Ultimate Frisbee

Mark Sisson Playing Ultimate FrisbeeA common mistake people make when completely overhauling their lifestyle is excessive earnestness, none more culpable than the recently converted Primal Blueprint enthusiast. You know it’s true, at least at first. You read about the monumental implications of eating and living the way our Primal ancestors did, see a few before-and-after photos of people on the Primal plan, think about how you could eat all the (good) fat, meat, eggs, and nuts you want if you adopted it, and suddenly you’re cleaning out your fridge and tossing all the pasta, rice, and beans in your cupboards – and you’re doing so with the single-mindedness of a zealot. You roll your eyes at your friends and their bagels; you scoff at the top-heavy frat boy doing a dozen sets of inverted bicep curls at your gym; and you offer passing joggers tips on high intensity beach sprints. But despite your unbridled enthusiasm, something is wrong. You’re so focused on getting “in tune” with your Primal past that it becomes work – just another issue to worry about. And a big goal of the Primal Blueprint is getting away from the trappings and stresses of modern life. When our relationship with our Primal ancestors gets distilled into just a diet and exercise regimen, we’ve lost sight of that ultimate goal. By all means, pay attention to what you’re eating and how you’re exercising. Just don’t forget that the Primal Blueprint is intended to improve your life, not burden it.

A tenet of the PB that doesn’t get, but certainly deserves, a whole lot of attention is the importance of play. Remember when you were a kid and a friend would knock on the door? The question wasn’t “Can Mark come out and engage in some spontaneous freeform cooperative exercises?” It was “Can Mark come out and play?” Play. Everyone loves it. Animals play in the wild. Monkeys frolic in the trees. Dolphins employ at least 317 distinct forms of play with one another. Otters use makeshift water slides. Even children will play outside (if you unplug the Xbox or Playstation). And playing isn’t worthwhile simply for the fun factor (although that’s reason enough to engage in it) – as I’ve said before, playing is about the release of endorphins, the solidification of social bonds, and the mitigation of daily stresses. Most forms of play also provide a spontaneity that even the most freeform exercises can’t quite replicate. Try playing a vigorous game of freeze tag (but be prepared to look absolutely insane to passers-by) and you’ll be surprised at how sore you can get. Or, better yet, play one of my favorites: Ultimate Frisbee.

Ultimate Frisbee

You heard me right. Ultimate Frisbee – AKA Ultimate. No longer solely the realm of cargo short wearing ex-hackysackers nursing a weed hangover, Ultimate is actually a fairly widespread and legitimate sport that fits in perfectly with any Primal regimen.

Ultimate plays very similarly to rugby or football. The field has two end zones, and a team scores by catching a pass in the defensive team’s end zone. The defending team performs a “pull” (think “kickoff” in football) to start the match (and after every subsequent point scored). The offense moves the disc by passing to teammates in any direction. Once a player catches the disc, he must come to a stop as quickly as possible. From this position, he can only move his non-pivot foot. A player has ten seconds to throw the disc after catching it.

The disc changes hands either by turnover or after a score. A turnover occurs when a pass is not completed, intercepted, dropped, blocked, held for longer than the allotted ten seconds, or thrown out of bounds. The defending team assumes control of the disc immediately following a turnover, from wherever the disc lands on the field. There is no stoppage of play (unless a foul, injury or bad weather occurs).

Ultimate Frisbee Field

Ultimate is very Primal friendly. First off, you’re out there running, leaping, twisting, grabbing, throwing, and bumping into other players. You use practically every muscle in the body (if you’re not, you’re doing it wrong) and, rather than long protracted runs, you engage in short bursts of speed and activity punctuated by walking and brief jogging (almost like you’re on the hunt). Not only does it take keen, quick thinking, remarkable agility and throwing accuracy, and raw athleticism, but it also promotes good teamwork and sportsmanship. In fact, Ultimate has an official “Spirit of the Game” (SOTG), a sort of mission statement that stresses sportsmanship and honor. Highly competitive play is condoned, but not at the cost of general camaraderie. Taunting, intentional fouling, and a “win-by-any-means-necessary” approach to the game are generally frowned upon. When you’re playing Ultimate, you’re out there to have a good time and get some exercise, not crush the opposing team (although that can often be a side benefit).

Ultimate Frisbee Foul

It’s this SOTG that really drew me to Ultimate. More than any other sport, playing Ultimate invokes that sense of community and social play that I imagine characterized Grok’s world. When you play Ultimate, you’re working together as a team. You must work as a team. Basketball, football, baseball are all team sports, but they’re all typified by an individualistic attitude (at least at the professional level in the United States). A single player can take over a basketball court and rarely pass to teammates, and his team might still win; in Ultimate, there are standout players, but you simply can’t go it alone, or you’ll never get past the first pass. I somehow think Grok and his community would have loved Ultimate. Sure, they had individual displays of prowess (wrestling, races, dueling), but their individual existences were tied to the success of the collective, and a sport like Ultimate (or something like it – maybe Ultimate Rock or Ultimate Enemy Tribesman’s Skull) would have fortified those bonds.

Or maybe I’m just making fanciful conjectures. Either way, it’s pretty obvious what a positive effect Ultimate has had on me, and I urge you to look into it (if not for historical accuracy, at least in the spirit of Primal pragmatism). Try the World Flying Disc Federation or the Ultimate Players’ Association for more information on rules and leagues.

Of course, you could always just get a disc and a bunch of friends together, head down to the beach or local public field and draw some lines in the sand/grass. Follow the official rules to a tee or fashion your own; the important thing is getting outside in the sun with friends and working up a sweat.

Phish records optional.

Thanks to Eric Cotsen for the photo of me playing Ultimate.

kejadien Flickr Photo (CC)

Further Reading:

The Prison Workout

10 Ways to “Get Primal”

Intro to CrossFit


The Sandbag Workout

Build Your Own Slosh Tube

Kettlebellin’ for Strength

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.

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40 thoughts on “Ultimate Frisbee”

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  1. Love the game, hate the name. Is there any other sport that needs to declare its value within its name? Or for that matter, what other good sport uses an adjective? If we renamed football “awesome football” wouldn’t that actually make it a little less awesome? Let’s call it Field Frisbee, eh?

    1. As a person that reads comics, I’ve been bothered by the name Ultimate, as well. If someone were to say to me that they liked “Ultimate”, my response would be “Ultimate what?” There’s Ultimate Spider-Man,Ultimate Avengers and outside of comics there’s Ultimate Frisbee & the Ultimate Warrior. I understand that Frisbee is a trademark and that’s why they don’t call it Ultimate Frisbee, but there is this to consider:
      Trademarks that are originally distinctive can sometimes become generic over time, thereby legally losing their trademark protection. A word will be considered generic when, in the minds of the public, the word denotes a broad type of product and not a specific manufacturer. For example, “thermos” has become a generic term and is no longer entitled to trademark protection. Also, “aspirin”, “cellophane”, “shredded wheat” and “corn flakes” have also lost their trademark protection. Others that could very well lose their protection: “Kleenex”, “Band-Aid” and “Rollerblade”, although Rollerblade came out in the era of political correctness, so all the little PC freaks stopped using Rollerblade and started calling them “in-line skates”, so they may end up not losing their protection after all.

  2. Hey, Hipster, I’m….hip…to what you are saying. But as they say in New Yawk, “It is what it is.” BTW, many of my friends still try to call it Frisbee football (which it ain’t).

  3. Lol. Suprisingly Mark, my post just yesterday was on how much fun playing a game of tag is! I agree that some people have a major issue with trying too hard or making it too much work trying to stick to something too by the book. A “paralysis by analisis” if you will. That is something I have to work very hard not to do. Maybe I should get out for a game of Ultimate Frisbee here soon.. that is if it stops snowing.

    The SoG

  4. SoG, we play in the snow in February in Aspen (at 8,000+ feet altitude). Maybe THAT’S closer to earning the name Ultimate?

    1. Hey Mark,
      Will you be playing Ultimate in Aspen this winter? I’ll be living in Snowmass and I would climb a mountain in a blizzard to play a good game of Ultimate. Let me know who to get in touch with if you won’t be around. Gotta get that Ultimate fix…

      1. @Jon. RE:Ultimate in Aspen. If I’m there, I’m likely playing. Check in with the cat’s at Pinons to see when we’re in town.

  5. we did this a lot in college actually … especially during midterms/finals when we really just needed a break from the library and the books. just popped outside and starting playing. it was the perfect stress relief.

  6. Well said.

    I’m not a fan of ultimate (can’t throw or catch to save my life) but I very much agree with the point you make about playing.

    Most of my interests lay somewhere between “hobby” and “pursuit”. Every one in awhile, I need to remind myself that I’m doing them because I enjoy them and that they’re not a job.

  7. yay! Love for my favorite sport.

    Regarding the name, yeah it’s annoying, but they can’t legally use the name “Frisbee” because it’s trademarked. 🙁 Some people in the community want to call it flatball, which is pretty hilarious but not really any more conducive to it being taken seriously.

    When I played back in high school we only used two “lines” for the front of the endzones… it makes for some interesting strategy when there is no out-of-bounds.

    In college I was on a fairly competitive team, and we had very rigid strategy which sometimes led me to entirely lose the original sense of “play” that I fell in love with. On the other hand, I do enjoy letting my competitive side out though. I have a good mix now, I play competitively through the summer and fall, and then play on a rec league team in the winter.

  8. Another “sport” worth checking out is “Hashing” – a club that combines running and socializing. Warning however – many hash clubs drink excessive amounts beer, but most clubs do not require you to drink. There can also be an amount of debauchery that is more than you might appreciate.

    However, the runs, or “hashes,” are very creative. Just last night, I ran 6 miles that included back alleys, stairs, mountain trails, and about a quarter mile under ground in a large storm drain. At each hash, a different hasher sets the trail. You never know what you are going to get. The actual pace will vary quite a bit depend on what obstacle you are trying to get past.

    There are Hash House Harrier chapters in almost every major city. Try the different chapters in your area. Each club is different. Some focus more on trails. Some focus more on drinking. You most likely want to find one that focuses on trails. You find yourself in places in your own town that you never imagined.

    At the end of each hash is a ceremony where the hashers regale in stories of the trail and drink and sing songs. Some hashers skip this part or leave early to avoid the drinking.

    Most importantly, bring a sense of humor. If you don’t have one, it is probably best to stay away. On, on.


  9. Good points all around. Better ultimate than flatball or frisbee football. And come to think of it, there is another sport that uses the exact same adjective: Ultimate Fighting.

  10. The first paragraph is a good eye opener… adopting a frame of mind that mirrors “the single-mindedness of a zealot…” can really happen if you’re not careful and you get too into eating healthy. Sometimes I’ll write about a topic for a week and then find myself picking fights with my friends about it. I’m gonna make a concerted effort to adopt a more SOTG attitude towards things.

    Thanks Mark!

    All the Best,

    Andrew R

  11. “nursing a weed hangover…”

    This comment makes me question the rest of your wisdom. As a wise Tim Meadows once said, “There is no hangover!”

    Regarding the rest of the article, I’m not sure I’m out of that “zealot” mindset right now, but I’m sure I’ll stop scoffing at my roommate’s morning bagel eventually.

  12. I’m mainly speaking from personal experience 😉

    Also, existential question for stoner health nuts: is weed primal? Did Grok enjoy getting dazed and confused?

  13. Hi Mark,
    Your readers can check out the raw athleticism and skill of the highest levels of ultimate here:

    and watch a whole game at the highest levels here:
    part 1 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2qEgGgAIGNs&feature=related
    part 2 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tyHi2-8ZWnk
    Part 3 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ft2xYagC7as&feature=related

    I personally love ultimate so much because it is just plain funner than any other activity.
    How many things can one do with a football and how many times does anyone actually get to do something cool playing football? Few.

    How many things can one do with a Frisbee and how many times does anyone actually get to do something cool playing ultimate? Infinite and always.

    Thanks for the good publicity,
    Stephen Hubbard
    UCSD Ultimate

  14. I like the reminder that we are meant to do this stuff because it’s fun and we want to, not because we have to .. I guess the trick is figuring out how to make a primal lifestyle a natural, everyday happenstance, rather than another ‘must-do’ on our already full list. BUt it seems that in order to get there we must first create that habit, which would require .. hmm .. adding it to our list! I guess that’s why reading good blogs makes things that much easier 🙂

  15. To echo the above sentiment – weed does not make an individual ‘hung over.’ And if it did, that would assuredly not be when an individual would engage in Ultimate Frisbee. They would do it while they were still high!

  16. Please please please no shots sans yr shirt on(aside from on the Mark Sisson X rated site) as it makes you ‘look’ like Arse De Vany vis self aggrandizement and ‘the look at me i’m wonderful’ type of bloggers.

    That said seasonal greetings to you and Clan and thanks very very much for such a varied and eclectic content of blog oer the year.

  17. Ummm…soccer? Just as intense and team-oriented, fewer restrictive rules like only moving your pivot foot. Something tells me Grok wasn’t too into rules.

  18. Ed, in fact we played a family-oriented pick-up game of soccer at that ULTIMATE (see, Jacob?) field every week for six years. It’s how my kids got to be such great soccer players. Alas, I couldn’t find enough adults to join in the fun. Seems more guys can fake throwing and catching a disc than bending it like Beckham, so we evolved to ULTIMATE every Sunday. But my kids still play on soccer teams and I love to watch a good match. It’s a great Primal sport.

  19. Mark,

    Sounds good…haha my main opposition to ULTIMATE is the fact that I can’t throw a disc to save my life.

  20. Mark.. I’m honestly ecstatic that you posted this. I’ve an avid Ultimate Frisbee player.. i’ve been playing since I was 13 years old (thanks to my stepfather who started the team at pace university). I started an Ultimate program and I currently play at Oneonta State University in NY.

    I recently stumbled on your website and have since been amazed with the community you have put together here. Currently, I am in Krasnoyarsk, Russia studying for 3 months in my native language.

    Before I arrived in Krasnoyarsk, I didn’t take my body or my mind seriously enough; I have always been the one to procrastinate or play enough video games to be satisfied with that B even though I am fully capable of an A. I was granted enough genetic gift to understand most concepts thrown in my direction, yet my lack of concern for myself and my surroundings has been a serious hinderence in the past.

    Since I’ve been here in Krasnoyarsk (1 month 1/2) I’ve completely changed myself. I workout and run pretty much everyday, and since reading your website, have realized what I should / should not eat. This trip has done the best for me, especially my awareness.

    I’d love to keep going, but I think my word space is running out. Anyway, I love the fact that you posted this about Ultimate Frisbee because its the best sport in the world.. hands down (and up if you’re in cup on D). If you are ever in NY, please let me know i’d love to toss.

  21. Hi Mark,

    The World Ultimate Club Championships are currently taking place in Prague, Czech Republic. This week long tournament encompasses the best teams from around the world in Mens, Womens, Coed, and Masters (age 33+) divisions. Here’s a link to the site – has some good photos and videos with great Ultimate! I encourage anyone interested in the sport to check it out! https://wucc2010.com/

  22. I liked the identification of theism with practical considerations, Mark; a breakthrough in religious belief will occur when it is generally accepted that “God” is a personification of “good”.

  23. From a link in the comments, found a local pickup Ultimate game. My 16 year old son joined me. Played over two hours. Oh so sore. Ice on my shoulder and knees as I post this. Probably overdid it, and probably too soon after my December shoulder surgery, but we had an absolute blast. Will definitely be doing this again (assuming I recover from this outing). Highly recommend it.

  24. Hi Mark,

    Thanks for the post and links to the World Flying Disc Revelation and Ultimate Players Assoc. I have a 12 year old boy who is leaving club soccer and is in love with Ultimate Frisbee which he was introduced to in middle school this year. We’re in Boulder County and I’m looking for options for him to play so I’ll check the ones you gave. (You probably wouldn’t remember, but I’m the Jill that was living with Andrew (Mac) during the Triathletes for Kids days. Michelle got me to your website last year and now taking your vitamins). Thank you for the knowledge and info you give to your followers!

  25. what is the recommended times a week of play? I sprint once a week, lift twice a week, walk (normal pace for 20 mins a day) six times a week. Should i play once or twice a week, do you think that is enough?

  26. Hey this is a Ultimate Frisbee startup company that I am currently working for https://taigaultimate.com/ we made custom uniforms for Ultimate Frisbee teams. Everything is done online you can upload your logo and we will have it printed in your uniforms for you. You can choose the color of the uniform the font for the number and the name of each player and the style of the uniform. Everything is done through our customizer tool. The uniforms are from a very high quality using Dye sublimation which means the logo and prints are parts of the shirts like if were parts of the fabric. Need cool uniforms for your ultimate frisbee team? come and visit us.