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I Am Making Gains On All Levels

It’s Monday, everyone! And that means another Primal Blueprint Real Life Story [1] from a Mark’s Daily Apple reader. If you have your own success story and would like to share it with me and the Mark’s Daily Apple community please contact me here [2]. I’ll continue to publish these each Monday as long as they keep coming in. Thank you for reading!

Two years ago, I was walking around our farm with a cane. I have always worked out hard, mostly weightlifting, calisthenics and martial arts. But at the age of 50 I was feeling the cumulative dings of my active youth. A clicky and sore shoulder; pain in my hips. With time I found myself banging out minimum-effective-dose type workouts just to maintain my strength and physique. I had given up on yoga and martial arts because it was no fun with the pain, and they seemed to aggravate the situation.

By the time I took to using a cane to get around the farm, I was really starting to feel sorry for myself. I saw an orthopedic surgeon. He tried to find the right anti-inflammatory that wouldn’t make my stomach bleed. When I suggested a more holistic long-term solution, he replied, “Well, hip surgeries are really good these days.”

As the co-director of Gingerhill Farm Retreat on the Big Island of Hawaii, we have the luxury of constantly tweaking our daily routine. We had experimented with so much already. From gluten-free to paleo. Keto to eat for your blood type. Alternate day and intermittent fasting. I started again from the basics. I figured the pain was inflammation. But from what? We grew our own food and protein and only bought organic for the few things we didn’t grow. Why wasn’t I feeling better?

It took me years to tweak my routine to where I am finally working towards back flips and gymnastics strength progressions. The breakthrough for me came about in a series of “aha” moments. Research led me to mitochondrial health and specifically, the effect of light on our cells. I realized that even though I lived in Hawaii, I was not getting enough sunshine. Worse, I had gotten in the habit of watching YouTube videos at night, zapping myself with harmful blue light in the process. I decided it was time to overhaul my light exposure patterns.

By this time I was so desperately missing the joy of movement, that I adopted “a move it or lose it” philosophy. I started varying my routines to include a much wider range of movement. From slack line to cart wheels, lizard crawls to spinal waves. My wife and I picked up Zouk dance and at the same time started offering a weekly Ecstatic Dance at the farm. I picked up Martial Arts again and trained some of my farm staff so that we could play together.

I tweaked my diet in new ways. Not so much with what I ate, that was already impeccable, but more when. I had come across some of Dr. Satchin Pandas work with time-restricted feeding, and it resonated with me.

Today, we wake and meditate with the staff for thirty minutes. Then, I take some anti-aging supplements I have been playing with. Currently, Resveratrol and NR. I stretch out real good and work out for an hour. I climb ropes, practice muscle ups, work on my press handstands, pistols, and walking on my hands. Whenever I can, I walk barefoot. I run sprints and jump. I still lift weights—deadlifts, squats, again the basics, but I don’t worry so much about the weight.

I still get sore hips sometimes. My shoulder still clicks. But my range of movement is improving, and I am making gains on all levels. Best of all, I am having fun.

Here are my tips, in order of importance:

Following these tips will go far in giving your body the best chance of maintaining its circadian rhythm. I think health is most directly affected by the quality of your rest and recovery. I will be 53 this year and I feel like I am back on track again and excited for what’s to come. Remember a cheat day every now and then is a good thing. It will not offset your progress if you are diligent. We are the sum total of our daily habits. Create your perfect daily routine and stick to it.

Zachary Nathan
Gingerhill Farm Retreat