Primal fitness does not have to be overwhelming. But it should be targeted in the sense that you are aware of what you are doing, how often you should be doing it, at what level of intensity, and what your own personal needs are. The basic premise behind primal fitness is: mobility, strength and high intensity.
Mobility can refer to many different aspects. It refer to general functionality of the body and ability to access the environment; the body’s range of motion in the joints; flexibility or length of the muscle; the ability to participate in differencing levels ion strength, fitness, and play type exercises; and general, physical daily behaviours to keep you from being sedentary to too long of a time.
Strength refers to the body’s ability to withstand a force on it. That force can be from pushing an object, pulling and object, or maintaining a static position. The primal adage of ‘lift heavy things’ can refer to objects in the environment, ones own body or weights. The all have their benefits and detractors.
High intensity refers to increasing the heart rate in short bursts of time. This can include cardio type fo exercises, with or without additional weight, strength exercises done quickly (and safely), with short intervals of rest in between them. Tabata, founded by tabata shows these result from his method1.
When we look back at the ancestral history of humans2, we see that humans lived an extremely active life up until more modern times. The hunter and gatherers evolved physically with the environment. A sedentary lifestyle of office work, couches and automobiles, contradicts our natural physical needs.
To increase mobility there are a three approaches I would like to look at. First, physically using the body as much as possible for daily movement. Next, stop cremating stationary during work. Then I’ll touch on specific functional mobility exercises. And finally: play.
Get rid of your car, couch, and stop using the elevator. I know! How possible is that? Is that even fair of me to make a statement such as this. I have been lucky enough to never had a need to own a car. I have always used public transit, biked (or rollerbladed) or lived centrally. A car may be essential for some. But is it essential? Bike riding is a powerful exercise. I recognize the draw backs- that you may become sweaty, you may not own a bike, and it may take too long to traverse the distance to were you are going. Some options for this: go slower as to not work up a sweat, find cheap bike on a community sale or auction group, listen to a podcast while biking (I recommend leaving one headphone out of an ear so you can stay audibly aware of your surroundings). If you get a gym membership close to your work, you could always tie in your early morning gym routine with a bike trip. That way you get a shower at the end of it.
Get off the couch. Sitting (being sedentary and static) is the new heart disease. Get on the floor to watch tv or read. You certainly used to as a kid. Act youthfully to stay youthfully. Get up and down from the floor without holding on to anything. Sit on the floor in yoga style stretch poses. Crawl along the floor to the next room! Silly? You won’t find this silly when you realize this helped protect you from a life of elder infirmity. Practice getting up from a seated position without the help of an object. Next level up, getting up with no hands! Another good adage here is: ‘Use it or lose it’.
In the office type workplace itself, you are often sedentary, without moving the majority of your body, for hours at a time. Here are some ways to include movement throughout your day. Get a movable standing desk. So you can change from sitting to standing positions. Do not eat at your desk. Make sure you have to travel to a lunch location. Take your breaks. Use the break to walk the stairs for your coffee. Do gentle stretches at the office. Sit on the floor (if it won’t get you in trouble). Bring some hand weights and do a few reps. Set up a pull up bar or drop for some push ups. Have your meetings standing, instead of sitting around a desk. Create a 15 minute break run group.
Functional exercises to include in your fitness routines are warm ups techniques, dynamic movements, stretching, animal locomotion, and play.
Warm up techniques are done to start circulating blood flow throughout the body, warm up the muscles to relax them, ascertain your current range of motion. For example, start with a light jog, jumping jacks or a cardio type movement. Arm circles, hip circle, wide leg toe to toe touches are some other good spinal flexion and rotations to include. Then you could also use a light weight rubber band for shoulder, joint, and back mobility. If you study yoga, the sun salutations are good warm ups.
Dynamic movements include combination style excises, like: squats with an overhead press, lunge walks, and side to side archer squats.
Animal locomotion3 refers to movements like animals in nature. There is a plethora of these types of movements and some people study just this as their type of fitness. You can also seems aspects of this in martial arts.
Flexibility can be a benefit to ones’ physical health. But it is more important to simply be aware of your range of motion, rather than trying to force yourself in pretzel like positions that may have no practical benefit. Physical yogasana has become extremely popular and it has many benefits. But instead of trying to emulate others that you may see on magazine covers, use stretching as a way to develop joint range and muscle awareness.
Physical play is essential for well being, not just of the physical body, but also of the mind and the spirit4. Play covers a broad range of topics, so we’ll cover this in more detail in another blog post. But with play, always make sure to warm up first. Whether it be group sports, dance, or animal locomotion, whatever you consider play to be, it can cause your body to behave in an uncontrolled way. When you get caught up having fun, it’s easy to lose focus for a moment of your body in space. That’s when injuries can occur. Try as you might to be as fit as you can be, injury can still happened at any age. Play is a component of the primal fitness for the reasons above, just make sure you’re doing it safely.
Strength based fitness is reliant on these four types of movements: squats, pushes, pulls and plank (core stability). Of course, these are a many different types of these exercise, either modification to make them more accessible or variations to make them more challenging and to shake up to monotony from doing the same type of exercise repeatedly. Plus, when you do the same type of exercise repeatedly, you muscle habituate to the action and can stop reaching the benefits.
Strength training lies under the adage of lift heavy things. You want to apply pressure to your muscle and skeletal system. For your muscles, creating minute tears in the muscle fabric results in muscle growth. A primal diet is adequate in protein to ensure that the muscle aren’t starved. And the skeletal system develops bone density from the application of pressure.
Strength training only needs to be done three times per week or so. Depending on your strength level and fitness goals. For those looking to build muscle and increase strength, there are specific routines to follow.
High intensity interval training refers to increasing the heart rate to maximum amounts on the shortness amount of time, then maintaining that exertion. Tabata style exercises and sprinting are samples of this. These types of exercises only need to be down around once per week or two.
There are many different types of physical fitness you can perform. As long as you are adding in mobility options on a day to day basis, strength training several times per week, high intensity once a week or so, and copious amounts of play, you should be able to maintain physical well being throughout your life.