Have You Achieved Your Physical Potential?

Your Best“If we did all the things we are capable of, we would astound ourselves.”

– Thomas Edison

Remember when you were a kid flying down the street as fast as your dirt bike would propel you? How about on the swing set, pumping your legs madly, targeting angle and timing for maximum lift until you felt like you would fly over the overhead bar? What about that sheer thrill of legs going so fast they almost felt like they were coming loose as you chased your friends (or were chased) down a trail? As kids we were an unrelenting ball of will, every moment looking to test boundaries, defy limits, overturn physics. We were in love with speed and heights and adventure, yes, but I think we were amazed by all of our own capabilities – the new (and ever enhanced) capacities we were always discovering. Decades beyond those wild days of youth, we’re still each in possession of an amazing human body. We each still hold untold genetic potential – potential that, as the Edison quote suggests, would astound us. The question is, what do we do with this potential? Do we chase it down with the same fervor of our 10-year-old selves? Do we put it on the mental back burner in the name of adult responsibilities? Have we simply forgotten about it – or given up on it entirely?

We go to the gym perhaps. Maybe we bike to work or get our 10,000 steps in each day. We get out for a hike every couple weeks during the milder seasons. Some of us perhaps struggle to meet any, let alone all, of these tasks. Either way, the question of potential – genuine, raw, lofty potential lingers. Do we ever wonder what we’d be capable of if we tried? Maybe from time to time we think of what we might “look like” if we went all out in the healthy living routine and really pushed our workouts. I have nothing against vanity, but that’s not what I’m talking about. I’m talking about physical achievement – seriously challenging ourselves. Maybe once upon a grade in high school or college, we were at the top of whatever game, but who wants to live feeling like their potential is old news, a memory in a yearbook? Living our physical capacity shouldn’t be just a blip in our biographies.

It seems like we’ve delegated physical pursuit in our culture. We’re much more inclined to watch athletes instead of become them. We’ll spend hours watching sporting events on a screen or in the stands but come up with every excuse in the book to not bother starting even a pickup game of our own. We revel in analyzing the minutiae of total strangers’ performances but never venture our own attempts. Content with experiencing that level of physical exertion and development vicariously through a satellite feed, we become more sedentary and detached from our own physical selves. We forgo and often forget what it means to move, to push our bodies, to come up against our own limits, let alone extend them through discipline and ambition.

It seems like a waste – to never know what it means to fully thrive in our bodies. What would it feel like to be strong, to be swift, to be graceful, to be in the “zone.” How would you feel differently about your life, yourself?

I love the idea of coming to the end of my abilities. There’s something immensely thrilling and therapeutic to it. Of course I’m always back for more, to push the envelope further, but I love not knowing if I can do something and attempting it anyway. Will we be happy, settled, satisfied if we make our way through life without testing ourselves, without taking life for the ultimate ride? Time, of course, is no excuse. As we get older, we too often feel like our lives contract. There’s a certain wisdom to that – realizing you don’t need to learn 8 foreign languages or be a professional soccer player to be the person you can and want to be. Nonetheless, how much do we miss by letting our physical potential languish – to never push the outer edges of it, to never inhabit our bodies fully enough to see their potential realized?

I’m not recommending people give up all their free time to suddenly pursue extreme training. Nor am I suggesting getting on the chronic cardio track. If you’re wired and inclined that way, I get it. Do it and enjoy. If you’re not wired that way or so inclined, by all means, don’t! That said, discover an endeavor that would inspire you to push yourself, to achieve something you’d enjoy and be proud of. That doesn’t mean what will get you the most recognition or what you think others commonly do. Think for a minute what ultimate vitality would mean for you. What would it look like in your life? How would reaching and experiencing your potential figure into that?

Honestly, I think that’s half the fun of it – deciding what physical goal or adventure you want to go after based on your interests and personality. Maybe it’s climbing a mountain or getting a black belt in a martial art. Maybe it’s competitive dancing or reaching the level of personal investment and physical ability in yoga. Perhaps it’s doing a Tough Mudder run or competing in something like a community sports league or CrossFit regionals. On the other hand, maybe it’s cycling across the U.S. or running that marathon. Maybe for right now it’s signing up for your first 5K. It all starts somewhere. Wherever your personal passion and your physical goals intersect, maybe that’s where you should head.

Because this life goes fast. In the midst of all the daily chaos and commutes, the work and errands, we remember to mow the lawn but too often forget to fulfill the deeper, less obvious possibilities of our human lives. We forget to explore and stretch the boundaries of our experience – like we did as children. We deserve to enjoy our bodies and revel in their full capacities – to discover the capacities and nuances of their performance. We deserve to live our lives astounded by ourselves.

Thanks for reading, everyone. Let me know your thoughts on inhabiting your body and living your physical potential. Have a great end to the week.

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.

If you'd like to add an avatar to all of your comments click here!

111 thoughts on “Have You Achieved Your Physical Potential?”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

  1. For years, I pushed my abilities in competitive martial arts. The years of competition are over and now I strive to improve on different things in my martial arts journey and my physical fitness in general (really want to get better at pullups!). The joy of everything you do is that you can always change it up to make it a challenge.

    For example, the very first form we learn as a white belt, Basic 1…I’ve known and practiced this form for over 14 years, but there so many variations that put a spin on it and challenges your mind and your body; doing it with your eyes closed, doing it backwards, doing it with only 1 arm, adding in as many strikes as possible without altering the form, doing it slow and fluid, doing it like each move is gonig to break a brick….now multiply that out over the 16 forms we learn under black belt….the possibilities are endless!

      1. A great goal. I have been training the last 3 months toward a goal of doing 30 pullups and I feel like I have gained much more upper body strength so much faster than the years I used weight machines. Results!

  2. After going primal, I realized what areas of my life deserve priority. Those priorities included what I had missed out on for so many years. I signed up for softball and ultimate frisbee and began visiting the rock climbing gym. I also enjoy pushing myself with the occasional P90X or Insanity workout. For many years, my body wouldn’t allow me to do these things because my diet/lifestyle was slowing me down. It has been fun to challenge myself and I hope to continue this lifestyle for the rest of my life.

    1. I love your comment, James. Inspiring. I’m trying to do the same.

    2. The few times I tried, I’d not been able to get anywhere on a rock climbing wall, because I lacked the upper body strength. After being mostly primal for a year, and a few months after I really began to work on improving my pull-ups (still can’t do 1, but getting there), I was a chaperone for my daughter’s Space Camp (through her school). I made it most of the way up the wall before I ran out of things to hang onto. I was immensely proud of myself, even if one of the younger teachers, who does rock walls regularly, did much better than I.

    3. I was doing Insanity, and then strained my calf twice. So I’m re-visiting Primal workouts (I want to achieve 10 pullups), and recently discovered in the NYTimes an 8 and a half minute workout that really kicks butt. I modified it ala Primal and took out the crunches for plank. As others have posted here, I can replace some of the movements with ones from Insanity. I am discovering at my age it’s a marathon, not a sprint.

      1. ‘Tis not a marathon, it’s a nice, long (hopefully very long) hike, puncuated by sprints, when the spirit moves us.

      2. That should be “punctuated” not “puncuated.” *sigh*

        I wanted to add that sometimes that nice, long hike is over some pretty arduous terrain, and other times it runs through some gentle wood lands and meadows…

  3. I am a member of a boxing club, and one day (before I get too old) I’d love to test myself in a proper fight (and hopefully win!).

    1. It’s a rush….an anxiety stricken, adrenaline pumping, and bruise inducing rush. The best thing I can tell you is to not think once you get in the ring, just get in there and do it. I found when I started thinking, I’d overanalyze every move I could make and just end up paralyzed with indecision.

      Best of luck when you step in the ring!

  4. I really believe this ties into spirituality. If you don’t push yourself physically and know what you are capable of, it can be very limiting to you in the long run. I also remember a quote by Ram Dass (paraphrased): “I spent all my time in the spiritual realm to the detriment of my body”. He had a debilitating stroke. If we don’t have a strong body and mind, it is much harder to be spiritual.

    1. The ‘Eastern’ forms of taichi and yoga both recognise the importance of mind, body and soul.

  5. I’d really like to try something like Parkour. And rock climbing. And slacklining. Dance was my ‘extreme sport’ in youth, now I’m very freestyle about physical endeavors – can I kick the ball past my ‘goalkeeper’ dog? (Hardly ever!) Can I box-jump up the monument steps in our park? (Yes, I was surprised to learn.) It would feel good to have something I’d push for, the way I pushed for pirouettes back in the day.

    1. Sara, I think you’re onto something there.

      Whenever a question about whether you can do something or not pops into your head, try it!

    2. Sara if your in Brooklyn the “Brooklyn beast” just opened up has parkour beginner classes!!

    3. Sara;

      I’ve been doing Parkour at a gym here in Portland since January and love it! Once the weather finally improves here in the next month (hopefull) I plan on hitting the streets.

      Don’t think about it–just do it. More and more girls and women are doing Parkour all the time. It’s a very supportive community and will get you in touch with your bodies potential better than any other exercise.

    4. That’s a great way to think about it, Sara! I took up rock climbing back in October (bouldering, specifically) and I love it. I’m not as intense as many of my friends, because I don’t take it too seriously, but it feels so good to send a difficult route, or just to be able to do a pullup (a goal of mine for a while). Many rock gyms (at least where I live) also have slacklines – the sports kind of go together! I just bought one and it is h-a-r-d, but way fun. I want to be able to go into Dancer’s Pose & other yoga poses while on it.

      We’ll see how long it takes to get to that point, though 😉

    5. I’m with you on the Parkour! I’m not sure how far I can get but I’m working that way now!


  6. I really enjoyed this article. I know for me since adopting this lifestyle choice. I am finding pleasure in trying new physical things (not just standard run for so many min/miles a week, with standard weight training). I have fun running around the yard with my boys, jumping on a trampoline, biking. I find workouts to increase my physical capacity in many activities now.

    I still have structured stuff but I throw in things like sprints, or hikes or lifting heavy things. I also want to get where I can at least do some Parkour with my boys. That freedom of movement is so amazing to watch.

  7. But what if you are just no good at anything? You try, and try, and you just stack on a below average level and not improving? Like you are not that string, even if you train diligently and by the book, not that fast even if you try to run, and can’t touch your toes after years of doing yoga nearly daily? What if you just keep sucking year after year?

    1. You are absolutely good at something….it’s not about being the “fastest” or the most limber. Just do some movement each day that makes you happy and over time you will see improvement…mentally and physically. I have been doing high level pilates at least once a week for six months and I’m still not where I want to be but I try to focus on how far I’ve come and how good I feel at the end of class. Hang in there and keep putting that primal foot forward!

    2. I think the point is if you’re pushing your self to those limits, even if those limits aren’t very impressive to someone else, you’ve still accomplished this. You’ve done yoga nearly daily for years? That’s PHENOMENAL! You ran as fast as you could for x-time or distance? WONDERFUL! Keep trying! Try something new!

    3. You do it anyway. 🙂 I understand what you’re saying because I’m not a gifted athlete either. I’ve spent years training to do pull ups and I’m still not there.

      You’re already ahead of where you could have been because you have practiced Yoga. Instead of worrying about touching your toes, marvel instead at all you can do right now. Visit a nursing home, if you have to, to see what it’s like when those abilities disappear.

      The thing is that Mark is probably “wired” to like physical sports and is good at them because he’s totally in the moment. You can replicate the flow too, even if the results are wanting. 🙂 Find things that you enjoy – sprint the the kids or the dogs (borrow if necessary). Park the car at the nether regions of the lot on a hot day and marvel at your ancestors who lived everyday in deserts. Be the desert nomad for 5 minutes from your car to the mall.

      Most 10 year olds don’t really care what the actual results are. In that moment they were best athlete on the planet. Movement doesn’t have to have a goal, other than gratitude and fun. The joy really is in the journey. 🙂

      1. Amy — I think your response is perfect. I was always, always, always the worst kid at any kind of physical activity and, not surprisingly, developed a really poor sense of self around that kind of stuff. With each passing year I was more afraid of physical challenges and certainly less likely to get anywhere near “exercise.” Hated it.

        But…then I went Primal. I slooooowly learned that I actually like using my body! Now in late middle age I am more active, more interested in moving around, and trying new stuff than I ever was my whole life. I have no fantasy that I will turn into a “super buff” anything, and I could care less about time, reps, distance, pounds lifted, blah, blah, blah. But I just enjoy to the fullest what I am doing at the moment, and don’t compare myself to anyone else. Instead of “Oh I can’t do that!” my new motto is “Let’s see what happens!” I truly do love the experience of learning what MY body is capable of after so many years — and the happy surprises that has brought.

        1. I too was one of the sport-challenged as a child. I was painfully thin (due probably to my then-undiagnosed Celiac disease) & very easily injured so that I was actually afraid of all sports & even schoolyard games.

          I thought of myself as a hopeless klutz & a weakling, but I did love to jump rope & hula hoop. And I’ve rediscovered hooping, specifically hoop dance, in my adulthood– I highly recommend it!
          Never have I found such sheer joy & fun in a physical activity– it’s endlessly interesting, you can proceed at your own chosen pace, & I’m amazed at my newfound agility, balance & quicker reaction time. I urge everyone to get a good-quality adult-sized hoop & give it a try! (If you’ve never seen hoop dance, look it up on YouTube. There are some amazing dancers out there!)

    4. Never give up! My trainer says it will take me a minimum of five years to be stronger and it is what it is. Do I enjoy doing it? Yes. Then even if I suck, I won’t quit. In my case, 40 years of inactivity need to be overcome. A couple weeks ago, I was discouraged, thought I sucked, wanted to quit. My trainer said, “Think back a year and a half ago. Have you come a long way? Yes, and it’s been an amazing journey. Since that time, I’ve looked around at others in class and discovered we are all different, with different areas of strength and weakness. I’ve been trying for a year and a half to jump on a giant four foot tall tire and only last week landed both feet on the top edge! I try everything, even if it’s embarrassing to face plant a lot. I still can’t do a proper pushup or pull up but I’m not giving up. It gets better little by little. I was never athletic, never played sports. I just turned 60.

      1. Twice you mentioned your inability to do a proper or deadhang pullup. You may enjoy taking a look at the exercise e-book Mark has made available on his site. Is consists of five body-weight exercises, each featuring nine steps from easiest to hardest. Bet you can knock out more than one pullup after following his advice!

        1. Thanks for the tip, as I’m working on the same. I do want to say, though, that if she’s a girl of the female persuasion, upper body conditioning can be problematic. It took me a long time to do a pushup, and it’s the first to go if I stop exercising. (My squat makes DH jealous, though. )

    5. If you do something that long and are not seeing a benefit, change it up – a different kind of yoga, different sport, different training.

    6. I struggle with this sometimes because my core is still weak after doing yoga for awhile. I struggle with any arm balance posture because I don’t have the core (or arm) strength for it. But when I started yoga I could only do one regular push up. Eventually I got to the point where I could do 13! I try to focus on how far I’ve come instead of how far I want to go, although it is still frustrating when I can’t do crow. I don’t even attempt headstand at this point. I’m hopeful that one day I’ll get there though.

    7. You will certainly find that you are good at something…so enjoy having fun finding that (or those) things. I, for example, am NOT a gifted athlete. I do enjoy sports, both competitive and non, but as it turns out I’m quite good at things like Tai Chi and Qi Gong. I would love to be good at yoga, but I’m just not…yet. Try anything and everything. Several times. And perhaps, as a worst case scenario, you will find that you may not be great at anything, but you are decent or good at many things. Then you become that friend, who is always up for anything, any adventure, any game. And THAT is awesome!

  8. This is LITERALLY my goal. I lift heavy 3 days a week and my goal is to lift heavier weight than I did the last time. I have gone through the first number of months with a standard Starting Strength lifting routine but have since alternated lifts with a Reverse Pyramid style lift to get over plateaus. The result is that I’m lifting more weight than I ever though possible for myself but only spending 3 hours a week on it.

    And when you break through that plateau and/or hit a new PR it’s like a runner’s high that lasts for 48 hours.

    1. Nice work, Zack. How do you do your reverse pyramid lifts? Do you have an example for a day?


  9. I have just started on this primal lifestyle. As of now, my current goals are to be able to do 100 push ups and 250 squats without stopping. 2 weeks into it and I can’t wait to continue to see the progress! Thanks for this great article!

  10. This post reflects just how my life is now a days. I am currently doing yoga and training for my first marathon. And life is great when you push your limits a little bit every week.

    Suddenly you are further and faster and much more flexible than you thought possible.

    That’s why I say never give up and never surrender!

    Awesome post. Thanks!

  11. I have a wonderful and inspiring trainer. Did my first figure competition at 58 and doing my first Tough Mudder at 60. It’s fun to find out what I can actually do if I work hard.

  12. Love this post, and excellent timing too…I’ve been in love with kayaking for years and have been wanting to do a solo trip to somewhere secluded (which is a lot of places up here in Alaska!). This post reminded me of that goal, because I think it would challenge me physically and mentally….I just need to take a few classes to learn how to self-rescue and navigate and plan my trip. Going to go book said classes today!

  13. “Honestly, I think that’s half the fun of it – deciding what physical goal or adventure you want to go after based on your interests and personality. Maybe it’s climbing a mountain or getting a black belt in a martial art. Maybe it’s competitive dancing or reaching the level of personal investment and physical ability in yoga. Perhaps it’s doing a Tough Mudder run or competing in something like a community sports league or CrossFit regionals. On the other hand, maybe it’s cycling across the U.S. or running that marathon. Maybe for right now it’s signing up for your first 5K. It all starts somewhere. Wherever your personal passion and your physical goals intersect, maybe that’s where you should head.”

    I’m torn about this paragraph. I’ve noticed that people tend to be much more consistent with exercise if they training for something specific. And Mark has a disclaimer at the end about finding your passion which I agree completely. 🙂

    That said, my family is not even remotely athletic or into sports and I know people who are similar. If I said – “Hey, you should train to run your first 5K, because that’s “easy”, they’d look at me like I’d beamed down from Mars. Even my one family who is into sports would much rather sign up for a rec league. Most of the suggestions, unfortunately, speak to those for whom climbing a mountain is fun challenge, rather than a silly way to spend a hot afternoon when you could have just driven up the darn thing.

    To me, movement doesn’t really need a goal other to improve your life right now and keep the nursing home ladies away as long as possible. I do have goals inside my limited training time because that keeps me interested. However, I think our collective health would improve dramatically if we could convince everyone it was worth the time to do a few squats and take a walk daily. It’s what I’ve encouraged both my father and mother to do at various points, with varying success. My father especially, has lost weight and improved overall simply by going golfing as often as finances and physical issues allow. And he’d never, ever run a 5k or hike a mountain.

    Again – Mark has mentioned to take your passions where they lead you. Just sort of musing outloud here that something less than mountain climbing and even goal setting can work too. 🙂

    1. I agree that one doesn’t necessarily have to have an event goal, like running a marathon. I look at movement as my time to play, just like when I was a kid. My long term goals are to gain strength and stay as flexible and mobile as late into life as I can. There is a very functional aspect to all this for me.

    2. That’s exactly right. Your dad, for example, could “push” himself to be a better golfer, and feel achievement in that by improving his score by a stroke or two. The fact that he’s getting his “moving a lot at a really slow pace” in is the happy side effect, but it’s the achievement and levelling up that will keep him doing it.

      And you’re right about the 5k, for some people, that’s not easy. I think just simply the mentality of running a race (like, against other people??) is very intimidating if you’ve never done it before, let alone the actually running for non-runners. It’s all about finding what works for you. Rec league? That’s great! Do it for the love of the sport, and see how it affects your body. I love playing volleyball and softball, and I also know that to do well I need to be strong and in shape, so I do squats and push ups and a little cardio, and I eat primal to be sure I can excell at those sports. Sometimes a little progress in one area that you’re passionate about will lead to a new-found love of something else.

      1. “Your dad, for example, could “push” himself to be a better golfer, and feel achievement in that by improving his score by a stroke or two. The fact that he’s getting his “moving a lot at a really slow pace” in is the happy side effect, but it’s the achievement and levelling up that will keep him doing it.”

        Unfortunately, if he was that goal oriented, he’d quit. He’s a mediocre golfer at best with inconsistent form. He does keep score, but he never really makes much improvement. I don’t think he’s ever had lessons because he concerned that all that focus on form would squash his enjoyment of the game. He’s there because he genuinely enjoys the experience of golf and can occasionally make those beautiful shots you see on TV.

        Anyway, I was trying to get at was that for certain people (like my Dad) goal setting actually discourages them from exercise. For them, the joy is and has to be in the journey. Like Bugs Bunny, it doesn’t actually matter if they make it to Albuquerque, as long as they had fun along the way. 🙂

        1. LOL – I realized last night Bugs Bunny always made it to Albuquerque but not quite to his destination.

        2. LOL – You’re right! Bugs always says that he should have made that left turn at Albuquerque. You’d think he’d figure it out eventually… And why is every place he tries to go should be right of Albuquerque.

          Oh, and you’re right about how goal setting. Sometimes it can take the enjoyment out of something. Sometimes the joy is merely in the journey.

  14. Great article, Mark, thank you. This article articulates why so many, including me, are in love with CrossFit.

  15. You probably weren’t expecting to hear from a golfer on this subject….but I decided at the age of 65 to see if I could turn back the tide of time and improve my swingspeed by overspeed training – basically swinging an implement 20% lighter than your normal driver ( also known in baseball I believe ) in a very intense programme. To my surprise and pleasure after 4 months I’ve increased my swingspeed by 15% – with I suspect a little more to come. I’m hitting the ball further than I ever have in my life ! Just shows we should never give in to Old Father Time….

    1. Most people smirk when someone says golf is their exercise, but take them through nine holes carrying their clubs and they’ll be singing a different tune! Whenever I play, I pack light…only the essential clubs because I plan on walking the course.

      Fun….relaxing….exercise, all in one!

    2. Try telling people you play competitive ping pong and that it kicks your ass! Smirk/sniff/huh!?

      I started late – with no prior ball sport experience, and now after four years of practice and training I’m a middle-aged table tennis beast! There are many sports and activities that can stretch you to your limit – and beyond. Congratulations on the improvement!

    3. I’m embarrassed to admit it, because I made fun of golf for years. I was all about twenty mile training runs for the marathon, and golf just seemed so whimpy in comparison. But, actually, golf is deceptively awesome. I still think it looks stupid, but actually getting out there and trying to hit that devilish little ball rocks. Flexibility, range of motion, concentration, precison, calmness of mind, I think it has a lot of advantages over yoga. You get absolutely honest real feedback….no stupid teacher saying “open your heart center to the universe.” If your swing mechanics are right, the ball goes where you want it to go. If not, oh hell!

      1. I grew up with a father that golfed (post above). We were always at the small courses and met many “redneck”/manly types that golfed. If you go looking many professional athletes will also play amateur golf, so it’s not exactly a “non” sport. 18 holes will tire you out, mentally if nothing else. Remember this game was invented by the Scots, who also like to make competitions of throwing trees.:)

        And yeah, yoga is worth the time, but not for the “who-hooy” spiritual part. You could fake a yoga workout, but golf always lets you know if you’re mind is not on the game.

        1. If you haven’t seen Robin Williams’s old skit about the Scots inventing golf you need to go watch it. Hilarious! Warning: lots of profanity!

      2. Golf – a lovely walk, periodically interupted by hitting a little white ball with a funny shaped stick. Or at least that how I refered to it the one and only time I played on a real golf course (as apposed to mini-golf). I was the comedy relief, as only I could bounce the ball into the metal pipe running through the VA golf course and have the ball wind up lost in the trees about 15 feet behind, and slightly to the right of me. (Hey, that was the only time I hit the ball with some decent power…) There were 4 of us, and the 1 serious golfer in our group was not amused. He found golfing with me, and the rest of the group, to be an exercise in frustration. His wife, my husband, and I thought it was quite funny.

  16. Sadly, no.
    And at 60, will never be.
    I love eating Primal, my body feels the best on Primal, but can’t seem to lose the weight I want to lose.
    Lost 36 lbs. on Dr. Gundry’s Diet Evolution and then transitioned over to Primal and now I’ve gained 10 lbs.
    Need to lose another 36 lbs.
    What’s an old lady to do?

    1. Hmmm. You can email me privately if you want.
      Or maybe others have some suggestions?

    2. Have you read Mark’s posts about why weight loss isn’t happening? I think it’s titled something like “10 reasons you’re not losing weight”…I’ve found these to be extremely helpful. Everyone is different so it’s hard to pin down what you might need to change. I’ve yet to drop any weight from being Primal (90-100% for the last 2 months) after I lost about 35 pounds on Medifast. But the combination of the great Primal food I get to eat along with my energy levels, how well I sleep, and how healthy I feel is enough to keep me doing this regardless of weight loss. I’ve also stopped focusing on the scale so much and just focusing on my health–how I feel and what I can do fitness wise. My hopes are that doing that will help the weight take care of itself.

      I hope you find what helps you! Best of luck, and it’s never too late 😉

    3. Intermittent fasting helped me to overcome the weight loss plateau. Choose the protocol that fits you.

  17. I’ve just bought a slackline. I’m expecting to fail miserably the first time I try it, but I shall persevere. I’m looking forward to the feeling I’ll experience the first time I’m able to stand on it (nevermind walk on it!) without crashing to the ground.

    1. My friend has one! And while it is SO difficult, it is so so so much fun. It really does make you feel like a kid again, the way it tests your abilities – I think it is beautifully in line with the point of this article 🙂

    2. I bought a slackline last summer (I turn 52 this year) and my teenage son and I have had a ball with it. So did the rest of the family when we took it on our vacation last year. We also attract a lot of kids at the playground. I’m still working on just being able to stand (we help each other walk across) but it’s fun. My brother and his fiancee want to do wedding pictures on it this fall. I tend to be too serious about my workouts, but the slackline is pure play. Added benefit–training balance means that you’ll be less likely to fall down and break something when you’re older.

    3. Slacklining is a blast. A few tips I’ve used to help beginners-keep the line between your big and first toe. Look ahead to the end of the line. Balance is muscle memory, inner ear and vision…looking ahead helps with vision. You see where your body is in relationship to the moving line and you make fine adjustments. The line WILL move so the trick is these adjustments. Find a default position on your stronger leg-try to stand on that foot and move the other foot and your arms to stay in balance. In other words it’s easier to balance on one foot with the other one moving freely. And once you can stand on the line on one foot, you can take a couple steps then revert to the default position. Sometimes a slight bend to the knee helps. Picture that you are pivoting on an axis that runs front to back through your body at your belly button. Then just practice until you have it! I spent an afternoon trying to walk a rope holding a dock to shore…ended up with raw feet and the ability to walk the line. Now I have a proper line in my yard. 1 inch webbing. So fun after a day of climbing or on rest days!

  18. Reminds me of something Laird Hamilton says in his book, and I’m paraphrasing: Don’t be afraid to suck at something, because it means you’re getting better and learning new things. In my experiences as both a musician and an athlete, I’ve learned to embrace those periods where I feel suddenly that I’m not as good anymore, because it means I’m about to increase my skill and/or performance another level…kind of the pupal stage of increased excellence!

  19. In the past two and a half years my life has undergone dramatic transformation. Using eating patterns similar to Paleo, I lost 86 pounds down to 110 and began fitness classes at the local Krav Maga Center. A year ago, I started doing the self defense classes. In that first fitness class, I wasn’t strong enough to hold a push-up position, could not squat, could not raise my arms above my head, and I face planted often on the circuit. But it was an amazing journey and it was amazing to move. I’ve learned movements I’ve never done in my life. I’ve actually grown some muscles for the first time in my life and my body fat sits at 19%. I have a lot of areas to “fix” but It is what it is and I refuse to let that discourage me. I recently began strength training with a sled and cleaning some weights. I wished I had known movement was this much fun when I was younger! Most people think I am in my forties – the truth is – I just turned 60 this year and am loving life again. The kind of training I do is extreme and explosive and I love it!

  20. I’m older and not at my “fighting weight” (just as background). The thing I realized about a year ago is that “being active” doesn’t mean being an Olympian or a Diva or a Prima or a Pro. It does mean just doing something (I’m not a Nike fan but okay – just do it!) and being somewhat attentive to it so you’re not just schlepping through a 30-45 minute walk or a hike up the mountain. Be conscious of your body as you weren’t as a child. I’ve developed some really bad physical habits over the years — slouching, walking funny, etc. Now’s the time to get some air in my frame and stop knuckle-walking. The Chi-walking and chi-running stuff kind of made me conscious of all that. Not that I do it but that I’m conscious of it. 😉

  21. I don’t swim, but I’m forcing myself to learn as quickly as possible. How? I registered for my first ever triathlon – the sprint / short course. The race is only 30 days away.

    Nothing like a hard, rapidly approaching deadline to focus and motivate learning a new skill.

  22. I love this article. It speaks to right where I am right now. Over the last 18 months I have dropped over 80 lbs and I am finding the athlete I used to be. This summer I am doing two obstacle races and I am totally training now to compete in CrossFit opens next year. I’m far from it.. but I know that I have the potential. Love it!

  23. I can remember when the thought of doing 35 push ups seemed impossible. It really and truly struck me as a nearly unattainable goal. Now I think, “Only 35 pushups?”

    Truly, most of the boundries constraining us are the ones in our heads.

  24. The swing? Did that last year at my daughter’s end of the year school party. Swung so high, my butt lifted off the seat. Would have done it, even if I hadn’t found this site a few months earlier. I love swings, always have. Dashing as fast as you can after a friend? Well, the only friend I chase now is 4 legged and canine, but he loves to play keep away with the chew rope. I never do catch him… Once he gets bored with that, he’ll run past me, really close, so I can try to grab it and play tug-of-war. If I miss too often, he’ll stop in front of me, with the rope in his mouth and toss his head, flipping the rope in my direction.

    My current physical challenge is to do a pull-up, by my birthday in January. For some of you, this is not much of a challenge at all, but it is for me. I’ve never been able to do a pull-up or, until a few months ago, even hold a flex arm hang. I can hold it for about 5 seconds now. Back in February, just outside the Marine Reserve building that I pass every day going to and from work, they built some shiny, new, red pull-up bars. After a couple of weeks of looking at them, I decided that by my next birthday, I would do a pull-up on them.

    1. I’ve been obsessed with pushups lately (like good form pushups, elbows by my side, etc etc) and started doing incline pushups against the arm of my couch and my kitchen counter….those got easy and I dropped down to a chair (about a foot and half from the floor). Once I can do about 25 of those at a time, I’ll be dropping to the floor (and then keep going into declines eventually). The point is…once I started to see progress, it became addicting, and now I’m motivated more than ever to see how long it takes me to start doing declines. Plus, I love the way my arms are starting to look and how far I can crush a softball 😉

      I think I’ll go for the elusive pull up next…I’ve also never in my life been able to do one!

      1. I’d kind of slacked off on the push-ups, but have been working on them again. (Life got really crazy) My incline is a bit higher than yours, but that’s okay, it’s where I am now, not where I’m stopping. I’m really glad that a while back someone asked which to give up, sleep or exercise. Mark’s suggestion (I’m paraphrasing) was to get the sleep and try to work in little spurts of exercise, so that’s what I’m doing.

  25. I love the quote “I love not knowing if I can do something and attempting it anyway”

    Although I do push myself physically in terms of training (currently training for a marathon), I think this should be applied to daily life. It might run counter to “avoid stupid mistakes”, but I say go for it!! You see a big hill, run up it and come flying down as fast as you can! You see a tree, climb it! There’s an obstacle in your way, jump over it!!

    All of these things might end in failure, but that is why they are fun. Life should be about having fun, don’t let the social pressures of being an adult stop you from doing something that will bring you joy!!

    Grok On!!

  26. Great article!

    This goes way beyond physical activity as well.

    From my favorite Aussie band The Cat Empire’s latest album:

    “Don’t let them kill the wild animal inside of you.”

  27. I gave birth primally, without drugs, to three babies, and grew them with my breastmilk into childhood.

    Although I’m quite athletic (formerly a competitive runner, skier, swimmer and tennis player; currently an avid kettlebell enthusiast), no physical achievement of my body quite compares with that.

  28. I like doing handstands to get back my focus while working (I work at home most of the time, but even when I am not at home I might try to find a place to do it)
    When I go out for a walk I jump up and down walls and benches and stones or whatever else there is to jump on/over. (often barefoot)
    (mini parkour, I would love to do the “real thing”)
    Not dignified behaviour for a 46 year old lady,(I don’t look it or feel it) but then again, who cares. I love moving, and always have. Movement is freedom to me.
    I do hope to learn to do a flick flack before the age of 50

    1. Lara, who cares if it’s undignified? It’s fun! I turn 46 on Monday and am in my third year of teaching primary PE after years of desk jobs. My coordination developed late so when I started teaching and realised I would have to cover gymnastics, I found a gymnastics class at a Crossfit gym and learned, at the age of 43, to do forward and backward rolls, headstands, cartwheels and handstands – skills that had eluded me as a child. In my spare time I like to ride rollercoasters (as do most of my middle-aged friends).

      You are never too old to start something new. The French teacher at my school, who is in her 50s, is always starting new hobbies – she ice skates, does an obscure Japanese martial art, plays guitar and has just started violin. Learning keeps our minds as well as bodies young and active.

  29. I love the mental focus attached to a physical goal. I’ve now done the Devil Mountain Double (twice in fact) as a warm-up so I’m almost ready to try something really difficult and learn how to ride that @#%&*! unicycle.

  30. It’s all about setting some goals, if you don’t just want to get anywhere, but to something real and desirable. Very encouraging words though, love it.

    But there is another thing I want to ask you, Mark: Is it possible you’re thinking about quitting, doing something else / completely different? I don’t know why, but that question somehow came into my mind after I read the last ones of your blogposts.

    I sincerely hope I’m wrong!

  31. To “know what it means to fully thrive in our bodies.” Yes! This is why I became a personal trainer. This is why I stay fit: to be ready for any challenge. Staying fit allows me to not just live my life, but actually thrive! You can’t do that until you know what your body is fully capable of.


  32. Tomorrow I’ve got my first ballet class in 30 years! Not quite parkour but another way I’m learning to re-use my body.

  33. I’m going to try for an Ironman. I can’t even run one mile straight without stopping for breath but dag-nab-it I’m going to swim bike run it before I’m 35!

  34. Here’s a quote I heard recently…”You don’t engage in sports in order to get in shape, you get in shape in order to engage in sports.”
    Basic barbell lifts twice a week; sprint session once a week; pushups, pullups, planks as you feel inclined. Then sign up for the structured activities.

  35. What a great article to read before I go to my CrossFit Gym for my Birthday WOD. Here’s to a year of pushing myself to be better.

  36. As someone who recently hit the big 6 Oh, I was overwhelmed with the notion that my life was nearing the end of the journey (don’t get me wrong, my goal is to hit the century mark) and I am not living life with the passion and intensity I should. I’m in very good shape, eat healthy, doing the leangains protocol, play sports and have a wonderful family and a good job, but there is something missing. Guess I always thought I’d achieve “total actualization” at some point, as the lyrics go “I still haven’t found what I’m looking for”. All in all I am one lucky son-of-a-gun and feel guilty for not having more gratitude for my good health and family etc.

    1. “I am not living life with the passion and intensity I should.”

      When I was child, I loved Christmas. I could hardly sleep on Christmas Eve for the anticipation. But then when I got to my teens, the unthinkable happened. I started to sleep well that night. It wasn’t such a big deal anymore.

      In other words, I lost a whole lot of the passion and intensity of that experience by both having it repeated and growing up. But that doesn’t mean I’ve lost the enjoyment of the holiday. In fact, it’s expanded – I appreciate and am moved by the message of the holiday in way that was lost on me as child

      Would it be nice to have the original “can’t sleep at night” passion back? Truthfully, I don’t know. To be passionate about something for me as an adult means a commitment rather than the intense emotion I felt as an child. I do know that I don’t want the intensity back. It was a heck of a roller coaster ride. It’s much more peaceful now. I saw it phrased once as trading “happiness for joy”. I think the good part of aging is stepping off the wilder emotional swings of youth.

      These are random musings (sorry) :). I tend to cringe when I see people phrase things as “I should”.

      1. Amy, you touched on something that I occasionally muse about. I too experienced the overwhelming excitement as a kid about the magic of Christmas, but now it’s not the same. I still enjoy Christmas, but like you said, for deeper reasons.

        I have a 16 month old daughter and 2 more daughters that can be born any day now. I find myself getting giddy with anticipation for them to experience the magic and excitement of Christmas like I did when I was a child.

  37. I always do my absolute best because i feel so lucky to be alive and have ONE CHANCE to be the best I can. Even when struck down with health issues I do what i can. I just cant live any other way. But majority of people are nothing like this. That is a shame.

  38. You hit the nail on the head here Mark. This is the reason I am pursuing my dream of joining the circus. I want to thrive, and see how far I can go (how long can I hold a handstand? A one arm handstand? How many pull ups can I do? And now, add performance on top. Yes!). It’s just as mental as physical, and I love every minute of it. PLus, I get to PLAY for a living!
    Cheers, and thank you for all the wisdom that keeps me going!

  39. Can’t wait until this fall when the kids are both in school at the same time, and I can do some physical activity (other than chasing kids) every single day. I’ve been scraping the bottom of the barrel with a couple of short weightlifting sessions each week and several evening walks with friends. As someone who thrives on routine, I’m looking forward to having a real exercise opportunity every single day.

  40. Any suggestions for those of us that have really tested our limits in the past and fail to see purpose in it now? I ran competitive distance track for 8 years, high school and college and quite enjoyed always running farther and faster. However, there comes a point if your not a professional, when you think, Im doing all this for what? Then you stop training and all other athletic endeavors feel mediocre compared to your previous level. Not sure if this is jut me here…

  41. I love the feeling during a workout of raising the weight up another block and being able to get it up in the air. Makes me feel alive.

    Probably comes from our primal history and beating that saber tooth tiger by one step…

  42. I have all ways played sports, but now that I have hit my 30s I struggle with always being very tight and having knew pain. I do my best with staying primal, but it is getting harder and harder to do the activities I love.

  43. Today I have to push my physical limits. My energy level has made that happen. I’ve been primal for 18 months and it’s wonderful. I do tons of pushups, pullups, air squats, etc. whenever I feel like it. I walk 5 miles just about every day. Sprint and lift heavy a couple of times a week. I really enjoy HIIT because of the intensity and amount of time it takes. Recently purchased a mountain bike and now I’m really finding out what I’m capable of.. it’s crazy good to be healthy and fit. I am 52 and now realize life is incredibly valuable. Enjoy it!

  44. Interesting points by Mark.

    My per peeve:
    Brain is as much part of our body as our quads are. Yet few people use or exercise their brain to their full capacity.

    How often do you sit down and just think deeply? How often have you picke up an udner graduate or graduate mathematics or physics or biology text and made an effort to understand a new concept?
    People go and bust their a$$ in gyms to exceed their capacity and “feel good” in the process. How often do they pick something beyond their comprehension and made an effort to learn things necessary to understand it?

    Think about it. It is perfectly alright and in fact fashionable to brag about one’s ignorance and inability to understand even mild mathematics (sorry thats above my head, haha, you need to bring it down to layman level). This is like a a person saying, sorry, haha, what? running? no i can’t run. I am a layman. And that considered fashionable and perfectly socially acceptable.

    1. BT while I agree with you, I follow more of the philosophy of working both at the same time in unison. Like we rarely perform isolated exercises for the body, we should also focus on compound exercises that work the body and mind in unison. That’s why I personally like martial arts. Forms/katas/patterns require you to memorize a series of movements, but that’s only the beginning. Learning the form inside and out and making it your own is as much of a mental workout as it is a physical one. At my best I knew 30 different forms ranging from 19 movements in our most basic form to over 40 different movements in some of our black belt forms (and that’s not including stances and transitions!). Reading is great and I read all the time, but I find that I learn better and stimulate the gray matter between my ears when I’m up and doing. 🙂

  45. I’m 58, two years ago I had heart surgery to correct a wonky valve (bah, not fun).
    My recent challenges met:
    I did a 30 mile mountain hike with full pack in a day.
    I did 300 pushups.
    I’m holding my own in LAOut men’s league ultimate frisbee this summer.
    I walk a mile or so barefoot every day.
    I’ve gotten in the habit of curb-walking, which does not yet seem to be a “thing”.
    I swam the length of Walden’s Pond.

  46. I’ve done 2-sprint distance triathlons and one half-marathon but now have zero motivation to even workout much less participate in a race. I am however, becoming very interested in losing the rest of this excess body fat I’m carrying. But, still in the “I’d like to” phase and not in the action phase yet. Maybe this post will help motivate me. Thanks Mark.

  47. This was a very inspirational article, thank you Mr. Sisson. My goals are many and broad, but my physical ones require serious commitment. I have goals for my martial arts, goals for strength, goals for skills, and even aesthetic goals. This last one has been y most long term and never attained goal. Starting June 24 (I will return from a training) my wife and I will change to the primal lifestyle in hopes of attaining this goal. Simply put I wish to have a low enough body fat so that my physique looks incredible. I am strong, but I am tired of the chub. I also want this physique to reflect the true vitality of my existence. Thanks for the boost Mr. Sisson!

    1. Best of luck Patrick!

      I too am in good shape, but have a small spare tire that is stubbornly holding on. While it doesn’t really affect my day to day activities, it pesters the hell outta me and I would like to get rid of it if for no other reason than aesthetic purposes.

  48. I loved being able recently to knock off a 22 mile bike ride as though it was nothing! Could have gone longer, just ran out of time. Last year my end-of-the-season ride was the same length. It was hard and draining and I was sore for several days afterward.

    Next up: seeing if the planned 10km hike can also be knocked off as if it was nothing 🙂

    Age 55, been primal since last November, down to size 12 from 18, still a ways to go, fitter than I’ve been in a long time yet still also a ways to go.

    A side note: at a recent eye exam, the optometrist was totally puzzled to discover my distance vision has improved and is now “perfect”. He can’t explain it, but I bet we all know why!

  49. +1, stay in shape to do physical things that I love, not vice versa. Sitting here with a warm purring cat on my arm and my cell phone. Sunny day outside and I’m on summer vacation until the end of August. At my vacation house, 5 min from world class climbing area (smith rock Oregon). Women’s climbing group meets at 2:30. Other climbing plans are continually being planned. Summer soccer league starts next week; haven’t played for 25 years. I’ve been running a fair amount though, since being commissioned to mentor my niece in a 5k this spring. I have an awesome mountain bike and trails all over. Hiking into canyons near here and honing my fly fishing skills is always fun. Swimming-used to race masters, and I can go for miles in a lake on a hot summer day. I’m landscaping the whole yard…very physical. Oh and I like slacklining and backpacking. So I have gear, tools and supplies, proper training, time and compatriots who share my addiction to these types of fun. And I appreciate this mightily. The issue becomes balancing injuries. At 51, I find that stuff breaks easier and heals more slowly. So I need days (or mornings at least) where I hang out with my cat at home, cook primal food, read and write. Forcing myself to do that is the issue for me. By switching up activities I can rest this part or that, but currently it’s a shoulder, wrist, elbow and foot, so that gets tricky. I want to perform well at my sports but mostly I want to enjoy all this intensely fun stuff for a long time. So pacing myself and preventing injuries seems key at this stage of the game.

  50. I am always striving for better results. My main emphasis is in mobility, while keeping strength and speed. It takes some work to make improvements on the 3 areas but it is possible. I am now at 61 MUCH MORE flexible, stronger and faster than 20 years ago. Big fan of yoga. And for the primal yogis out there (I know there are many): checkout this lady Erin in doyouyoga dot com, she is doing these days the 30 day yoga challenge (very good, highly recommended). And she is a carnivorous yogi, and proud about it 🙂

  51. This post has inspired me to get out there and live. I am ready to try new things and be more active. It did a great job of reminding me the way I used to be as a young boy. I was full of life and ready to take on any challenge and there was never a doubt in my mind that I would fail. I am ready to get back into that mindset and make some great accomplishments in my life and in my mind. Thanks so much for this post!

  52. I personally think there is nothing more sad than unrealized potential. Whether it is in ourselves or others. Unfortunately we all (or most of us perhaps) fall down on this one. I agree with you 100% on your comment ‘We deserve to enjoy our bodies and revel in their full capacities’. Very well said. That, to me, is living.

    Dean Kamazes who ran 50 marathons in 50 days in 50 US States said, “Somewhere along the line, we seem to have confused comfort for happiness.” For many, myself often as well, this is too true. We might not all be able to do exactly what he did, but that is no excuse to not to try to do what we can or seek to find out exactly what we can do. I’m sure we’d all surprise ourselves.

    Great article tied back to all of our youth, to help people remember how we tested things and should continue to do so. Many thanks!

  53. Last June I turned 50 while doing a through hike on the Appalachian Trail. I started on June 1st in Maine and hiked 2,187 miles to Springer Mountain, GA. I reached Springer on September 29th. Eating primal while on the trail was difficult, still I felt better physically as well as feeling more alive than since my teenage years. To be honest, I’m looking for excuses to hit the trail again, I loved it that much.

  54. It’s hard to walk 10,000 in one day. Just wanted to share that I went to the San Diego Zoo yesterday with my Niece and her two boys and we walked 10,000 steps. We had a fun time, and I felt good that I could do that much walking including up and down some of those steep walkways. We have a very nice zoo!!!

  55. I love the fact that we can all have different physical goals and benchmarks. I have a tenancy to be a ‘jack of all-trades’ but I’ve gone furthest down the peak performance line with running because that’s the exercise which fits my natural physical make-up (ie long limbs, large lungs).

    Marathons aside, I really like benchmarks from the Cross-fit community etc because this is one challenge that requires all-round cardio, muscular and mental performance.

    Each to their own at the end of the day – as long as you are motivated and it’s having a positive impact on your health then I say your reaching your peak!

  56. 10 years ago I saved my life with weight loss surgery. No matter what people think about that, eating well is a struggle, as is staying active. 4 years ago I started playing hockey and it started transforming my body. In January I started a paleo lifestyle and can feel the difference when I fall off track. Just 4 weeks ago I played in goal for the first time ever. I feel stronger than I have since I was a pre-teen. I have been working on pushups and want to increase flexibility and upper body strength so I can have fun on the ice. Love getting my body moving daily.