Primal Fitness: practical, sustainable, and holistic

IMG_1649In today’s media and sales you often hear about the latest fad exercise video or get “abs” quick item. The majority of these center around intense workouts that are often designed to destroy you and leave you exhausted. The goal is often to make the workout so hard you have to be burning fat, right? The other fitness advice you often see is “start running” because everyone knows you lose weight running. Both of the approaches may work to some extent in the short term, but they fail to set you up for long-term health and can actually have a negative impact on those long-term goals.

I fell into all of these traps early on in my fitness journey. I ran a lot – I mean a lot! Here is the crazy thing, I hate running! I ran because that is what your “supposed to do”. Then on days that I did not run I did high intensity workouts in the gym. The upside is I lost weight, the downside is I also lost a lot of muscle. I was the skinniest I had every been in my life. I went from overweight to “You lost so much weight. Are you feeling OK?” Not exactly the response I was hoping for. I realized that although I could run a marathon, I had really not reached my own fitness goals and was actually far from it. I had lost all the muscle that I had put on through my youth playing hockey and my time in the army. That is when I realized I needed to re-asses my approach.

At that time I started to lift heavy – I mean REALLY heavy. Strength training was everything – low reps, heavy sets, no intense cardio. After a few years of this I had some blood work and genetic testing done and found out that I had chronic inflammation. The lack of proper recovery and the years of over training had all started to add up. The little aches and pains would not go away, I started to gain weight, my sleep was suffering, it was a perfect storm heading towards a major crash.

This when I got a fitness coach. Even though I understood what I need to do and what would have the best impact, I needed a coach to make sure I would follow a program that would make the most sense for my goals and help keep me on track for long term health. I am grateful for the time I spent with my coach.

These days my fitness routine centers around being practical, sustainable, and holistic in my approach. I still lift heavy, I still do cardio, and I take recovery a lot more seriously. Through the Primal Blueprint I have found a program that works bests for me. Sure I have made some adjustments to fit my lifestyle, but the base is still there and is the foundation of all my workouts.

With the Primal Blueprint I follow three basic rules: move frequently at a slow pace, lift heavy objects regularly, and perform occasional all-out sprints. This functional full body training has done amazing things for me. Sure, I still have work to do to hit my fitness goals, but I can lift heavy without pain, I can run when I want to (although I still hate running), and I feel fantastic.

Finding your fitness does not have to be painful, it does not have to be a grind day after day, it does not have to be a chore to accomplish. Following the 3 simple rules from Primal Blueprint will make accomplishing your fitness goals practical, sustainable, and holistic which will help you have a major impact on your overall health.

The Primal Blueprint Fitness Pyramid gives us a breakdown of these rules.

PB-Fitness-Pyramid-2016update-7.20.16-b

The base of your fitness is all about movement. Rule #1 – move frequently! This means go for walks. I include movement everyday through morning hikes with my dogs. This provides a way for me to get outside in the morning and get my heart rate going. This is also a great way to warm up for other more intense activities and for recovering from more intense activities. Moving more is fundamental to your overall health and is critical to include in any fitness goals. The best thing you can do for your fitness is to get outside and go for walk every day.

The next focus is strength training. Rule #2 – Lift Heavy Things. I still really enjoy a great strength building workout. For me this means 3 times a week I lift heavy. My workouts all breakdown into push (like an overhead press), pull (such as barbell row or pull up), squat, and hinge (deadlift). The starting recommendation for this is to look at hitting 2 strength workouts a week. A strength workout is very specific to the individual and personal preference. These can be bodyweight workouts, group training sessions (such as Crossfit), free weights, barbells, kettlebells, etc.. The key is to pick something that you will stick with. Sustainability in strength training is key for long-term success.

The final focus on the Primal Blueprint is intense all out burns. Rule #3 – Sprint. These are short bursts of intense movement. Brief, all-out sprints are the most effective when trying to optimize hormone balance, stimulate lean muscle development, and accelerate fat metabolism. If your stuck or in a plateau with your body composition then add in some sprints to bust through it. Sprints take many forms. What I tend to focus on is running sprints, sled drags, speed jump rope, high rep kettlebell swings, and hill sprints (when I can). Warning – this is where most people over train. They go to long with the sprints or add them in their routine too often. When sprints are done right, then you should really look to do them every 7-10 days.

The above is for general overall fitness. There will be times when you have a specific goal you need to train in specific way. An example of this is a marathon or a competitive weightlifting competition. In cases as these it is best to get a coach that specializes in that activity to enable you to fully reach those specific goals. However, when your goal is overall long-term health that is practical, sustainable, and with a holistic approach then you can not go wrong with the Primal Blueprint Fitness Pyramid.

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