Primal Exercise for Men's Fitness

Primal Exercise for Men's Fitness

Hi folks, Paul here from I wanted to provide a few perspectives on a specific branch of exercise and fitness science called "Primal Exercise". First, a bit of context.

I was active in sports growing up, but specialized in competitive swimming in high school. I took that competitive spirit and discipline into many other areas of my professional and personal life. During college I spent much of my active time weight lifting, running, rollerblading, and playing other team sports. But after I entered the work force and began eating out at lunch every day and spending more sedentary time at my desk and sleeping less, I began noticing changes, not the kind of changes that I was happy about, in my physique as well as my energy level.

I started running, hitting the pavement multiple times per week, and always pushing myself to go harder and further. I ran to explore new neighborhoods, new cities when I traveled. I had my circuit in Central Park (NYC), in Boston, in the mid-Penninsula Bay Area, and many other locations. At first, the pounds came off. But then I hit a plateau. My weight fluctuated as did my performance.

I came across Mark Sisson's book "The Primal Blueprint" back in 2012. One of the key facets is that less can actually be more. The idea of "chronic cardio" is something that Mark talks about - and this is something to be avoided. In a nutshell, your body needs recovery time, and this is as important as the exercise itself.

Primal exercise consists of three main areas. The first focus is on doing more low intensity movement throughout the day - walking is a good example of this. This is your foundation. Try to take breaks at work if you are in a sedentary job, do 1:1 meetings or calls "from the road". Incorporate walking into your daily routine multiple times per day.

The second is lifting heavy things - try to stress your muscles about twice per week. Try to do 8-10 reps of a given exercise, where you are pushing yourself by the 8th rep. Go slowly, taking 4 seconds in each direction of the rep. Allow plenty of recovery time between these workouts - I like a minimum of 3 days of recover for your muscles to rebuild. Try to increase the weights slowly, over time, so that you are seeing improvements in your physique and building strength. There is no need to do multiple sets, and you can complete a workout across a range of muscle groups in as little as 30 minutes.

The third is running really fast once in a while. I like to think of this as a supercharged form of high-interval intensity training (HIIT). You don't need to run, but can do this on a treadmill or any other equipment that allows you to go really fast. The idea is to take 15-30 seconds max to conduct the all out sprint, then take a good 2-3 minutes between sets so that your heart rate goes back to a low level, then repeat this 6-10 times. I like to do this exercise in a field once per week, when my body is up for it. I also run barefoot or with Vibram shoes (I hope to carry these soon), to intensify the sprint.

Chronic cardio refers to long distance running and other aerobic activities where you are pushing yourself over extended periods. There is a place for this, but it is critically important to monitor your heart rate and not repeat this on a regular basis without recovery time. Doing so will cause your body to manufacture cortisol, which is the stress hormone, and releasing it into your blood stream will do damage to your metabolic system. A good rule of thumb for long distance training is to never exceed 180 beats per minute minus your age for extended periods. This will feel like you are not really doing much, but is a way of training for longer distance routines without stressing your body out.

This regimen has worked for me for many years, and I intend to continue following my routine as it keeps working for me and keeps me feeling young, rejuvinated, well rested, and engaged. I hope you will try out something similar and making the routing yours. Best of luck and please leave a comment. Paul


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