Dear Mark: Exercise Rapid Fire, Hunting, Pull-ups, Type 1 Diabetes

Dear_Mark_Inline_PhotoFor today’s edition of Dear Mark, I’m answering four questions from readers. The first question is actually 5 questions, so it’s closer to 8 questions overall. Good deal. First, I answer 5 questions about exercise, jumping jacks, aerobic base building, and weighted hiking. Next, what’s my take on hunting? After that, I discuss a few different ways to approach pull-ups. And finally, what is my quick and dirty advice for those with type 1 diabetes trying to go Primal?

Let’s go:

Chad asked:

Very interesting read, lot to chew over with this one. As far as what I would like to see in future posts or books: what alternative exercises could you do for aerobic base-building efforts per Primal Endurance guidelines?

Is running in place better than jumping jacks? Does the elliptical have a place? How often is too often for hiking with a weight vest? And how much lower can you go under your 180-age before you need to worry about *not* getting an adequate training effect.

These could all be dedicated posts, as you mention. But I’ll do some quick rapid fire responses.

  1. Literally any activity that keeps you under or at a heart rate of 180 minus age is building your aerobic base. The question is finding one that you enjoy doing, but not so much that you get carried away and turn it into an intense session. The real fun lies in doing nothing but “easy” movement and watching your aerobic threshold rise.
  2. Jumping jacks are better than running in place. They’re enough to augment bone mass in both kids and adults. Jumping jacks really get short changed.
  3. The elliptical has a place. I like it for high intensity intervals, rather than long, slow aerobic work. If your joints can’t handle the hard impacts of running or sprinting, ellipticals are a decent option.
  4. Depends on the amount of weight in the vest, the grade of the climb, your experience hiking with weight. In my experience, the hardest part about rucking/hiking with weight has always been the downhill portion. That’s where the leg cramping sets in, especially if you’ve been going for miles or days. If you’re going with a nice 20-35 pounds, I’d say you could go as often as you would without a vest. That’s like carrying a toddler around—which many unfit people already do—only the weight is more evenly distributed and thus easier to bear.
  5. It’s a long tail. There’s probably some area under the curve that would suggest time X heart rate equals workload. The point would be that you still get some amount of significant training from a four-hour hike at a heart rate significantly below your MAF. However, the training would not serve you necessarily as much if you were training for, say, an elite level marathon.

Brad Kearns has a great analogy he uses to talk about the effectiveness of low-low intensity movement. Imagine a cruise ship with 12 engines. Going 25 knots in the open sea, all 12 engines are going full blast. To putter around the harbor, it might only use 2 of those engines at half-speed—but those 2 engines are still being used, still being “trained.”

Patrick wondered:

At age 30 I just took my hunter safety course and am excited to begin my own hunting practice. I think a deep primal exploration of our hunting roots would help bridge the gap for many who haven’t considered our ancestral connection to hunting and the outdoors. Basically, it’s a meaty topic that I’d deerly like to hear Mark and the gang’s opinion on.

Check out this older post. I’ll try to get something more fresh up in the coming weeks or months.

Kerri requested:

I would love to see an article about alternate ways to do pull/ups

You’ve got pull-ups—palms facing forward. A little more lat-centric.

You’ve got chin-ups—palms facing behind you. A little more bicep-centric.

You’ve got neutral grip pull-ups—palms facing each other. Easier on the shoulders, good for people with poor shoulder flexibility.

You’ve got fingertip pull-ups—a training staple of climbers.

One of my favorite ways to do pull-ups (any kind) is with ladders. Start with 2 pull-ups. Wait 30 seconds. Do 3. Wait 30 seconds. Do 4. Wait 30 seconds. Start the ladder over again. Make sure each rep feels crisp; you don’t want to grind out the steps of the ladder. I’ve seen people who can maybe do 5-6 pull-ups in a row do three rounds of this ladder without much problem. This allows you to accumulate great volume, really grease the groove of the movement, get stronger, increase max reps, and reduce the risk of overtraining or straining. If 2-3-4 ladders are too easy, you can step it up to 3-4-5. Too hard? 1-2-3.

Suzanne said:

I would love more HIIT/primal tips for type 1 diabetics. Thanks Mark

Everything Primal applies, just more so.

Ditch gluten. And I mean all of it. Gluten-free diets have been shown to reduce T1D-related antibodies and lower gut inflammation in those with type 1 diabetes. If you’re young enough, you might even be able to halt and reverse the degeneration of your pancreatic beta cells and get off insulin altogether with a gluten-free diet, if this case report is anything to go on.

Vitamin D, strength training, micronutrient intake, and all the other pro-bone stuff become more critical, as people with type 1 diabetes already have an increased risk of low bone density.

Sleep is everything; impaired insulin sensitivity is a common T1D response to deranged circadian rhythms and inadequate sleep.

As for HIIT, less is more. Interval training has the tendency to raise blood sugar in people with type 1 diabetes. In one study, moderate cycling lowered blood glucose, while adding a quick 10-second all out sprint increased it. They even proposed using these 10-second sprints as alternative modifiers of blood glucose. Interesting stuff.

The bulk of your training should be strength training, lots of walking, and a ton of easy movement. Keep the intense sprints/HIIT for special occasions.

Oh, and consider going keto, or at least just low-carb. This should be a no-brainer, and many doctors are embracing it for their patients with type 1 diabetes, but you may have to push the issue with your doctor. Be sure to keep him or her in the loop.

That’s it for today, folks. Thanks for asking, thanks for reading, and thanks for chiming in below with your own input for today’s round of questions.

Take care.


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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28 thoughts on “Dear Mark: Exercise Rapid Fire, Hunting, Pull-ups, Type 1 Diabetes”

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  1. One of my favourite quotes: “The elliptical machine is too easy. However, it’s great for mental zombies who enjoy pretending to exercise.” LOL

    How about jumping rope? You can burn over 1000 cal/hour, it’s inexpensive (you can get a rope for under $10 almost anywhere), you don’t need a gym….just some floor space, and contrary to popular perception, it’s very low impact, so is easy on the knees. If you use heavy ropes (not weighted handles which are not recommended), it’s a killer strength/endurance workout too. Try spinning a 2 or 3 lb rope for a few minutes…you’ll see what I mean. 😉

    1. Jumping rope is low impact?! We’ll have to agree to disagree on that. But perhaps I’m not light enough on my feet and / or post knee operation not a good candidate. I’m sure a well trained and conditioned person does less pounding on their knees than someone like me.

      An elliptical machine (not a big fan, but in fairness) set to the correct tension and elevation can give you a killer HIIT session and is easy on the knees. I don’t think it should be your go to option, but to mix things up during inclement weather when you can’t get to a grassy field (or hill) it has a place.

      1. Compared to running, it is very low impact. You don’t jump very high (1-2″ max), jump with flexed knees and ankles and are always on your toes, unlike running when heel-strikes are what cause the impact. So yes…it’s low impact!

        1. I agree, jumping rope, boxer style, is pretty low impact. It’s more like light bouncing on the calves. The knees are barely involved. When I do stair sprints on Depot Hill in Capitola, if I do every step it’s mostly calves in a tightly light bouncing movement. Super easy on the knees. But when I do every other step it engages the quads and glutes big time. More like a serious lunge. Tough on the knees.

    2. OK, thanks AT, I’ll give jump roping another go and try to stay on my toes … and see how it goes … 🙂

  2. Wow, jumping jacks take me back to elementary school gym class…but I might have to pick them up again. I enjoyed the hunting puns, have deep respect for hunters, and I’m always happy to eat venison. In fact, the area where I live is completely overrun by deer since there are no longer natural predators around, so hunting is necessary. I just don’t think that I could actually do it. As far as the pull ups, ladders sound great and all, but what about those of us who cannot do a pull up to save our lives? I can hold a plank indefinitely and do a ton of regular push ups, so it drives me crazy that I can’t do a pull up. Where do I start?

    1. Hey Elizabeth, I’m thinking grab a small step ladder / chair / stool and step up to the bar and start by just hanging from the bar, keeping a very slight flex in your arms (you can work up to multiple “hanging” sets of so many seconds). From there you can work up to (again, climbing up the stool) grabbing the bar and lowering yourself down. If you buy one of those bars that you can hook onto a door frame and take off and on, they are pretty inexpensive and have the side bars Mark mentioned that are less stress on the shoulders and wrists. Also, if you have access to a gym you can simulate pullups or chinups on a lat bar, starting with a light weight and building up the weight over time. Shoulder presses with dumbbells might also help you with pullups to a certain extent, the difference being shoulder presses are a “push” dynamic versus pullups which are a “pull” dynamic.

      1. Oh wow, thanks for the tips HealthyHombre…I’m sure I could hang there…I always did great on the dead arm hang in those fitness tests in High School lol. And that’s exactly the kind of bar I have…the kind that hooks on to a door frame.

    2. Elizabeth, these two exercises helped me go from zero pull-ups to doing my first one. Once you get your first one, the sky is the limit.
      1) If you have acess to a pull-up bar, do slow negatives (stand on chair to get chin over the bar, then slowly lower yourself to the ground without use of chair).
      2) If you don’t have pull-up bar, then do inverted bodyweight rows. You can use a kitchen table – lie on your back underneath the table with your hands gripping the edge of the table and pull yourself up. The blogger at Nerdfitness has a post and video demonstrating these.

      1. David, thanks for the tips! I do have access to a pull up bar, so I’m going to try the slow negatives. Will be so excited when I can finally do one!

        1. slow negatives…..prepare to get sore…possibly very sore. Sore does not mean strong, it means inflammation. So just be judicious about it.

          1. Thanks for the warning Hap! I rarely get sore…a few years ago worked up to squatting 160 with a bar (which is a lot for a 5’1″ 100 pound girl) and never got sore. So this will be an interesting test. But I’m loaded up on collagen peptides and turmeric so hopefully I’ll be ok lol

          2. 160 lbs squats, if slilghtly past thighs parallel to ground…for a 100 lb woman would be a decent lift. If just half squats then not so much. Squats have “negatives” but it depends on technique, so soreness is not a big deal for squatting. You are extremely petite.

            YOu should not be worrying so much about pull ups or chin ups IMHO. Would benefit fr om exercises that recruit as much muscle mass as you can muster. Deadlifts, squats, overhead presses. Concentrate on recovery and getting enough protein.

            Good luck with whatever you do.

  3. I just found my old pull-up bar yesterday. It was tucked away in the guest closet. Time to dust it off and hang it back up. At least now it will guilt trip me into a few reps every now and again.

  4. I, too, have been wanting to get out there and hunt for our food. I’ve never hunted before, used to be strictly against hunting and guns. But once I went Primal, it’s one part of the plan that’s under appreciated, is I realized where my food was coming from. Now I really want to make an attempt to learn to hunt and harvest my own wild game. I would love wild boar, as it would also be a win-win for the environment to reduce an invasive species.

    1. Anthropologists are continually finding that hunter-gatherers place a far greater value on hunting than just the equivalent of “going to the shops”.

      Approached with the right attitude, it connects you with nature as a participant rather than as a spectator. We are involved, not merely watching from the sidelines. Our presence and choices matter.

      All the major behavioural scientists who have studied hunting, have concluded that this sense of connection is a primary motivator.

      Good hunting !?

      1. I concur. I remember when i used to fish. I didn’t have to catch anything to feel satisfied. it was the whole experience and connection and the meditative quality of it that was the real draw. Ask anyone who’s ever fished a stock pond. The fish are trained to eat like aquarium fish. As soon as the lure or bait hits the water you get a fish on the line. It’s a real bummer because it’s all rewards without the work, the solitude, or the mindfulness. It’s unearned and feels cheap.

        1. Try hunting spring turkey for a full on experience of nature and hunting. It’s spring and the woods and fields are thriving. You’re out in the woods well before dawn so you get the enjoyment of feeling and hearing nature wake up and start it’s day, not to mention the primal rush of moving through the woods in the dark. Then, there’s the interaction, once you’ve hit that hen call and had a Tom, or a few Toms, thunder back a big gobbling response, you won’t need to pull the trigger or loose an arrow to feel fulfilled. An when you can keep the “conversation” up and work in a bird, or a few, to within a few yards of you, WOW. Get out there.

          1. From talking with hunters I’ve realized that everyone has their preferred game animal, but turkey hunters descriptions of why they love it make it sound almost like a religious experience. You’re no different. Thanks for the great depiction of the joys of being out there with such cool animals. I’ll have to give the turkeys a try.

          2. “one does not hunt to kill, one kills to have hunted,” 1942 by Spanish philosopher José Ortega y Gasse

            Colleen, I’m with you about the idiots. I mostly hunt with a longbow or primitive flatbow, my gun hunting revolves around hunting with a flintlock rifle or smoothbore correct for the time period between 1765 and 1790, and the gear that goes with it. This also cuts down on who you have to deal with.

            I should have mentioned that while I feel turkey hunting gives the novice hunter the most immersion in nature, under more pleasurable conditions than freezing while deer hunting, it is also statistically the most dangerous kind of hunting regarding risk from other hunters. Lets face it, your wearing camo (deer and small game in most places require hunter orange) and making noises that sound like your quarry.
            There is a lot to be said for a .22 rimfire rifle, a nice walk in the fall woods, and squirrel pot pie at the end of the day.

            Also, regarding dumb people in the woods, and hunter orange, if you choose not to hunt, please respect those that do, give them some space, and, if it’s the time of year wherein there is a bunch of people in the woods wearing hunter orange,,,, maybe you should wear some too.

    2. I was a hunter, but have not been up for years. The large percentage of total jerks out hunting was a big issue for me. Too many dolts with guns, beer, and no respect for nature can make it dangerous and unpleasant. I would recommend maybe looking in your area for a “high hunt” It is hunting in areas that you have to hike into. It really cuts down on the morons. Bow hunting will do that as well. I think everyone should hunt at least once in their lives to participate and understand life and death and the reality of and respect for “meat”. It can be both beautiful and heartbreaking, and hardcore primal in a way that most people will never understand.

      1. Colleen M., you say it well. I think there’s something to be said for a Primal approach to hunting that puts us in right alignment with the cycle we’re participating in. It’s respect for nature, respect for the animal, and respect for evolutionary tradition.

    3. Hunting larger game is an absolute thrill, not to mention all of the benefits of wild game and responsibility. It’s funny to think that when I see a deer in the wild while I’m hunting, I bet my heart rate shoots right past the 180-age limit! I’m half surprised the deer can’t hear my heartbeat, because it usually sounds really loud to me. A few years back, we started processing our own deer. It was something I always wanted to do, so we educated our selves on our to do it. Now it’s one of those things that my wife and I do together. My kids are little, but know full well where their food comes from and have an appreciation for it, even if they never end up hunting. Overall, hunting has been a blessing for my family, beyond just the meat.

  5. Good section on Type 1 Diabetes. For those type 1’s out there who might read this, I’ve been a type 1 diabetic for more than 20 years. Late 1997 I read Dr. Bernstein’s Diabetes Solution and immediately started on my low-carb, primal diet. This is not new to me.
    This way of eating, along with tight blood sugar control, has allowed me to avoid any and all complications of type 1 diabetes. Never an emergency hospital visit, and no “alternative” medications for issues arising from diabetes.
    If you choose to go this route, realize you will have to drastically, compared to the SAD diet, reduce your insulin doses.

    Paleo/primal is fantastic for a type 1. I can personally attest to it.

    As far as work outs go, I used to primarily lift weights, but found myself lifting too often and getting worn out. I am 53 years old, so maybe it’s the age. Mostly likely not.

    Now I follow the high intensity workout of Dr. Doug McGuff and am better off for it. Yes, you have to make adjustments in your insulin to account for the inevitable rise in blood sugar brought on by the high intensity lifting, but the recovery affords you more time for other things. For instance, less time spent in the gym means more time for work, rest, carefully choosing what you eat and maintaining normal blood sugars. I no longer have that worn out feeling that comes from the blood sugar swings of diabetes.
    I also have less lows from what I now consider excessive lifting. And I’ve been able to gain 10 pounds following this workout. Something I found next to impossible when I was more “active.” (Running in the morning, lifting weights 3 to 4 days a week, playing tennis.)
    Not fat. At 5.2% body fat, I’m lean and toned.
    Anyway, the main thing for us Type 1’s is to maintain stable blood sugars in a tight range as close to 83 mg/dl as possible. The closer to the goal of an A1c of say, 4.5 you can get, the better. this is achievable as proven in a group of Type 1 Gritters who follow Dr. Bernstein’s plan. (Type 1 Grit on Facebook.)
    So, the main lesson to be taken from all this type 1 stuff is: keeping your blood sugars in a “normal’ range around the clock is the most important thing you can do for your health and physical fitness. The next thing is working out. Put them both together and you have a formula for being in better shape, both physically and mentally than 95% of the population at large. Maybe more. Good fortune.

  6. You want to build your aerobic base?…..find a place where they have a prowler and start pushing.

  7. “The bulk of your training should be strength training, lots of walking, and a ton of easy movement. Keep the intense sprints/HIIT for special occasions.”

    So would this also apply to people who are barely into pre-diabetes range? Asking for a friend.