Dear Mark: How Are You Training These Days?

SlackliningOne of the most common questions I get from readers is the same one I get from people who have no idea who I am or what I do: “What’s your workout, dude?” Because I write a blog that discusses the latest fitness research, some of you might get the impression that I’m constantly switching up my routine to incorporate the latest and greatest. Many times, you assume that because I wrote approvingly about something, I must be doing that thing. Well, by and large, I am not doing that. Even if some particular lift is proven to build the most strength most efficiently, I mostly stick to my tried and true. I’m no longer an elite athlete. I don’t need the latest and greatest. If it works for me and my goals, I stick with it. Of course, it helps that the way I train was already fairly consistent with the latest research, and is easily fueled by my Primal Blueprint eating strategy.

Here’s one of the latest inquiries into my training:

Are you sticking to strictly bodyweight workouts these days or do you still hit the gym once a week or so for a heavy weight session?


For the most part, yes: bodyweight training still comprises the core of my training. Pullups, pushups, squats, lunges, rows, assisted handstand pushups, planks, dips. I’ll sometimes throw on a weighted vest or play around with angles and leverage to increase the resistance, but those are the basic movements that I work on. While I generally try to find time to do these outside, I admit that I often do these in the gym, mostly because I enjoy the social interaction that I don’t otherwise get standing at my desk in my home office most of the day. In terms of actual equipment I use, I might do some dumbbell presses (I’ve mostly given up barbell pressing – bench or otherwise – after a nagging shoulder injury at the hands of the bench), maybe some triceps pull-downs or extensions. Once a week I do a leg-focused routine where I mix in some hamstring work and an inner-outer thigh machine. This has helped immensely in my rehabilitating a decades old hip-flexor issue. I’m also a big fan of the leg press. I use a weighted hack squat machine to obviate the need for a spotter and to reduce the risk of back injuries.

No matter what, I always make sure to get a sprint session in every single week. At least one. Usually one. It’s the one workout that I can do for 15 or 20 minutes start-to-finish and feel like I’ve done enough for a couple days. That’s a good feeling, isn’t it? And nothing “cuts you up” like sprints. (BTW, if you’ve plateaued on weight loss, it’s the first addition I would make to your program). I prefer running beach sprints, of course. Something about the waves lapping at my feet, the cushion of the sand making it easier and harder all at the same time, the scenery. Ironically, my weekly Ultimate game is the hardest sprint workout I do all week – except I don’t call it a workout; I call it play. If I’m still feeling stiff from those games, I’ll often hop on the stationary bike at the gym for some cycling sprints.

I don’t run distance anymore, but frequent slow moving is still my bread and butter. I walk at least a couple miles each day, and oftentimes more than that. Weekends usually include at least one lengthy morning hike with dips and climbs and uneven surfaces, always in Vibrams. When I feel up to it, I’ll bust out a few hilly jogs or sprints within that hike.

I’ve switched things up a bit with respect to programming, however. With all the new books, events, and other ventures I’ve been involved in on top of the regular blog writing, my work schedule has been more hectic than ever. I’m not complaining, of course. I wouldn’t be anywhere else but right here doing what I’m doing. It does affect my training time, though. It’s inevitable, so I’ve had to roll with the punches and adapt to the new environmental context, especially when I travel. I guess the greatest revelation for me is that if I am forced to take a few days off (zero training) my fitness is not adversely affected. I can just pick up where I left off. That’s a huge relief from the old days of feeling immensely guilty for missing even one day.

The biggest change has been when I train. Rather than allot specific, extended blocks of time to my workouts, I’m getting workouts in when and where I can as opportunity presents. My workout volume has remained the same, but I rarely train for more than 20-45 minutes at a time.

I’ll often find myself writing snippets of posts in between snippets of training, and vice versa. Write a paragraph, do ten pullups. Every twenty minutes of writing, take a break and do a quick superset of squats, pushups, and bodyweight rows. Do a two minute plank every time I leave and reenter my office. Five minutes of slackline practice in the backyard while waiting for a manuscript to print out. Write an email while sitting in a squat. That kind of thing. I really, really enjoy it so far, and I don’t seem to have regressed, fitness-wise, but we’ll see. Maybe I’ll write a post sometime down the line looking closer at the “train throughout the day” method versus the more traditional method. So far, though, I like the freedom from set workout times. It’s also likely that this is how Grok “trained” – intermittent activity throughout the entire day. More on this later.


Of course, all this training is just a foundation for what I really love to do: play. I train so that I can play harder and not get injured. I strength train so that I can hang with the younger guys in Ultimate Frisbee, snowboard five days in a row or fight the waves when I’m standup paddle boarding. I sprint so I can beat the competition to the disc. I walk and hike so that I can spend all day out on the water if I want without losing steam. I slackline to improve balance and core strength. More than anything, I stay fit so that I can stay mobile and engaged in this life. At 60, I feel incredibly healthy and fit, perhaps more than ever before, and that’s no aberration. We can all stay this way, provided we eat well, exercise, and play as much as possible. We won’t all look or perform the same, but I’m serious when I say that everyone can be healthy and fit enough to enjoy their twilight years. It doesn’t have to be TV dinners, pill organizers, and dim, dreary living rooms illuminated only by daytime TV.

If you’re going to take anything away from the way I train to apply to your own training, start playing, guys. And start gearing your training toward supporting your mode of play.

That’s about it for my training these days. Some has changed, a lot has remained the same. What about you guys? How have you been working out these days? Thanks for reading, everyone.

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.

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