Category: Lift Heavy Things
June is National Get Outdoors Month. Here at MDA, we’re spending the next couple weeks teeing you up to have your best summer yet in the great outdoors with posts to inspire you to get into nature.
Today we’re talking about how to train for backpacking. Let’s start with the most obvious question: what IS backpacking? Backpacking is simply multi-day hiking where you carry all your gear on your back.
Say you’re going out for a day hike carrying water, food, and basic survival gear, but you return to your car the same day you set out. That’s not backpacking.
If you’re trekking across the country, but someone else is sherpaing your gear from one sleeping spot to the next, that’s not backpacking either.
In a nutshell, backpacking is essentially a long hike with more gear and more details to think about because you’ll be spending at least one night—but possibly many more—camping out. I think of backpacking as a kind of endurance sport. As with any endurance sport, you want to train for your event. You probably wouldn’t enter a half-marathon this coming weekend with minimal or no training. You could, but it would hurt a lot less, and your chance of success would be significantly greater, if you took the time to train. Same goes for backpacking.
The good news is, if you already have a solid fitness base, you are well on your way. Now you just need to tailor your training to get ready for your backpacking expedition.
Posture seems to be on everyone’s mind right now thanks to the uptick in work-from-home jobs, coupled with the fact that practically everyone has a mobile device to stare at. Cue my usual laments about the sedentary nature of the modern lifestyle. Not only do we sit too much and move too little, many folks alternate between hunching forward over a keyboard and looking down at a phone or tablet all day, every day.
The result? Widespread poor posture and growing concerns about what this means for public health. Forward head posture (aka “tech neck”), rounded shoulders, and slouched, rounded spines all contribute to:
Soreness and pain throughout the body
Muscular weaknesses and imbalances that lead to dysfunctional movement patterns
Headaches and migraines
For today’s edition of Dear Mark, I’m answering questions about a rather mysterious supplement called turkesterone. I’ve been getting questions about it lately, specifically regarding its promise for muscle building.
Turkesterone has exploded in popularity, but there isn’t much solid information to go on. Compared to supplements with reams of human research, like whey isolate or creatine or magnesium, you’re flying pretty much blind with turkesterone. I’ve had to sift through animal studies, murky Russian research, and anecdotes to bring you my best take on the compound.
It’s not the final word, but I stand by it for now.
So you want to gain some weight, some mass. You want more muscle. You want to bulk up. And you want to do it in a healthy way within the context of the Primal Blueprint, but aren’t sure where to start. Most popular bulking advice consists of eating everything in sight—dirty bulking with fast food, TV dinners, PB&J, peanut butter on the spoon, whatever you have on hand. That’s not the way, folks.
As I’ve made pretty clear, our ultimate goal is to achieve positive gene expression, functional strength, optimum health, and extended longevity. In other words: To make the most out of the particular gene set you inherited.
These are my end goals, and I’ve modeled the Primal Blueprint Laws with them in mind. But that doesn’t mean packing on extra muscle can’t happen with additional input. After I retired from a life of chronic cardio and started living Primally, I added 15 pounds of muscle, while keeping low body fat levels without really trying, so it’s absolutely possible for a hardgainer to gain some. The question is how much and at what expense?
The craziest thing happened to me once on a hike. It was a decent one—about 8 miles roundtrip, with plenty of elevation gain. I went up just fine, even picking up random logs and rocks to carry along the way to add to the experience (and intensity). But on the descent, about a mile in, my left quad started cramping. I changed how I walked, I took rests, I walked more slowly, I tried placing more emphasis on my hips and glutes, but nothing worked. The cramp was overwhelming and getting worse by the minute.
So I took my shoes off. When I say shoes, I mean my Vibram Fivefingers. If you don’t know, these are ultra-minimalist footwear with individual slots for each toe. They allow your toes to spread and your feet to feel the ground and everything on it. They’re about as “barefoot” as you can get without actually being barefoot. And yet, when I took my shoes off and put bare foot to ground, the cramp subsided. Within a minute, it was gone, never to return. I flew down the mountain, feeling faster, fresher, and lighter than ever. The fact that I was already in Vibram Fivefingers, which approximate the biomechanics of the barefoot experience about as well as anything out there, suggests that there was something else going on. It suggests there is something very special about being barefoot.
I have long advocated going barefoot as much as possible. I’ve written post after post on the topic. The simple fact is that the stiff shoes with pronounced heels and thick soles that don’t let you feel anything underneath you we wear today are evolutionary aberrations. They are totally novel inputs that our bodies haven’t adapted to. Barefoot is how we’re born and, for tens of thousands, how we spent our days. You aren’t weird for going barefoot. Everyone else is weird—on an evolutionary timescale—for wearing thick shoes.
For my money, it’s also the best way to train. Barefoot workouts provide a host of benefits:
There’s a West LA gym called Sirens and Titans run by a very special coach named Jacques LeVore. This coach isn’t the only reason to attend the gym—its entire staff is incredible and impressive—but he is the main reason I decided to invest. He devised a form of strength training for endurance athletes called Maximum Sustained Power Training, or MSP Training. I included it in my Primal Endurance book from several years back as a great way for dedicated endurance athletes to not just incorporate strength training without impeding their endurance performance but to actively improve it.
MSP training is an effective way to train for anyone who wants to get stronger and generate more power for longer. If you want to play with your kids and keep up with them, bouncing on the trampoline and playing hide and seek and tag and tossing them up in the air, MSP can help you sustain your intensity. If you want to play pickup basketball or rec league sports, MSP will keep you going til the end. And yes, if you want to dominate the local 10k or run a marathon or complete a triathlon, you have to strength train, and maximum sustained power training is a great way to do it.