For today’s edition of Dear Mark, I’m answering several questions from readers about my own personal routines and interests as well as a Primal take on beginning fitness. First, what’s my sleep hygiene routine? Do I even have one, and how has it changed over the years? Second, how do I make sure I’m staying on track in life? What’s the “one marker to rule them all”? Third, are there any good supplements or interventions for DOMS—delayed onset muscle soreness—due to training? Fourth, what are two places I’d love to live, and live Primally? Fifth, how should a totally inexperienced person who’s just lost a bunch of weight through eating alone get started with exercise? And sixth, how do I handle myself in eating situations where I have no direct control over the quality of ingredients (oils, etc) used?
Question for you – what does your nighttime sleep hygiene “routine” look like? I am experimenting with the best ways to wind down and prepare my body and mind to fall asleep, and am curious to learn more about your regimen or any tips you have.
Be sure to check out the upcoming post on sleep I’ve got in the works. It will help answer your questions.
But I’ll talk a bit about my personal routine. My ultimate goal is to wind down from the work day—clearing my head of current and future concerns and stressors so that I can focus on the here and now, spend time with family, and turn off for the night. That’s not to say I’m not thinking about work or business at all. I’m just not doing so actively. In fact, it’s when I’ve cleared my head of the day-to-day stuff that new ideas hit me. I’ll jot ’em down if they seem to have legs and move on.
Up until a few years ago, my “wind down” routine involved a couple glasses of wine with dinner. It did the trick, sure, but there were side effects. I started waking up around 3-4 AM every morning. And my gut health really took a hit, with my old IBS symptoms returning. Those weren’t acceptable to me.
I limit the wine at night more carefully now. I’ve also switched to dry farmed natural wine from Dry Farm Wines—lower alcohol content, zero added preservatives, minimal sugar, more ancient fermentation methods—and I don’t have the same negative effects. But even then, I don’t use wine to relax before bed.
I’ll turn electronics off; the blue light they emit kills melatonin and makes your circadian rhythm think it’s daytime. If I’m on top of my game, I’ll light a bunch of candles around the house and forego artificial lights altogether. If I have to attend to some business or write an email or anything, I’ll wear blue light-blocking goggles and make sure f.lux is activated on the computer and the phone is on night mode, both of which reduce blue light.
I’ll spend quality time with my wife, be present in the moment, talk quietly about our day, laugh about something or other. I won’t be scouring social media trying to find something out in the world to feel angry or powerless over.
My routine is mostly about avoiding or eliminating the supranormal stimuli that occupy our brains, suppress our natural melatonin, and make getting to sleep at a reasonable time impossible. It’s very basic and very effective.
If you could only choose one way of measuring/tracking your performance (in life generally, across the board) for the rest of your life, what would you select eg how you feel when you wake up, or your ability to play ultimate frisbee intensely for 60 minutes, or how your posture looks in the mirror etc?
I’d ask myself “Do I feel excited about my day, my week, my month, and my year?” If the answer is “yes” to all, I’m in a good place and everything else is working to support that.
I would be interested to learn about the best ways to combat muscle soreness following tough workouts. Sometimes I feel like my progress is slowed because I’m too sore to workout again. Any special recommendations?
The main thing is to just weather the storm. Soreness is unavoidable, especially if you’re really pushing yourself.
I’d love to hear about your ultimate primal food destinations. Where you’d love to go for certain wild delicacies, bluff oysters in NZ etc… & your top three areas in the world to live primally.
Fun idea. I’ll do two fantasy scenarios. Maybe more later when I can think of them.
Hawaii, Big Island or Kauai (can’t pick): Swimming/paddling every day, spearfishing, keeping centipede-fed chickens and goats and grass-fed cows for eggs and milk and meat, grinding my own coconut butter, hiking through jungles and valleys, across lava beds. In the mornings, Carrie does yoga and I do pullups and KB swings. There’s nothing quite like the tropics. I think maybe a long lost ancestor of mine washed ashore in some South Pacific island, ingratiated himself among the locals, then married and sired several children, one of whom caught a merchant ship back to northern Europe.
Mediterranean (Greece, Turkey, southern Italy): We walk down the slope through gnarled olive tree grove to our small boat, sail out onto cobalt sea, drink unpronounceable local wine, nibble hard sheep cheese, and grill the pair of fish (and unexpected octopus!) I just caught on charcoal grill. Afterwards go for a swim, diving down to wrecks of Bronze Age warships; coming up to lay on the deck just in time for midday UVB-rich sun.
What are suggested ways for overweight and/or “out-of-shape” people to start an exercise regimen (after they have dialed in their diet)?
Start walking every day. Half hour minimum, hour ideal. Take your walks in as interesting a location as you can find. Nature trails are better than treadmills. Dense city streets are better than empty suburban sidewalks. Do that for three weeks.
Lift something heavy twice a week. Your own bodyweight may suffice. Weights are great, too. The Primal Blueprint Fitness program is very simple and very effective, especially if you’ve never done any exercise before. Start there.
I would like to know how you handle eating in social situations, restaurants, personal residences, weddings, etc.
Do you ask a lot of questions (like what kind of oil was used) or totally avoid anything suspect as politely as you can, or just not worry about it?
I vet all my friends for cooking oil preference, so there’s no danger there. Anyone who uses an oil containing over 20% omega-6 PUFA get the boot from the Sisson circle.
If I’m at a restaurant, I don’t make much of a fuss. If it’s a breakfast joint, I’ll request that they cook everything (scrambles, omelets, etc) in butter because every breakfast joint has butter on hand. I’ll ask what kind of oil’s “in the dressing” because that info is readily available.
If it’s Indian, I’ll request that they cook with “real ghee” or “desi ghee” (as opposed to “ghee” made from vegetable oil). I did have a Thai place I loved where they kept a jar of coconut oil around for our orders. It may seem like an awkward request, but most places just want to please their customers.
I have no qualms about traveling with and busting out my own Primal Kitchen® products, though.
That’s it for today, folks. Thanks for reading and have a great rest of the week. I’d love to hear any of your responses to these questions, too.
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.