So now that we know a little about what made Cavemen so fit, it’s time to focus on ways we can incorporate these principles into modern life. You could go out and try to mimic the behaviors verbatim, but come on, that would look and feel a little silly, don’t you think? Instead, I’m going to share with you some easy and more ‘modern’ ways to get some exercise in. First off though, why do so many people fret about getting exercise? For many, I think it carries this connotation of “work”. Paleo exercise should be fun and engaging. It should have a lot of variety so you don’t get bored or burnt out. It does not require going to gyms, running around tracks, or using elliptical machines. It does require you to get up off your butt and make a little effort though. Keep in mind I’m not a trainer. I’m simply a moderately successful amateur athlete and a pretty healthy guy. What I’m going to share with you is solid anecdotal advice and I hope you find it useful for your situation.
Primal Law #3 Move Around A Lot at a Slow Pace
This seems pretty self explanatory, but just so we’re clear, it’s best to give a definition of “slow pace”. On the most basic of levels, if whatever you are doing is causing you difficulty to talk because you’re breathing too hard, it’s not a slow pace. On the most complicated of levels, it’s any exercise that keeps your heart rate below 80% max. Walking, even if a little brisk is a slow pace. Jogging is not (except in special circumstances, see below). Thomas Jefferson once said “Walking is the best possible exercise. Habituate yourself to walk very far.” The man knew what he was talking about. Plain, simple walking has many benefits and hardly any risks.
What else can you do for low level cardio exercises? Well, for starters, try upgrading to ‘hiking’. All I mean by this is ‘walking’ in natural settings. Get off the road and onto the trail. Find some hills or mountains. Take it a step further and try backpacking. Now you’re adding some ‘play’ and ‘lift heavy things’ into the equation. Ride a bike. This is my favorite, of course, I just have to be careful not to go too hard for too long (races excluded, obviously). Go canoeing or learn to row. Get a job that requires you to be on your feet a lot. Go skiing or snowshoeing in the winter. Swim softly. There are tons of things you can do to fulfill this fitness law.
Primal Law #3.5 Avoid Chronic Cardio
The Intro section summed up why Chronic Cardio can actually be impeding your progress to lose weight or gain fitness. As a competitive mountain biker, I myself am guilty of breaking this law. It’s especially tough on group rides when machismo and adrenalin overcome specified training goals. In races 6 hours or less there’s just no way I can abide by it, or else I wouldn’t be in a ‘race’. It’s alright to let it happen every now and then, just don’t let it become a habit or regiment, or else you will risk burnout of your adrenal and thyroid glands and accelerate aging.
*NOTE FOR ELITE ATHLETES* Some people actually do have the genetics and composition to exercise above the 80% threshold and not do any damage. Think of people like Lance Armstrong, Dean Karnazes, or Dave Scott. A moderate jog or bike ride for 2-3 hours is like a walk in the park for these guys. It is possible to be extra fit and straddle the line between aerobic and anaerobic. Don’t pretend to put yourself in this category if you know within that you aren’t. Stick with the Primal Laws of fitness and you’ll have all the benefits you need.
Primal Law #4 Lift Heavy Things
I’m not a big fan of gyms or exercise machines. I prefer to use freeweight objects such as rocks, trees, tires, or dumbbells to use for lifting. More than this though, I prefer simple bodyweight exercises. Pushups, pullups, dips, squats, lunges, etc. These exercises simulate natural body movements and skills needed in the wild anyways. They will develop functional strength, as opposed to ‘glamor’ strength. If done regularly though, you’ll still get nice muscle tone. When I’m in the mood to lift heavy things, I do it one of three ways. I just do it around the house in between tasks. 30 pushups here, 12 pullups there, maybe throw in some dips, whatever. If I’ve got time and want something a bit more intense but can’t make it to a park, I pull out one of the Program DVD’s in my arsenal and put in a good 30-60 minutes. Day 1 of the P90X program remains my all time favorite. Lastly, if I’m lucky enough to be out in the wild, I do what I call a bush workout. Ideally I’m some place that has a little of everything: topography, trees, rocks, and water. I can lift rocks, climb trees, practice leaping in rock/boulder gardens. The idea is to work everything, work it well, be creative, have fun, and enjoy being outside.
Primal Law #5 Sprint Once in a While
There are a lot of options for sprinting. If you’re an athlete, you are probably already familiar with ‘intervals’ .For runners, sprinting is as easy as it gets. Do 100-400 meter sprints all out. Just catch your breath in between sprints. For cyclist, you can either find long flat stretches of road and sprint at maximum effort for 1-2 minutes or find some steep hills that take a few minutes to crest. For swimmers, sprint a lap or two, recover, do it a few more times. it’s not rocket science, just focus on putting in maximal effort during these exercises. Sprinting only needs to be done once a week to be effective, but if you really enjoy sprinting you can do it 3-5 times a week.