Friday, March 18, 2011

Go Back to Your Roots...Get Primal!

I recently read (and now I'm re-reading) The Primal Blueprint by Mark Sisson. I came across the book when I started noticing that a bunch of the fitness blogs that I read made regular references to it and to Mark's blog called Mark's Daily Apple. I strongly encourage anyone interested in health, fitness and clean diet to check out both the book and the blog.

Mark is an incredible guy who seems to spend most of his life either writing great fitness-related content or running shirtless around the beaches of sunny Southern California showing of his ripped abs and his frisbee skills. A former elite marathon runner and triathlete, Mark is now in his 50s and freely shares all the wisdom that he's gathered through years of serious training. The best part is that all his "serious" training has convinced him that we need to relax a whole lot more and enjoy the carefree fun of an active lifestyle without the pressure of stressful goals to lift x amount, run x minutes per mile, or weigh x amount. I'm totally on board with that!

The Primal Lifestyle

The lifestyle that Mark professes in his book and blog is one that is based on matching our habits to those of our primal ancestors. The theory goes that we share the same genetic structure of paleolithic humans, therefore what kept them strong, lean and healthy should do the same for we modern mortals. Now, I'm not saying you take this to the extreme and sell your home for a clean, well-lighted cave in the wild, but we all could stand to toss out all our processed foods, get out in the sun and fresh air more and run barefoot through the grass laughing with our kids. Who could argue with that?

A primal lifestyle incorporates a diet that is stripped of all grains and other processed foods. That means that your meals are mainly comprised of lots of colorful organic vegetables, tasty organic/grass-fed meats, sweet fresh organic fruits and berries, and various nuts and seeds. The macronutrient content of your diet shifts from the carbo-loaded SAD (Standard American Diet) way of eating to an insulin-reducing balance of protein and carbs (mainly from fruit and vegetables) with a good dose of healthy fats that your body will learn to burn like mad to fuel your primal activities.

Primal fitness emphasizes lots of low-level cardio (walking, hiking, casual biking), a few short resistance workouts each week, and at least one or two sprinting sessions that shift your body into fat-burning mode by promoting the production of hormones like Human Growth Hormone (HGH) and adrenaline while reducing the production of other hormones like cortisol and insulin. This shift in exercise mindset is one that has really brightened up my life. In the past, I've spent hours logging miles in the backroads around my home either running or cycling. While I enjoyed the training, I always found that I was stealing away valuable weekend hours that I could have spent with my family and friends. Now, I can finally include them in my workouts by incorporating nice, long walks and hikes with my wife and daughter and family bike rides between my much shorter, more strenuous sessions. (Actually, my daughter Sonia loves to race me when I do sprints! There must something very amusing to her about seeing her 200-pound, "old" dad running like a mad man with his funny barefoot shoes on.)

Beyond the diet and fitness components, the primal lifestyle encourages us to slow down and find more enjoyment in every day. By reducing our dependence on digital entertainment for example, we can sleep better, have more quality time with our loved ones, see more sunlight and breath more fresh air. Adding all these elements together creates a lifestyle that is truly harmonious with the world that surrounds us and the genes that we are made of.

I'm enjoying the lifestyle shift and I think that Anita and Sonia are feeling it too. We eat almost all our meals at home now...together. Sonia has become a HUGE meat lover. We go to bed earlier. We nap. We take long weekend walks at the reservoir near our home and we plan on spending lots of time at the beach in the coming summer months. We laugh...often. We play. I think this is a lifestyle that fits us well and I hope that we can continue to enjoy every day we share together while eating well, being active and living simply.

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