I’m mostly joking with the title. Though, considering how much I’ve written on this topic since starting this blog way back in 2006, it’s probably not too far off. And it’s not just me. Endurance training has been getting the snot beaten out of it in recent years. A variety of media outlets, TED talks, other blogs, observational research and clinical trials have all sounded the alarm about the dangers of excessive chronic cardio.
A new string of studies has found evidence of higher arterial plaque levels in the most active endurance athletes. This is becoming a trend. While endurance athletes tend to have more of the calcified kind of plaque, which is more stable and theoretically less prone to dangerous ruptures than less-calcified plaque, it remains worrying. I’ve spoken in the past about the proclivity toward heart problems found in endurance athletes. I know many former peers with atherosclerosis, cardiac arrhythmias, and other heart troubles.
Last week I took up the subject of health through the varying stages of life. What does health mean to us? How should we develop it or live it within the scheme of the different stages we go through as logistical events and developmental maturity shift the focus and parameters of our lives? How do our major milestones challenge our approach to well-being? Let’s pick up that topic again and finish off the discussion. I hope you’ll share your own thoughts on how differing stages of life influenced your thinking about health and what approaches fit the times best for you.
Last month, the NY Times Well Blog dropped a piece discussing the results of a recent study of how endurance runners alter their stride as they age. Investigators observed a group of 110 experienced runners aged 23 to 59 making their way around a track. Runners under 40 tended to display greater lower leg activity as they ran, whereas runners over 40 showed impaired lower leg activity. The latter relied more on their hip musculature (the absolute activity of which was still lower than that of younger runners) and showed an impaired “push off”; they had weaker strides and didn’t rise up as high off the ground. Overall, the older runners used their ankles and calves less without increasing hip musculature activity to cover the difference. They just got slower.
Print this out. Bookmark it. Send it to friends who don’t quite get the Primal thing. Consider this a valuable resource for all-things Primal. It’s a nice, alphabetical encapsulation of what it means to lead a Primal lifestyle. It’s not everything, of course. You can always dig deeper into the details, but this summary gives a high-level look at just about everything.
Without further ado, I present The A-to-Z Guide to Leading a Primal Lifestyle.
Avoid chronic cardio. I spent about half my life running (and later, with triathlons, swimming and cycling) myself into the ground. I thought the more miles I could log, the healthier I’d be. That’s the mindset many people have, and it’s absolutely wrong. Running a ten-miler is different than running a ten-miler every day. We have the capacity to go long distances and even outlast wild animals upon which we’re preying. We don’t have the capacity to do that every single day without consequences to our health. Run long distances if you love it, compete if you love competing, but know the cost it incurs.
It happens to the best of us. You start sneaking a few more bites of bread when out to dinner and trying your buddy’s delicious-looking pizza. Your workouts trickle to once a week, sometimes none. You walk less, couch more. And then one day, you realize you’ve gone off the wagon. You’ve gained belly fat. You’re getting winded going up the stairs. Your once-pleasurable hikes have become grueling affairs that you dread and end up avoiding. Your fridge is full of takeout boxes and you realize you haven’t cooked in two weeks. You need to restart your Primal lifestyle, and fast.
How do you do it?
Turns out there are more than a few ways that you probably haven’t considered. Let’s explore them:
While it’s important to think positive and focus on all the things you should be doing to achieve your goals, it’s equally important that we focus on those things that interfere with our goals and remind ourselves to avoid doing them. Some call it the “not to do list,” which I like. Many of the behaviors on not-to-do lists are deal breakers, so it’s arguably more crucial that we identify and curtail those that apply to our lives. But that’s hard; these are behaviors we might already be doing. Heck, they might be bad habits we’ve developed, or biases we’ve internalized. And so before adopting good behaviors, we should clear out the bad ones. Otherwise, we’re just pissing in the wind.
What are some things you shouldn’t be doing if your ultimate goal is to build muscle?