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Let me introduce myself. My name is Mark Sisson. I’m 63 years young. I live and work in Malibu, California. In a past life I was a professional marathoner and triathlete. Now my life goal is to help 100 million people get healthy. I started this blog in 2006 to empower people to take full responsibility for their own health and enjoyment of life by investigating, discussing, and critically rethinking everything we’ve assumed to be true about health and wellness...

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February 15, 2018

Rapid Fire Questions and Answers: Getting Wild

By Mark Sisson

Inline_Questions_AnswersLast month, you asked a ton of great questions in the comment section of my post on reclaiming your wildness and being less civilized, covering everything from rock climbing to role playing games, grappling to kung fu, walking meditation to grounding. For today’s post, I’m answering as many of them as I can.

Let’s get right to the questions.

Anthony Munkholm asked:

How about some tips for indoor rock climbing. Really been getting into this lately as great cross-training. Went outside in Colorado last summer and I’m hooked.

How do I increase finger strength? What about how being outside on a rock brings you so present?

I’m no expert in climbing, but from what I’ve gathered from friends who are, the best way for relative beginners to improve finger strength for climbing is to climb. Climbing places a specific type of stress on the fingers that is hard to replicate without actually climbing.

You can make it more systematic, of course, by moving back and forth between holds.

The same concepts that apply to training in general apply here as well. Don’t overdo it. Don’t train to failure every time. Stop short of the point where your grip totally fails.

On the rock, death or serious injury are serious possibilities. You slip, you fall. Even if there’s a pad underneath or a rope hitched to your waist, the lizard brain within perceives the situation to be dangerous. It forces the flow state. Riding the wave of the present and staying in the flow becomes a lot easier when death is on the line.

Chad Clark asked:

From your experience with grappling drills, how would you adopt martial arts into Primal aligned fitness endeavors? Also, what is keeping you from becoming more involved in the martial arts you listed? Or Dungeons and Dragons, for that matter?

I’d treat it like a high-intensity interval or sprint day. Grappling is seriously exhausting—and I wasn’t even going very hard at all!

I’m not sure. I may look into it a bit more. There’s certainly no shortage of training facilities these days. Keep you posted.

Ha! I was a big fan of fantasy and sci-fi earlier in life (Tolkien, Dick, Dune, etc), but never did dip my beak into D&D. These days, I frankly don’t have the time to get into something as involved and time-consuming as pen and paper role playing games.

Georgina wrote:

Excellent ideas. How about an article on “walking meditation in nature.” This is a formal practice with a blueprint to follow. this can be done solo or holding the hand of another. It connects us with the earth. It cultivates joy and gratitude. It places us in the present moment. Peace from n.c.

I love walking meditations. It’s the closest thing to an actual meditation I can sit (or walk) through. Beginners should probably start with Tara Brach, a Buddhist teacher who publishes guided meditations and lectures on her fantastic podcast and is a proponent of walking meditation (PDF). She suggests walking along a short predetermined path of 20-30 paces somewhere quiet and familiar. This creates boundaries and reduces distractions. Once you’re more confident in your ability to maintain focus, you can go on unstructured, longer walks through unfamiliar surroundings. The important thing is to pay attention to the shifting weight of your body as you walk, the feel of your footfalls, and the sensation of gliding through the air. As with sitting meditation, allow thoughts and other distractions to come and go; acknowledge but do not dwell on or judge them.

I find it much easier and more effective than sitting meditation.

There’s even a study which showed that a walking Buddhist meditation practice reduced depression, improved fitness and vascular function, and lowered stress hormones in depressed elderly patients to a greater extent than the same amount of walking without the meditating.

Alan requested:

Good article. I would like to see you write more in the future about finding balance between living less civilized and still within society. For example, whether love or hated the reboot of Point Break, there is a line in there that Bohdi says that really resonated with me. He said “We live on the grid, just on our own terms.” I would like to see you write about how that applies to the primal lifestyle. Thank you! Alan

Oh boy, this could turn into an entire post. I’ll keep it short and perhaps revisit it later.

As I allude to in the original post, for civilization to flourish and progress, we need both wildness and dependability. Creativity and diligence. In fact, each person must embody both energies.

First, figure out what you’re doing here on the planet. What are you trying to accomplish? Who or what are you responsible for? What gives you meaning? What’s best for you, your loved ones, your friends, your community?

Keep those in mind. Aim toward them. Then, indulge your wildness, but make sure it serves your ultimate goals of doing good, meaningful things, taking care of yourself and those around you, and improving your corner of the world.

Shake off the silly parts of civilization, like “taking the safe path” or “doing what you’re told,” and start thinking bigger, crazier.

bamboosmith asked a clear-cut one:

I live out in the country and do a lot of hanging from trees type pull ups. i’m older and wondered about going back and learning karate. i studied the martial arts in my 30’s for a few years and miss it. i feel like i may be too old 30 years later. any thoughts?

Just one: You’re not too old. Go, now.

I totally love this. I have 6 year old (wild) twins and it seems that this is what they do all the time. All I need to do is join them:)
I also like to break out in dance or song spontaneously, and then the kids join me:)

Yes, follow them and do what they do. Funny story: A buddy of mine, Angelo Delacruz (master bodyworker, personal trainer, miracle worker, ninja, and PrimalCon star), was hosting a friend and his two young children at the gym one day. After noticing how much varied movement the kids did just inadvertently by being kids, he and a couple other trainers decided to follow them for ten minutes and do whatever they did.

After ten minutes, they were warm and loose and ready to train. Every joint had been articulated through every possible angle. It was the perfect warmup. For many, it’d be the perfect workout.

Sue Moore said:

Great article! New goal for 2018 is to take the road less travelled and be more spontaneous.

How’s that going for you? Don’t wait!

Megan said:

I work with elementary aged children with behavioral issues. Your post, especially the parts about embracing your inner weirdo, really spoke to me today. I’m going to take my students outside this week (or around the building if it’s still 15 degrees out here in Chicagoland) and look for ways that we can empower creativity and diversity of action inside the educational setting.

Beautiful. I know that standing desks have been shown to reduce behavioral issues and improve focus in elementary school students, so you may get good results! But there’s so much more to be found outside the desk space.

Ethan asked:

I’d like to see posts on how we normal, full-time workers, with kids, and all of that chaos, can find time to create, or play, or get involved.

What are the practical ways to do this?

The things you’re going to create, the ways you’ll play, the things you’ll want to involve yourself in are personal. You have to decide what appeals to you. However, there are a few ways you can increase the opportunities you have to create/play/involve yourself.

Figure out how much time you’re wasting on things that aren’t increasing your happiness, furthering your goals, or allowing you to express your wildness. Get a rough number—hours per day—and work on eliminating those wasteful practices. This will free up hours for you to do cool stuff.

If you haven’t started planning the week’s meals ahead of time, do that. Knowing what you’re going to make and having the ingredients ready to go (or even prepared ahead of time) saves a lot of time, reduces meal-time stress, and makes dinner a more harmonious, enjoyable. When you’re not stressed out from rushing to get dinner ready and on the table, you’ll have more mental energy to have a real conversation with your family, to discuss the day, to make plans for the weekend. That’s creation—positive energy where none existed before.

Don’t waste time on devices or social media. Don’t abstain entirely. Just don’t be one of the statistics who uses their phone for 4 hours a day just to avoid being alone in your own head.

Get to bed early and wake up early. Waking up before everyone else is magical in a quiet, simple way. It also gives you a nice chunk of free time to pursue any creative endeavors—working on a new side business, writing, reading (which I consider to be a kind of creation), exercising.

Gus Frey asked:

I have always wanted to learn a martial art, and was happy to read your lifelong desire and recent dive into it. Why do you recommend a grappling style as opposed to something like Kung Fu or something less about grappling? Thank you

As a kid, I loved roughhousing. This consisted mainly of wrestling, throwing, rolling around, pretty low skill-level stuff. It was intense and personal and hyperreal. It was also safer than throwing punches at each other. Fewer bruised egos, damaged friendships that way.

As an adult, grappling still seems safer to me than striking, though I know it’s all in how you train.

Brad wondered:

I’m interested in your take on grounding.

I wrote about it several years back. Check out the post.

Ive said it before on these pages, but I hunt.

It takes you off tracks, because that is where the game is. There is a pattern dictated by terrain, weather and vegetation – wild stuff – and there is a randomness, because you are pursuing something that you cannot know perfectly.
Instead of following that trail that others have walked, you go where the situation dictates… even if no other human has set foot there for centuries, if ever!

There is sitting around a fire with your “tribe”. People who are there for the same purpose that you are, with whom you have a memory of shared experiences….. and who have shown time after time that they will put themselves through hardship to help you.

There is rolling out of the swag before dawn in lousy winter weather, knowing that the domesticated people couldn’t face that…..

Beautifully said, Peter. It hit me hard. That’s all.

Dugan said:

Honestly, based on the thoughts Mark laid out here, LARPing is firing on all cylinders. It takes creative thought to make a character, roleplay, and come up with armor and weapons. Then, depending on how serious you get, you can study and train in real martial arts in order to better your in-game play. You interact with a group of people equally zealous as you are. It takes time and organization to be efficient in crafting your needed items. And, depending on what LARP you do (anything from high fantasy to zombie apocalypse is out there) you can definitely interact with the environment in atypical ways. Heck, I’ve played a straight barbarian before, about as primitive as you can get. It’s great exercise and you can do it barefoot (in most cases.)

For all the jokes, LARPing really does sound like a good time and a perfect summation of the spirit of the post. If you ever watch those videos that people like to laugh at, you can’t help but notice the participants are ALL IN. Great comment.

Jason said:

Create vs Consume. While I may not have the right plan in place for create, I have had a large frustration with the amount of consume. I have been working towards consuming less (TV, phone data…useless stuff). A good way to get my butt in gear more often.

Yes, the ratio doesn’t have to be 1:1 or anything like that. The world wouldn’t work if everyone created more than they consumed. The trend is what to watch, and what to focus on changing. Do a little more creation and a little less consumption. Get it in where you can. Small steps.

That’s it for today, folks. Thanks for reading and asking. Be sure to follow up down below with any further questions you might have.

Take care!

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13 Comments on "Rapid Fire Questions and Answers: Getting Wild"


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1 month 7 days ago

So many awesome questions and responses! I loved the story about the trainer who followed the kids to complete a warm up. I enjoy taking my middle school students on walks outside as a break from the classroom. We have a beautiful trail system behind our school and it is wonderful to see the kids “go primal”: climbing trees, throwing rocks, sprinting, crawling, jumping. It makes me realize how tortuous 6.5 hours of sitting at desks must feel to them.

1 month 6 days ago

Do not do too much to soon rock climbing. Finger tendon pulley injuries are ubiquitous among beginners these days (the bouldering grading system is the problem: “beginner” boulder problems are near expert difficulty for roped climbers). Go very, very slow.

1 month 6 days ago

Good article, very informative.

1 month 6 days ago
Walking solo is great for meditating, although I think it can be counterproductive to focus on yourself (i.e. your breathing, your footsteps, etc.). Sitting meditation doesn’t work for me, pretty much for the same reason. I find I actually need the “distractions” of being outdoors in order to get outside of my own head. (Most of us need to get the focus OFF ourselves occasionally and thereby off our problems.) It’s relatively easy to take in your surroundings as you walk, both natural and otherwise–observing each scene within your field of vision then letting it go as you move on.… Read more »
1 month 6 days ago
re: rock climbing funny story a colleague told me. Said his son was an avid rock climber, traveled to different competitions and often placed. Was in a college gym class and the instruction said “very few people can do 20 pull ups, can anyone here do that many?” My friend’s son replied “One handed or two?”. The instructor replied “OK Mr. Smart A**, let’s see you do 20 with one!” So as the story goes, the kid jumped up on the pull up bar and whipped off 20 one handed pull ups, the instructor shook his head and said “Well,… Read more »
1 month 6 days ago

Just adding more about Tara Brach: if you go to the related sounds true site there is a lot of free meditation materials and music, perfect for beginners and not beginners

Steve Johnston
Steve Johnston
1 month 6 days ago
There’s a ton of great ideas in here! The hippie dippie stuff like walking meditations isn’t for me (I’m sure it’s quite relaxing. Just not my thing). Personally, I love fishing! Just me and my faithful dog on a calm lake shore, with a flask of whisky, and a nice pipe tobacco (the last two aren’t healthy, but damn do they feel primal! And it’s only an occasional thing). No music. No distractions. Just me and my thoughts. I’d also love to get into bow hunting, but the finances aren’t there this year. Maybe next year. The other thing I… Read more »
Steve Johnston
Steve Johnston
1 month 6 days ago
Oh! I forgot to mention gardening!! Free food, relaxing, and you get to play in dirt! Last summer I pulled 75 pounds of tomatoes out of my garden ($300+ to buy that much at the store), which has become more tomato sauce than I can use in a year! I also got a years worth of chili peppers (now dried), enough beets for a big batch of borscht, several jars of pickled carrots, more potatoes than I know what to do with, 7 butternut squashes (one of which is STILL on my kitchen counter), and I’m still trying to figure… Read more »
1 month 6 days ago
I greatly enjoy this topic of the outdoors as an essential component of health. Having grown up on a farm I always loved being outside running with the animals, fishing, shooting hoops in the driveway and many years later I’m just now realizing it was simply being outside that was the common denominator in all of my childhood hobbies. This has compelled me lately to cultivate new outside hobbies like camping, hiking, surfing, and climbing. I even recently signed up for a wilderness survival class and got my hunting license. Can’t get enough of this topic. Perhaps a book is… Read more »
1 month 6 days ago

One word: Prancercise It doesn’t get any more wild than that–especially if you wear leopard shorts (and always to keep up your minimalism)

Elizabeth Resnick
1 month 6 days ago

Love this post! Best takeaway: Shake off the parts of civilization like “taking the safe path” or “doing what you’re told” and start thinking bigger, crazier.

Couldn’t agree more!

Cathy (Kate) Johnson
1 month 5 days ago
I resonated to that create vs. consume thing…I have started on a Depth Year, going deeper, not wider, meaning no more impulse buying but using and appreciating what I have already. I am buying the necessities, of course, food and meds, but other things will get a good hard look…and it’s cut both our consumption and our recycle bin contents by a great deal! And as to creating…I’m an artist and a maker. It’s what I do. For the past year it’s been Native American style flutes (in addition to the drums I make less frequently), from natural materials–bone, bamboo,… Read more »
1 month 4 days ago

There’s actually very good reasons to NOT take up a martial art, especially one like Jiu Jitsu . It is brutal on the body because there’s no way to actually practice it without having matches. it’s all about take downs and submission holds. I know a black belt and he is getting hurt on a regular basis. Everyone I know who participates in a martial art seems to be nursing an injury of some sort on a regular basis. Proceed with caution, especially if you’re over 40.