Dear Mark: Another Reason to Stay Fit


I really liked your post “This is why I Train.”  I’m still overweight and eat too many carbs, but I’m making progress.  I now work out a few times per week and have eaten more vegetables in the last two years than the previous thirty years combined.  Your blog has given me the best nutrition and fitness advice I’ve found anywhere on the internet, and it’s backed up with science, which is more than I can say for some of your competition.  Without voices like yours, the rest of us would be lost in a wilderness of misinformation.  Now, onto the important part of the email.

This week I’ve seen the other benefit to training.  It’s volunteering.  In North Dakota we’ve been dealing with flood conditions in several areas and so far we have a lot of property damage but no deaths.  It’s amazing to see how many people have turned out to fill, stack, and haul sandbags

While shoveling, I noticed how many of us were overweight and in poor shape.  I starting thinking about the possibilities.  How efficient could our emergency efforts be if we followed a lifestyle plan closer to the Primal Blueprint?  How many more sandbags could be filled?  Could more basements have been saved?  I’ll never criticize any of these people for showing up.  Still, I can’t help thinking how Grok would outwork every one of us.  He’s given us a fine example to follow.  And you never know when a PB lifestyle will be a true lifesaver.

By the way, I live on high ground.  My house is in no danger, but many people in this area have been displaced and watched their memories float down river.  It’s an ugly sight.



Thanks for the email, Mike. I’m sorry to hear about the poor weather conditions, but it sounds like you’re handling the situation the right way. It’s a scary-enough sight on television; I can only imagine its power and gravity up close and in person. Good luck with the progress.

I also gotta commend you for giving an even better reason for training than getting to frolick with the dolphins now and then: utility, preparedness, and safety. Nowadays, people eating well and working out do so for a whole host of reasons, including personal health, aesthetic concerns, weight loss, disease prevention, and athletic performance. Grok’ s motives were decidedly different. If Grok wasn’t in shape he just might not be able to obtain food, fight off predators and invaders, and survive the daily grind. Grok also had his community to think of.

Daily life for a community of Primal hunter-gatherers was all about the type of volunteering you mention. A hunting party, tasked with stalking the prey, coordinating the kill, and finally hauling the meat back to camp, had to be comprised of equally skilled and athletic Groks. Agility and accuracy were premium: one false move – a clumsy snap of a twig, a poorly thrown spear – could alert the animal and make it all for naught. Once the kill was made, strength and conditioning suddenly mattered: just a single weak Grok could have meant less meat carried back to hungry mouths. There were undoubtedly individuals of exceptional fitness and health, but by and large the entire group was consistently able to function effectively.

Contrast that with today, where the world is strictly divided. We “health nuts” are the weird ones; those people wheezing and huffing through the relief effort are the norm. Eating well and regular exercise are aberrations, personal choices a select few make. The very fact that “eating” requires the modifier “well” suggests that most eating is anything but well. Grok wouldn’t have considered what he ate healthy or unhealthy; to him, it was just eating.

There’s another division, too, one that became artificially pronounced with the advent of agriculture. Before the crops and the walls sprang up, we lived in relative symbiosis with nature. While our intelligence and increasing population may have prompted overhunting, for the most part we were like any other animal, getting our food and water from the wilds, familiarizing ourselves with a wide range of flora and fauna. Venturing out into the forest wasn’t a weekend excursion or a vacation; it was an everyday part of life. With agriculture, the dichotomy of man versus nature arose. We no longer used nature. We dominated it.

That urge to dominate comes from fear, I’d argue. And we still fear nature, by and large. Camping is “exciting.” Bugs are icky. Dirt is, well, dirty. Though these can easily be avoided (pristine luxury cabins, bug spray, and massive amounts of Purell), some of the more catastrophic aspects of nature still manage to worm their way into our lives without our blessing. Flooding, hurricanes, earthquakes, fires, snowstorm – these aren’t new occurrences (though some might suggest their frequency is increasing), but we seem unprepared every time one of them hits. Oh, sure, that communal mindset is still present, that urge to pitch in and help your neighbors (as Mike witnessed in North Dakota) no more evident than in times of natural calamity, but the physical tools simply aren’t there.

Civilization, if nothing else, has an undeniable softening effect on its members. In a way, it’s like being perpetually mothered – we don’t have to physically obtain our food, we’re protected from the elements, and life isn’t a daily struggle to survive. These are all positives, but they can foster weakness. Without the need to hunt, why work on agility, strength, and speed? With a roof over your head and central heating, why develop a resistance to cold? It’s only natural, I suppose. Grok would have gotten fat and lazy, too, if he had steady, instant access to food, shelter, and a warm bed.

Luckily for us, he didn’t. Instead, millions of years of evolutionary stress crafted a body that literally wants to be lean, strong, and healthy, with a brain powerful enough to understand the minute complexities of proper nutrition and fitness. In a way, we have it better than Grok ever did. We’ve got all the creature comforts of civilization (soap, shelter, technology, science) with the fantastic genetics of prehistoric man. We can utilize automatic survival mechanisms for personal gain (intermittent fasting) and we understand how our bodies move, allowing us to perform perfect functional lifts that optimize muscle development.

But we still need to act to realize our potential. Though we may not technically “need” to be in shape to survive, getting healthy would have enormous benefits – both personal and community-wide. Increasing your lean muscle mass looks good, for one, but it also forces your organs to keep up with your muscles and work even more efficiently. If your organs run better, you live longer, get to see your family more, and you visit the doctor less. Fewer doctor visits means lower health care costs for everyone. And, in the event of a flood, a town of fit, strong volunteers will be able to move more sandbags and save more homes. Those are just a few of the benefits that come with getting physically stronger – imagine the massive benefits of a worldwide shift toward Primal living.

If anything, I think we owe it to Grok to live up to the full potential of our genetics. He did all the dirty work. He slogged through countless Ice Ages, ate lots of weird animals and sampled poisonous plants, left Africa and subjected himself to a diversified range of dietary and environmental pressures just so we can survive and prosper today (or more precisely, so that his own, our own genes would survive and prosper). He’s given us all the tools we need to get and stay healthy and live long, full lives. I say we take him up on his offer.

Further Reading:

Top 10 Reasons to Stay Healthy

Get the Body You’ve Always Wanted

It’s Time to “Get Real”

TAGS:  dear mark

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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