I start loosing a pound per week. I developed incredible definition on my stomach, arm and leg muscles within 3 months.

  16. Do not exclusively sprint up hills or run stairs for your sprinting work. It forces external hip rotation dominance. And this can pull your femurs out of alignment latterally so your femur heads no longer pass in the middle of the groove on the back side of your kneecaps, and your femurs can grind on the cartilage as a result. I went through it. And the motor patterns were pronounced because of playing hockey for 20+ years, which also strongly develops external hip rotation dominance with every single stride. I recovered after more than a year of stretching the muscles, ligaments and tendons which were shortened, and strengthening (through progressive movement patterns)the internal hip rotation muscles and motor patterns (through repetition).

  17. Re mobility: the Sifu of my kung fu school used to say “strength + flexibility = power” He also used to ask, ” why wouldn’t you want to be the best you can be?”

  18. So after a knee reconstruction, I still tried sprinting up a hill and it was exhausting (in a good way!), but I always felt that my knee was potentialky compromised. However, I now do stair sprints and that doesn’t seem to be as bad for my knee. I sprint up about 20 stairs, about 20-30 times either as fast as possible, skipping steps, two footed jumps, single fitted jumps. I get jelly heavy legs but I don’t feel as ‘spent’ as I did with hill sprints. But my knee doesn’t feel like its potentially going to ‘go’ like it did on flat sprints. I’m hoping this is still effective…

  19. I started doing Tabata sprints once a week as part of my resolutions during the 21 day challenge. I started with a skipping rope in the backyard because I was too self-consious to go out in public. As I hadn’t skipped in years, the first few times I spend more time tripping over the damn rope than jumping over it! Being so unfit my heart rate was still through the roof even when I had to stop jumping to untangle my feet. Now I’m a tiny bit fitter, I use the skipping rope as a warm up and then do the sprints by sprinting on the spot, getting my knees up as high as I can. Afterward I stagger around the block to recover, probably looking like I’m about to drop dead of a heart attack!

  20. Regarding “wrong program” – much as I love measuring things and numbers and spreadsheets, it doesn’t feel joyful and Primal. I don’t know whether I’m a novice or a beginner or intermediate, but I *am* getting stronger. I can tell, because when I do a reverse pullup, I can slow my descent a lot now… but I have no idea whether that means my first pullup is a year or a month away. Focus on gear and reps and numbers and training logs takes me away from the doing – so I’m going to keep playing, outside as much as I can (not today in NYC!), and wherever the opportunity presents itself.

    I could do some more sprinting. I think I’ll be doing that in the dog park, and no stopwatch will be involved.

    BTW fellow NYCers, the subway (when not crowded) provides excellent opportunities for working on those pullups, and also for stretching. If you see me hanging from a bar… say hi.

  21. There absolutely is a fine line between exercising too much and not long enough.

    Recent studies show that 30 minutes of exercise is superior to 60 minutes in terms of weight loss despite the folks in the 60 min group burning twice as many calories as those in the 30 minute group.

    Additionally, another study suggests those who performed bodyweight cardio (tabata style) for 4 minutes, 4 times per week increased their cardio fitness the same amount as those doing 30 minutes of cardio. They also increased their muscular endurance and enjoyed their workouts more.

    Interesting stuff.

  22. We’ve a long drive (for the ‘burbs) with a non-automated gate. I always sprint down to open/close and think of you lovely kids in cyberspace.
    : )

  23. I just wanted to ask for opinion on exercise and PB in relation to someone with a quite severe health condition. I have M.E. (more commonly known as CFS in America) and with this condition, in it’s more severe state, any form of exercise can cause a relapse to the point of needing to be in bed for days, while my body recovers from the exertion. I’ve been unable to work this year due to the severity of my health and am going Primal for all the health-related benefits. But have literally no idea where to start with the exercise issue?

    At the moment I can go for a gentle walk some days and am also beginning some Remedial Yoga (stretching the muscles and deep relaxation Yoga Nidra, which puts the body into a deep state of healing).

    Is this enough to have a positive effect?

    1. How long have you been eating completely primally? My impression from what you’ve written is that you are relatively new to this; a primal diet should help with CFS, but since your CFS has been so severe it may take longer to get to the state of health you are seeking.

      As for working out, listen very closely to your body – what you are currently doing is probably exactly what you need right now. If this level of exercise isn’t triggering any symptoms, then it is certainly having positive effects! Remember, for some folks just starting a primal lifestyle change, just walking to the mailbox gets them above the 55 to 75% max heart rate, so give yourself permission to start slow, especially considering your medical issue. The CFS has forced you to become hypervigilent about how your body feels, so trust that sensitivity to tell you when you can add more activity. Do what YOU feel is right for you, not what you see everyone else doing; any activity is helpful.

      1. Hi KitC,
        Thank you so much for your reply and reassurance. You are right, I’m very new to this, almost 3 weeks Primal, it is a short time I know, but I haven’t felt the need to gradually change, it’s been like flicking a switch for me and the thought of eating bread/grains/legumes etc is definitely not for me anymore.

        I’m coping with my pain levels so far without any pain medications these last 3 weeks, which is a huge milestone. Somehow I’m just managing it alot better by not pushing myself or putting loads of pressure on myself to do things, so if I’m in pain I rest, take a warm bath, make a hot bottle etc. I hope to continue to see improvements in pain and my health overall.

        It’s very reassuring to hear that my gentle walking and yoga will make a difference and help. I was just feeling quite overwhelmed reading all the exercise people do as part of a PB lifestyle. As my health improves, I can build my strength and fitness in a very different way to the norm. Pushing yourself way beyond limits doesn’t build muscle and strength with ME, it just causes a fragile body to crash and relapse, normally with excruciating levels of pain, so I’m sure what I need to do is go at my own pace and take my time.

        Whilst writing this reply my thoughts turned to the other aspects of a PB life and how I can focus on the things I can do – eat well, get my sleep pattern well again, play etc. There are lots of elements I can do, without making my “achievements” with exercise a much bigger issue than needs to be.

        Thanks again for advice/support, it’s great that we can help each other and keep on track and improve our lives as a community!

  24. Alot of people struggle to switch up their routines. Reminds me a lot of the deload week you wrote about recently. I think people fear doing because they think it will cost them all the gains they’ve made.

    I can personally say that variety has kept me moving forward and is what makes exercising fun.

    As a trainer I’ve had new clients come in and tell me they’ve done the same routine for the last three years and wonder why they don’t have the results they want.

    To me that falls under the not fun category. Mix it up a bit!

  25. It makes me smile to tune in to this latest broadcast after some sprints at the neighborhood school track, after work on a nice fall evening. Sprints aren’t that bad. It is a powerful feeling to be able to do them and recover quickly. Last night, an excellent upper body workout at the climbing gym…”lifting heavy things”…myself…and plenty of mobility work when reaching for holds. Having fun doing it, too, with friends and my climbing partners always there. We hang out afterwards on the tailgate and watch the cross fitters from next door go by. Seems like a cool program that helps many–but I think the climbers are having more fun. Usually outside in nature, as much as possible. Climbed Saturday and Sunday at Smith Rock State Park, Oregon. Gorgeous fall days! I love swimming laps and mountain biking. Slack lining, too. Landscaping work at my house near the crag (lots of rocks to lift/dig and move). Firewood chores. On my feet all day happily moving about as I am teaching. A star gazing hike up a nearby hill after work occasionally. Sometimes I think I should stick to one thing–carve out more time to focus on one sport. But what I’m doing is consistent with what Mark is saying and most importantly IT’S WORKING FOR ME. I feel great at 50 and am close to my ideal body composition (reducing chips and beer would get me there–diet is nowhere near perfection). But with the fitness routines, I think I have reached an ideal balance for me. I used to be in a mode where I was setting more rigid goals and guidelines for my fitness routines, but Mark’s posts of late have convinced me to chill a bit and just enjoy it. I’m happier for it.

    1. I was still eating mass amounts of chips as an occasional indulgence until recently but cutting them out was beneficial. I always felt bad physically and mentally after munching a whole bag of salty vinegary carbs. I’d be stuffed and lethargic and they didn’t digest very well. I don’t think things that don’t digest well are worth eating, except some high quality fiber. The fat on chips is probably very oxidized. A handfull or so doesn’t seem to hurt but it’s not really worth it.. chips are probably no more nourishing than bread.

      1. yeah crappy fats for sure. I put a reasonable serving in a bowl so i don’t eat too many in a sitting but they are high carb and i know i’d be seeing more six-pack definition in the abs if i were going through fewer six packs of beer and ditched the chips altogether.

  26. I totally agree with Animanarchy, I cut my own firewood and the pulling, chopping and lifting involved is great exercise, a huge sense of achievement and a warm house, and somehow whether it takes 30 or 60 minutes is irrelevant.

  27. Just recognize me as: old, creaky, stiff, and fat. {sigh} Had pretty bad arthritis in my hips, but cutting out the grains and “industrial lubricants” (“veg” oils) has made that mostly go away. I do my sprinting in the “aerobics” part of my (twice-a-week, hour-long) water aerobics class. The little old ladies (of which: “I are one!”) are doing what they think of as aerobics… and I think of as social time and ‘slow walking’– my instructor teases me that I’m a jet engine when I do my “punch and jog” (in place rather then crossing the pool, because of my hips) as a tabata sprint….

    I also do my “Body by Science” lifting Thursdays before the second class: I still need the weekend to recover! Interestingly, I’ve found the tababta style sprinting is less .. exhausting… than my previous 1-full-minute, a-couple-times sprinting. And I find the water aerobics after weightlifting means I’m not so stiff the day after the weightlifting.

    Because of my arthritis (and still baby-level fitness/flexibility) I am extremely focused on using correct lifting postures; and I avoid going back and forth across the pool facing forward. (I can cross it sideways — jumping jacks and the like — without bothering my hips.) (But they are WAY better than before I began the lifting and, as my late husband called them: the bounce-n’-splash classes.)

  28. Just to clarify, Starting Strength doesn’t promote doing squats 3 x’s per week “for perpetuity.” Rippitoe is very clear on this. You do this until the linear progression stops, which happens during the first 3-9 months, depending on the individual, then you’re an intermediate and you move to programming with longer periods of recovery.

    Also, beginner, intermediate, advanced are not about how much you can lift. They’re usually correlated, but that’s not the criteria.

  29. This is the best advice I’ve read on exercise in a while, especially for those who occasionally hit a plateau. Nicely done, Mark.

  30. I prefer to work out at home to DVD’s. Not very primal sounding, I know, but ya gotta go with what works. I have a High Intensity Interval Training workout and a tabata-style workout that I do each once a week. Both are only about 30 minutes long. Two days of the week I do “advanced” resistance/weight training vids, and these are about 45-60 minutes long. I say “advanced” with quotes because I doubt they compare to using actual gym equipment or lifting heavy stuff like portions of tree trunks. Most of the time, I’m using 8,10, or 12 lb dumbbells and relying on high reps to carve it out. One day a week, I do a boot camp style workout that combines cardio with resistance. The results have been good though I suspect my functional strength isn’t what it could be. Still can’t do half a pull-up!

  31. I have a problem working out because I am hyper-flexible. I keep hurting myself and my joints fill up with fluid and that reduces my ability to do almost anything. I was told when I was 16 that if I wasn’t strong, I’d be prone to injury, but after 2 kids and a desk job for 14 yrs, my fitness isn’t optimal. Anyone else have this problem, and if so, how did you overcome it to be able to do the excercises like in CrossFit?

  32. I want to start sprinting again. Every time I’ve gotten back into it lately I’ve ended up with some sort of foot injury from something else. Cuts, blisters, internal pain and inflammation.. I don’t want to pound my feet and exacerbate the conditions. I had a dream last night that I was sprinting on the field at my elementary school but was slow with jelly knees and terrible form. It was a veritable nightmare. I was depressed thinking I might never be able to sprint properly again, even briefly after waking until I remembered some decent sprints from a month or two ago. I often have weird or extra vivid dreams when I sleep outside.

    1. maybe just start with a few 20-second sprints, then work up to more? that’s what I did. i also sprint in a pool but that’s not always realistic for everyone…swimming/pool access

      1. I decided to sprint anyway. I have some cuts and chafing around my toes but yesterday and the day before I did sprints and hill sprints. I notice a difference in how I feel already. Definitely less sloth-like. 20 second sprints seem like a long time to me. On flat land I sprint as long as I can maintain good form and speed and then walk back and repeat several times.

        1. Actually I think 20 second sprints are ideal. I do eight of these with a short rest after each run. I use a timer/heart rate monitor which I find very effective. The distance covered is approx.150 meters. I wear vibram five fingers and sprint on grass. Total amount of time for the workout is about 25 min including warmup. Having done this once per week for the last year and a half the change in my speed, power, explosiveness and ability has been profound. Sprinting has got to be one of the best exercises you can do! All the best.

  33. I just want to say a some things;
    I am 46 years old. Squash player at good level, 6 times a week and work out 2 times a week, over weight….200 lbs and never loose a gram!! I ate thousands of carbs…because I thought the energy came from that…I started to follow your advice, I am feel better, easier and not hungry 24/7 that’s is good…I love meat and green..no problem I hope I will loose some pounds I need to improve my squash!! THANK YOU VERY MUCH!!if my busy office allows me I am reading your articles and trying to learn from it.
    From Canada, thankS!!!!!

  34. A really great read – I think you have summed this up really well. Especially the ‘less is more’ aspect. We often say at the end of our workout – let’s get outta here but today we pushed it that little further – so thanks!

  35. What a great and informative article. My husband and I have just recently started adding fitness supplements to our work outs. We feel so much better than we did without them. We try do do our cross fit training once a week, then regular targeted workouts each day. It’s the best couple of hours of the day! Thanks for sharing this article.