plankWhen you ask most people what it takes to be fit, you get some pretty wild answers. Hours on the treadmill or pounding pavement every day. Hours in the weight room. Obsessing over how to turn every moment of the day into an opportunity for some kind of workout move.

I never liked what I heard, and after many decades of overtraining, I decided it was time to come up with a sane alternative—Primal Blueprint Fitness as I’ve called it over the years. It boils down to three logical steps all rooted in ancestral patterns people lived for hundreds of thousands of years:

All told, it’s a handful of hours a week, most of it moving frequently. In addition to those 4-5 hours a week of walking or other light movement, throw in an hour’s worth of strength training and 15 minutes of sprint time. There you go. Do that, and you’ll be in darn good shape.

I’ve written over the years about ideas for moving frequentlywalking, hiking, and various ways to keep your walking routines interesting. But it’s not just about walking. Moving frequently can mean a lot of things after all.

Today I’m sharing a whole host of video how-tos and routines that touch on all of those three Primal Fitness Laws—but especially #4 and #5. Sit back, watch the ones that speak to you, and see how they’ll shake up how you’re working out….

First off, let’s review the Primal Essential Movements:

The 4 Primal Essential Movements

Pull-Up

Push-Up

Squat

Plank

For those who have these moves down and want to step up the effort, variations are one tool.

Advanced Variations On Basic Moves

One-Leg Push-Ups

Dead Stop Push-Ups

Now let’s move on to resistance training workouts.

Lifting Heavy Things

My Favorite Way To Lift Heavy Things

Deadlift

That brings us to Primal Law #5: Sprint Once In a While….

Sprinting How-Tos

My Sprinting Workout

Running Form Primer

Now that you’ve got the basics, let’s move on to quick workouts you can do anywhere.

Quick Workouts

Microworkouts

On the Road Warrior Workout

More About My Personal Routine

How My Routine Has Changed

My Take On “Ab” Workouts

How I Rest: Matters for Ancestral Fitness

My Favorite Way To Play… After All These Years

Thanks for stopping in, everybody. Have thoughts or questions about any of the above moves or routines—or anything fitness related? Shoot me a line below. Have a great week.

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The post Video Roundup: The Moves, Routines and Know-How You Need For Ultimate Primal Fitness appeared first on Mark’s Daily Apple.

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As we covered in Parts I and II of this series, during perimenopause and menopause women can experience a complex web of physical, psychological, and social symptoms.

The treatment usually prescribed by doctors, hormone therapy (HT), is controversial and not appropriate for some women. I won’t get into the HT debate here—Mark did a great job covering the pros and cons recently. Suffice it to say that HT isn’t the answer for everyone, and it’s not a panacea by any means.

Whether or not they choose to go the HT route, many women desire additional support during perimenopause and beyond. For the sake of keeping this post from becoming a novella, I’m going to focus on mind-body therapies today.

This is not meant to be an exhaustive list of nonhormonal options, nor is it meant to try to dissuade you from trying HT. That’s a decision you have to make for yourself with your doctor. The approaches below can be used alone or in combination with other modalities, including HT.

As with any medical-adjacent tools, if you are considering any of the options here, take the time to educate yourself, talk to your doctor, and find qualified practitioners to help you implement these practices.

A Note Regarding Research Evidence…

Because so many women are interested in complementary or alternative approaches, there’s a fair amount of research into nonhormonal treatments. There are also important limitations.

A lot of the randomized control trials—experiments that are best for establishing causal effects—are small. There is considerable variability in research design, so it’s difficult to generalize across studies.

Participants in these studies tend to be white and well-educated. Since there are cross-cultural differences in the experience of menopause, we shouldn’t assume that the findings apply to all women. Likewise, a lot of the research focuses on women with a history of breast cancer because HT is generally contraindicated in this population. While the results of these studies probably generalize to other women, it would be great to have more data.

Finally, vasomotor symptoms—hot flushes and night sweats—are studied more than other types of symptoms. Though they are the most common complaint, many women do not experience debilitating vasomotor symptoms. They might, however, experience mood fluctuations, depression, sexual issues, memory problems, and more. We know less about how these approaches might help those women.

Nevertheless, I’ll highlight some of the potentially fruitful avenues you might explore. When possible, I’ll focus on systematic reviews and meta-analyses. They pool the results of multiple smaller studies to help a more reliable picture emerge.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)

In CBT, individuals are encouraged to explore how their thoughts (cognitions) affect feelings, behaviors, and physical symptoms. With help, they change their thoughts or beliefs about a situation to help manage their responses and improve coping skills.

Although there isn’t a ton of research on CBT for menopause, available studies are very promising. Whether or not CBT reduces the actual number of hot flushes—and the data here are mixed—CBT should work by changing women’s perceptions of their hot flushes. Multiple studies do find that after CBT women view their hot flushes as interfering less with daily life. As expected, they are also less bothered by them.

Women who see themselves as having less control over their hot flushes also tend to experience more distress. Changing their perceived control could be an effective intervention for improving quality of life. Indeed, in one study, 95 women received either group-based or self-help CBT. After therapy they reported feeling greater control over hot flushes and having better coping skills compared to women in a no-CBT control condition. Further analyses showed that women’s beliefs about control and coping predicted how problematic they found their hot flushes to be. (Having more positive beliefs about how hot flushes affect sleep also helped.)

Women who participated in CBT also experienced fewer sleep issues and insomnia as well as fewer depressive symptoms and sexual concerns.  They also noticed less impairment at work. Positive results were found with in-person therapy, self-help programs, and telephone-based therapy. When studies included a follow-up assessment, the beneficial effects of CBT persisted for at least six months.

Mindfulness, Meditation and Relaxation Training

A cross-sectional study of 1744 women found that women with higher scores on a mindfulness assessment tended to report less severe menopausal symptoms. For women with higher life stress, this association was especially strong. The idea here is that when women are able to be present-focused and observe their symptoms without judgment, they are protected against some of the distress, and possibly the physical symptoms, associated with menopause.

Although some of the women in that survey are probably mindful by nature—lucky them—mindfulness is also a skill that can be learned and cultivated. Among the many reasons to do so, mindfulness and meditation training can apparently lessen menopausal symptoms.

For example, researchers assigned 110 women to either an intensive eight-week mindfulness-based stress reduction program or a control group. The women who received mindfulness training reported having less bothersome hot flushes, better sleep quality, less anxiety and stress, and greater overall quality of life compared to the control group. When the researchers followed participants over the next 11 weeks, these results persisted or became even stronger.

A few other studies found that women who receive mindfulness or meditation training report fewer and less bothersome hot flushes, improved sleep, and better psychological functioning, though the results have not consistently endured over time. However, when looking at more general relaxation training and paced breathing techniques, effects are minimal, at least for hot flushes.

Yoga

An ethnographic study of nine female yogi masters concluded that they tend to skate fairly easily through menopause. The authors concluded that menopausal women should be encouraged to practice yoga. Of course, in addition to yoga, these yogi masters’ lifestyles included “healthy food habits, adequate sleep, and the use of nature cure techniques (i.e., fasting, detoxification, selection of suitable food products, and living in well-ventilated houses) that facilitated the art of living in tune with nature.” This sounds pretty great, but can we give really yoga all the credit here?

Probably not. However, two recent meta-analyses did conclude that yoga offers small but significant relief from symptoms of all types: vasomotor, psychological (including depression), somatic (including fatigue and sleep disturbances), and urogenital. Women also report better overall well-being and quality of life after receiving yoga training.

In one study, a group of breast cancer survivors received twelve weeks of yoga and meditation instruction, and they were encouraged to practice daily at home. Compared to women in a control group (no instruction), they reported fewer symptoms and improved quality of life at the end of the twelve weeks and again when asked three months later. A later analysis found that many of the effects were mediated by improved self-esteem in the yoga group.

Note that most of the individual studies are small, and they employ different types of yoga practices. This might be considered a strength insofar as different practices have been shown to work, or a weakness in that it’s not clear if one approach is particularly effective.

Exercise

Cross-cultural surveys find that women who are more active tend to have an easier time with menopause. For example, two large surveys of Swedish women found that women who exercised at least once per week reported less intrusive symptoms than women who never exercised, and women who exercised more than three hours per week were significantly less likely to experience severe symptoms than their less active counterparts. Sedentary women in this Finnish study experienced more vasomotor, psychological, and somatic/pain symptoms than women who were at least somewhat active.

While promising, experimental studies have not yielded such favorable results. When women were assigned to “physical activity” conditions (often walking), some studies report improvements, but others find no improvements or even worsening symptoms (perhaps depending on women’s baseline fitness). Multiple reviews have concluded that there is no systematic effect of exercise, particularly not for vasomotor symptoms.

Does that mean menopausal women shouldn’t exercise? Obviously no. It’s clear that being active—or at least not being sedentary—is important for overall health, and it probably helps menopausal women through the transition. However, there isn’t enough research to know what types of exercise are most effective and when. Do the types of movement you enjoy and that make your body feel good.

Acupuncture

A recent review concluded that acupuncture is effective for reducing vasomotor symptoms, both frequency and severity, as well as for improving quality of life. However, the reviewers also found that acupuncture was not reliably better than sham acupuncture where needles are inserted at points other than the prescribed pressure points and at a shallower depth—a placebo condition.

Hypnosis

A handful of studies have shown that clinical hypnosis can reduce hot flush frequency and distress among breast cancer patients. Another study of 187 women without breast cancer found that women who received hypnotherapy had fewer, less severe, and less bothersome hot flashes, as well as improved sleep. These results were evident at the end of the five-week treatment protocol, and they remained or got stronger in the six-week follow-up period.

The Experts Weigh In…

In 2015, the North American Menopause Society released a position statement on nonhormonal management of vasomotor symptoms. Of the approaches discussed here, the only ones NAMS recommended based on the strength of the available evidence were CBT and hypnosis. Mindfulness-based stress reduction earned a “recommend with caution,” which means, “We think it might work, but the evidence isn’t conclusive.”

The others—yoga, exercise, relaxation and paced breathing techniques, and acupuncture—were not recommended. This does not mean they are not worth trying! It simply means that based on their standards, the evidence was not strong enough for the committee to conclude that they are likely to be effective treatments for vasomotor symptoms specifically. This says nothing about other types of symptoms, nor about general well-being or quality of life.

Mind-Body Therapy Pros and Cons

So where does this leave us? Each of these therapies shows promise for alleviating at least some symptoms of menopause. Moreover, all these therapies have the potential to improve overall quality of life, sleep, stress, and general health. While reading these studies, I did wonder whether some of the women felt better simply because they were investing time and energy in taking care of themselves. If so, is that a problem? I don’t think so. They are low-risk interventions with a lot of potential upside.

That said, these aren’t quick solutions. The effective mindfulness/mediation trainings included six to eight weeks of classes and multiple hours per week. Women practiced yoga for two to four months during the study periods. Hypnotherapy was five weeks or longer. It’s not clear what the minimum time frame is for each of these therapies to be useful, but they’ll certainly involve a time commitment that might not be practical for all women. However, yoga, mindfulness/meditation, exercise, and even CBT can all be practiced at home once you know the proper technique.

As I said at the beginning, this is not an exhaustive list of nonhormonal therapies. There are also various supplements that might help, as well as lifestyle modifications that most of you Primal-savvy readers are probably already implementing: eating a variety of nutrient-dense foods, getting plenty of sunlight, practicing good sleep hygiene, and nurturing social connections.

Whatever you choose, be patient. Don’t just focus on one symptom; focus on the big picture. Pay attention to how you’re feeling more globally. Consider that while an intervention might not hit its desired mark, it might help you in ways you didn’t expect.

Have you used mind-body techniques (these or others)? What’s been your experience? Share your insights and questions below, and have a great week, everyone.

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References:

Atapattu PM. Vasomotor symptoms: What is the impact of physical exercise? J SAFOMS. 2105 Jan-Jun;3(1):15-19.

Goldstein KM, et al. Use of mindfulness, meditation and relaxation to treat vasomotor symptoms. Climacteric. 2017 Apr;20(2):178-182.

McMillan TL, Mark S. Complementary and alternative medicine and physical activity for menopausal symptoms. J Am Med Womens Assoc (1972). 2004 Fall;59(4):270-7.

Molefi-Youri W. Is there a role for mindfulness-based interventions (here defined as MBCT and MBSR) in facilitating optimal psychological adjustment in the menopause? Post Reprod Health. 2019 Sep;25(3):143-149

Moore TR, Franks RB, Fox C. Review of Efficacy of Complementary and Alternative Medicine Treatments for Menopausal Symptoms. J Midwifery Womens Health. 2017 May;62(3):286-297.

Sliwinski JR, Johnson AK, Elkins GR. Memory Decline in Peri- and Post-menopausal Women: The Potential of Mind-Body Medicine to Improve Cognitive Performance. Integr Med Insights. 2014;9:17–23.

van Driel CM, Stuursma A, Schroevers MJ, Mourits MJ, de Bock GH. Mindfulness, cognitive behavioural and behaviour-based therapy for natural and treatment-induced menopausal symptoms: a systematic review and meta-analysis. BJOG. 2019;126(3):330–339.

The post 6 Mind-Body Approaches for Menopause appeared first on Mark’s Daily Apple.

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What does your kids’ play room or area look like? Is it tidy? Chaotic? Fun? A design and look you love … or just totally for them? Maud Maciak, toddler mom and busy business owner of Magnifique Homes, has real-world and functional design tips on how to make it an area you and your kids both love — including easy tricks to keep it organized and engaging. 5 Design Tips for an Awesome Kids’ Play Room, by Maud Maciak 1. Real furniture for a real mess. One of the first thing to remember is that although it is a kid’s…

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I’m a believer in working hard AND playing hard. When we get stuck in patterns of overwork and overstress, we lose the important connection with our creative, intuitive, playful selves. Our work suffers and so does our happiness (which means everything else, like our relationships, will, too). Stuart Brown, one of the world’s leading experts on play, calls play a “profound biologic process.” What we all know (or used to know until modern living helped us forget) is that play is an essential component of our physical development and general well-being. From a personal standpoint, the older I get the more I recognize play as the linchpin for my own sense of vitality. As a result, I prioritize play—even above exercise. Fortunately, however, I’ve grown into a new relationship with fitness as a result of play. I gave up the slog of grueling training regimens decades ago now, but to this day I’m still living more deeply into a play-based fitness vision. Let me show you a bit of what that looks like for me….

You all have heard me talk about Ultimate—probably as long as Mark’s Daily Apple has been around. The fact is, it’s as thrilling for me today as it was twelve years ago. Nothing else quite combines the diversity of essential movement and the heart of play like Ultimate does. In a single hour, I’m getting regular sprinting, lateral movement, agility training, recovery phases, and mind-body coordination to skillfully throw, catch and move on the field. I love the intense challenge and fast pace of the game.

Ultimate plays very similarly to rugby or football. The field has two end zones, and a team scores by catching a pass in the defensive team’s end zone. The defending team performs a “pull” (think “kickoff” in football) to start the match (and after every subsequent point scored). The offense moves the disc by passing to teammates in any direction. Once a player catches the disc, he must come to a stop as quickly as possible. From this position, he can only move his non-pivot foot. A player has ten seconds to throw the disc after catching it.

The disc changes hands either by turnover or after a score. A turnover occurs when a pass is not completed, intercepted, dropped, blocked, held for longer than the allotted ten seconds, or thrown out of bounds. The defending team assumes control of the disc immediately following a turnover, from wherever the disc lands on the field. There is no stoppage of play (unless a foul, injury or bad weather occurs).

From a physical standpoint, you’re out there running, leaping, twisting, grabbing, throwing, and bumping into other players. You use practically every muscle in the body (if you’re not, you’re doing it wrong) and, rather than long protracted runs, you engage in short bursts of speed and activity punctuated by walking and brief jogging (almost like you’re on the hunt). Not only does it take keen, quick thinking, remarkable agility and throwing accuracy, and raw athleticism, but it also promotes good teamwork and sportsmanship. In fact, Ultimate has an official “Spirit of the Game” (SOTG), a sort of mission statement that stresses sportsmanship and honor. Highly competitive play is condoned, but not at the cost of general camaraderie. Everyone is out there to have a good time and get some great exercise.

Check it out.

Want more ideas for active play? Here you go.

And for more on the importance of play for a Primal Blueprint lifestyle, check out these resources.

Now you tell me: what’s your favorite way to play? How do you merge the Primal goals of mobility and fitness with everyday enjoyment? Thanks for stopping in today.

The post My Favorite Way To Play: Ultimate Frisbee Workout (with Video) appeared first on Mark’s Daily Apple.

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I know we missed Valentine’s Day, but I’ve always said love cannot be contained. Besides: People are always going on dates. People are always searching for new ways to break out of the regular mold, which is completely understandable. Dates are try-outs. You’re spending time with another person to determine how they fit into your life. Unconventional dates that branch out from “dinner, movie, drinks” into more adventurous, creative realms provide excellent feedback for making that determination.

Dates are also a way for established couples to keep things fresh and exciting, to keep the relationship moving. There’s no better way than to try something new.

As it happens, most work for friends, too.

Now, some of these dates are silly or out-of-left field. Some are more serious. And one is a Primal Costanza date—what not to do. But regardless, they are all worth exploring. And—as always—I’d love to hear what you’d add.

1) Watch a Movie and Fill In the Dialogue

You know that scene in Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind where Jim Carrey and Kate Winslet are watching a drive-in movie without sound and filling in the dialogue themselves? Do the same thing, only make all the dialogue health and fitness-related. For example, The Empire Strikes Back would work great.

Just before Han is frozen in carbonite, Leia speaks. “I love cold therapy, so many benefits. I can send you the PubMed links.” Han replies. “I know.”

Vader gives Luke the bad news. “Luke, I am a vegan.” “Nooooooooo!”

Pick your favorite movie, and try it out yourselves. Drive-ins aren’t necessary (do they even still have those?); you could just put the T.V. on mute.

2) Couples’ Spa Day

A couple hundreds years ago, you didn’t really go to the doctor. You’d go to a spa. Spas were healing centers erected around natural springs of mineral-rich water. People would bathe in it (many were hot springs), drink it, and engage in other healthy pursuits. Many of today’s most popular bottled mineral waters come from springs that doubled as health spas back in earlier days.

The average person may think of a spa as a pleasure center, a superficial luxury. But getting a massage, soaking in hot mineral water, smearing yourself with mud and/or clay, exposing yourself to extreme temperatures in the sauna, steam room, and cold water pool? These are all objectively healthy and pleasurable experiences with measurable benefits.

Go for a hot soak, followed by a cold plunge. Do the mud bath thing. Get a deep tissue massage. Soak in the salty mineral-rich brine. And do it with your date, as your date.

3) Get Physical

No, not like that (necessarily). I’m talking about doing something physically demanding together, like a yoga session, a tough hike, a Tough Mudder, a Krav Maga class, or even a CrossFit workout.

Intense physical exertion—performed together—increases bonding. You’re sweating, you’re touching, you’re working hard toward a goal. You’re a team. Make it a little dangerous and the juices really flow. For the same reason, going to see a scary movie helps couples get closer.

4) Go Dancing or Take Dance Lessons

Dance is the prelude to closer, more intimate physical contact. And it’s incredibly healthy learning to move with cohesion and fluidity and precision through constantly varying ranges of motion. Dancers are some of the most athletic folks around—think b-boys, ballet dancers, practitioners of modern dance. I’m not a follower of the show, but seriously just look at an episode of “So You Think You Can Dance” for plain evidence of their athleticism.

Go dance, or take dance lessons if you can’t dance yet. If the latter, don’t make this a one-off. Keep the lessons going. Build that skill together. Move together.

Dancing together in your living room to music on your smartphone is completely valid, too.

5) Cook the Farmer’s Market

This is a fun little date to try. Carrie and I used to do this at the Malibu farmer’s market every once in awhile.

Go to every stand, ask the farmer what’s best today, and then buy that item. If your market is huge, you don’t need to buy from every single stand. Try to stick to a dozen stands or so just to keep things manageable.

Be reasonable with the quantities. Otherwise it’ll add up fast. If, say, the farmer recommends the leeks, buy a couple leeks. If it’s cauliflower, buy a head. If it’s strawberries, buy a basket.

Go home and create a meal together using only the things you purchased from the market. Use things like oil/cooking fat, salt, pepper, and spices from home (unless you bought them at the market, in which case you get extra points). If your market doesn’t offer any meat, feel free to incorporate store-bought meat. But do your best to use only things from the market.

Prep and cook it together. There you go, that’s your date.

6) Ten-Mile Date

Walk ten miles, at least. It can be through the city, the suburbs, or the forest. You can stop at stores, cafes, museums along the way—it doesn’t have to be ten miles straight without stopping. But get those ten miles in however you can.

7) Roughhouse

Roughhousing is universal. It’s also great fun. You roughhouse. You wrestle, jostle, poke, prod, but you don’t (ever) hurt each other. You keep things light, engaged, dancing on the edge of intensity. I really like Rafe Kelley’s approach. Check out the one where he and his partner act like their wrists are glued together as they move around, roll, push, and pull. Or where they stand on a large log, clasp hands, and try to pull each other off balance. That stuff is really fun. I’d try any of the videos from that link.

Another is one-legged tug of war. You each stand on one leg, clasp the other’s hand, and attempt to pull the other off balance. If there’s a big weight or strength disparity, have the stronger person stay on one foot and the weaker person use both. Put pillows and other soft landing spaces around your perimeter.

If you’re a man and she’s a woman, there will probably be some strength disparities. Use your better judgement. Keep things fair and competitive and fun.

8) Picnic and a Hike

Think back to all the hikes you’ve done, all the wilderness areas you’ve explored. Were there any perfect picnic spots that jumped out at you? Maybe a dry pebbly shore next to a gurgling creek. Maybe a ring of redwoods. Maybe a grassy meadow. Maybe a beach that only locals know about. If nothing comes to mind, Google one.

Then pack a lunch and get moving.

9) Stand-Up Paddling

I’m extremely biased. Stand-up paddling is probably my favorite activity. It’s training, meditation, adventure, and a fantastic core and rear delt/lat workout all in one. I’ve seen dolphins, manatees, whales, and any number of marine life on my board. I’ve hit the flow state on my board. I’ve finally figured out meditation being on my board. I’ve woken up with some of the most intense DOMS after a long day on my board. My transverse abdominals and obliques have never been stronger. It’s an all-around great time—and it makes a great date. We’re no longer youngsters in love, but Carrie and I have had a lot of good times when I can get her out on a board.

Not everyone has access to a paddle-worthy body of water, although more than you’d think—rivers, lakes, and reservoirs all work with a paddle board, not just the ocean. If you can’t paddle, something similar like kayaking or even cross-country skiing will work well.

10) Lecture Your Date At Dinner

Make sure your date knows exactly how unhealthy everything he or she is putting in her mouth.

When he orders pasta, make a face.

When she fails to confirm that the salad dressing was made with extra virgin olive oil, pull the waiter aside and do it for her.

When he orders the fish, let him know the Monterey Bay rating.

If she gets anything deep-fried, tell her all about how restaurants reuse cooking oil, which (by the way) is most likely very high in unstable polyunsaturated fats.

This will ensure a second date.

That’s it for today, folks. If you try any of these date ideas, let me know how it goes. If you have any other ideas, write them in down below!

Take care.

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The post 10 Primal Date Ideas For Every Couple appeared first on Mark’s Daily Apple.

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Humans are a tribal species. We form alliances, align ourselves along ethnic, familial, religious, and cultural lines. Still, for the vast majority of people, “tribal” carries a negative connotation. Bitter partisan politics, ethnic genocides, religious wars, and the long history of bigotry make that connotation almost unavoidable. But I don’t think tribal in its true essence is all bad. The basic instinct to form and belong to groups is a simple fact of human physiology. It’s how we work, so we’d better make it work for us.

Remember, I err on the side of evolution. If human evolution has produced and maintained a characteristic or behavior, there’s probably a reason for it. And maybe that reason doesn’t make sense in the modern world. It gets distorted or magnified. Tribalism certainly can. But it can be equally detrimental to ignore that characteristic, to brush it off and discard it. We don’t have to perform hard physical labor to procure food anymore—but exercise is still vital for our health. My guess is the same holds true for our predilection toward tribalism. And it doesn’t have to look like you think it might….

Research shows that one kind of tribe—diehard sports fans— see physiological benefits when their teams compete, such as boosts to testosterone and increased empathy. Sports fans even have a higher-than-average sense of meaning in their lives, something many modern humans lack. Sure, you might say “pro sports don’t matter in the long run,” but who cares? The point is that sports fandom is a healthy, safe, and decidedly non-genocidal mode of tribalism that appears to confer health benefits to those who participate.

Imagine the potential benefits of leveraging your tribal leanings toward a truly healthy, meaningful endeavor?

CrossFit is the perfect example.

It doesn’t have to be CrossFit exactly, but one of those special kinds of gyms whose inhabitants aren’t headphone-wearing individuals doing their own thing, in their own world. CrossFit struck such a chord not only because it offered a great workout, but because it offered a tribe.

You didn’t just show up to a CrossFit box and “train back and biceps” with your headphones on. You and your tribe battled the clock, the iron, yourselves. You entered a place where motivation drips from the ceiling. Where a lot of the stuff I talked about in this article—having rules that remove decision-making from the equation, competing against others (and yourself), achieving intrinsic rewards—comes baked into the experience. Where you don’t have to muster the willpower to start and complete a workout because your tribe is there doing it and ushering you on to join in and give it your all. You get swept away by the pull of your CrossFit tribe—and you’re better off for it.

There’s actual research to back this up, not just conjecture.

A recent study found that CrossFit participants experience more intrinsic motivation related to group affiliation, personal challenge, and outright enjoyment of the activity—and that this experience can increase adherence compared to other types of resistance training.

In perhaps the only systematic review and meta-analysis of CrossFit research to date, researchers concluded that “CrossFit practice is associated with higher levels of community, satisfaction, and motivation.” They have a tribe and don’t want to let them down.

Fitness, in general, benefits from the tribal effect.

The solitary yogi doing impossible stretches with serene countenance as the sun rises is a romantic ideal, but who actually does that? Yoga isn’t exactly pleasant. It’s hard. It can hurt. It’s tough to get yourself motivated to do a full session at home. Get yourself in a legit yoga studio and suddenly you’re on the mat and it’s 98° and before you know it you’re downward dogging your way to nirvana.

Or the Tough Mudder/Mud Run/Spartan Race genre of extreme athletic event. Running barefoot across electrified barbed wire, plunging headfirst into a trough of mud and urine, getting frostbite, ruining your clothes, and paying a couple hundred bucks for the opportunity doesn’t sound very appealing on paper. But allow participants to form teams with their friends and compete against other teams, and the event sells out.

Don’t forget that some of the most traditional forms of fitness practice around—team sports—are entirely based on tribalism. You have a “team.” You’re competing against another group of individuals who’ve also coalesced around a similar concept of organization. You have uniforms, team colors, team slogans, special chants and cheers. You run plays, tactical maneuvers designed to overcome the defenses your opponents have laid out. You function as a unit. For the 60 minutes or so of game time, the tribe takes precedence over the individual. Joining an adult sports league might be a great way to add value, meaning, and fitness to your life.

Dietary affiliations are tribal, too. Primal is absolutely a tribe. Keto is a tribe. Vegetarianism and veganism are absolutely tribes.

This can easily go awry. If you get locked into the dogma of your particular dietary tribe, you may tune out dissenting evidence from other tribes, however valuable and applicable. That’s why I’ve always emphasized open mindedness and the importance of reading outside sources and maintaining the willingness to change your mind in the face of new information. That quality comes baked into the Primal way of living, eating, and thinking. It’s part of our “dogma.”

Whatever dietary tribe you belong to, consider incorporating that feature into your ideology. I highly recommend it.

And if you’re interested specifically in becoming closer to the Primal tribe, there are plenty of ways.

The Facebook Groups

Facebook can be the place where you argue with friends and family about things that don’t even matter, or it can be the place where you find your Primal tribe.

In all these groups, the beauty is that each member is a real person with a real name, and everyone is supportive. So rather than bother all the other people in your life with chatter about ideal sun exposure times and cauliflower carb counts and “180 minus age,” you can connect with people who get it, and get you.

Come To an Event

If you haven’t made it to a Paleo f(x), you have to do it. First of all, it’s in Austin, one of the best (and most paleo/Primal-friendly) cities in the country. The BBQ is out of this world, if nothing else. Second, it’s a meeting of the top thought leaders in ancestral health, both established and upcoming. Great place to hear about new ideas and new angles on old ones. Third, you’ll be with your people. Your tribe.

If you do go, come say hi, cause I’ll definitely be there.

Become a Primal Health Coach

The ultimate way to find a tribe is to become the leader of one and create your own. There’s no better path to leadership in the Primal arena than becoming a legitimate expert, someone who can help others build better lifestyles and construct diets and training regimens. It’s amazing how little most people understand about health, diet, and fitness. If you know what you’re talking about and throw yourself into the business of health and fitness, you’d be surprised at the incredible changes you can effect in your clients—and how close you’ll become with them.

How a tribe helped your quest for better health? Or are you looking for one? (Post-challenge is the perfect time to tap into supports that keep you going….) What does the perfect health tribe look like to you?

Thanks for reading, everyone. Take care!

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The post Find Your Tribe, Find Your Health? appeared first on Mark’s Daily Apple.

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Workouts are work. There’s no way around that. Whenever you move matter through space and time, whether you’re displacing your own body weight or a barbell or a kettle bell, you’re doing work. It’s just physics. But there’s another meaning of “work”: an unpleasant but necessary activity that helps you achieve a desired outcome. Far too many of our workouts end up embodying this second definition. They’re chores, strains. That’s why so many people—all of whom know they should be exercising on a regular basis—remain sedentary, unfit, weak individuals. Physical activity is no longer required to survive. We don’t “have” to do it anymore. If it feels like a miserable experience, why would we?

There are ways to escape this mindset, though. There are ways to make your workouts feel more likely play and less like work. Let’s look at a few today, and I hope you’ll share what works for you in the comment section. Btw, I’ve included a video of me doing one of my favorites below—and a contest to share the fun.

Find an Activity That’s Intrinsically Rewarding

When training, extrinsic rewards are always going to be present. You’re always trying to look better naked, lose weight, hit a PR, get better health markers. But if your training is also intrinsically rewarding—if you derive satisfaction, pleasure, and meaning from the act of training itself— you’ll have no problems sticking with it. Only the hardest of hard core will maintain a training regimen they hate. Everyone will keep a training regimen they love. Find something you enjoy doing, that you’d do even if it provided no health or aesthetic benefits, and make that at least part of your training regimen.

If You Hate Something, Try Something Else

This is the most fundamental mindset shift. Don’t do things that you hate.

A workout doesn’t have to be a walk in the park. Not everything is going to leave you bursting with joy. But if your training regimen is leaving you miserable, if you dread it and find every excuse to skip it, that’s worth heeding.

Maybe you hate back squats, but front squats are downright enjoyable. Maybe you hate spin class, but hill sprints are fun. Maybe you hate dedicated cardio or HIIT sessions, but pickup basketball twice a week does the trick. Find an alternative that accomplishes the same thing.

Try Competing Against Other Entities

I enjoy competing against myself. I like beating my own records, surpassing my own achievements, improving on my former self. I also like competition against other humans. That’s why I ran marathons and competed in triathlon for so long—I liked beating the other guys. It’s also why I love Ultimate Frisbee. There’s nothing quite like the thrill of competition to make you forget about how hard you’re working and how great of a workout you’re getting.

You can compete in CrossFit, in pickup games at the park, in adult rec leagues. Anything at all will work.

Get Better Goals

Me? My goal is to play better:

  • I want to be able to play Ultimate every weekend with guys 3o years younger (and keep up).
  • I want to go out for a paddling session whenever I want and not have it feel like work.
  • I want to hit the slopes all weekend and be able to drive home without my quads cramping up every time I hit the brake.
  • And I want to do all that while staying injury-free.

My training focus, then, is to maintain: my fitness, my muscle mass, the viability of my connective tissue, my bone mineral density. I’m not going for PRs anymore because it’s too risky at this stage while bringing me no closer to my goals. But that’s fine. I’ve found what works for me and my goals. And it makes the more “boring” training that much more enjoyable, because I’m working toward something that I love and frankly need to be healthy and happy.

Half my training is play. The other half is training that supports the other half, the play, and gets me closer to it. I know what and I’m doing and why. Do you?

Integrate Training Into Your Work Day

When you’re plugging away behind the computer, take ten minutes to go for a walk, run some sprints in the stairwell, do a few sets of pushups and squats, or swing the kettlebell you keep in your office when you feel like a break. You’re still working, but it’s different. You’ve switched from the mental to the physical, and that change is everything. Suddenly you want to train, because it’s not filling out a report or writing another email.

The added benefit is that taking fitness breaks will make you more eager to get back to work and, thanks to better blood flow to the brain, more productive when you do.

A ten-minute break to move or train every hour is the sweet spot, I find.

Take Up a Martial Art

Humans have a predilection for violence. Human history is in many respects a history of violence. We all need to acknowledge that and integrate it. That doesn’t mean we should be violent. It means there’s nothing wrong—and perhaps a lot right—with developing our capacity for physical conflict in a controlled, safe environment. Sparring, not street fighting. Staying calm in tense situations, not freaking out and escalating. Roughhousing, not brawling.

One of my big regrets is not learning a martial art. I have been learning a bit with an experienced friend, who’s shown me a few things and runs drills with me, and that’s only made me realize how much I’ve missed out on. Don’t make that mistake.

Set a Few Rules

Making rules that “force” you to exercise can be liberating.

One rule I’ve been following lately is “exercise when Shanti (our dog) exercises.” I’ll take the ball or frisbee out to the park, and every time I throw it I’ll exercise until she brings it back. I’ll do as many pushups or bodyweight squats as I can. I’ll hold a plank. Maybe I’ll even bring a kettlebell along and do swings or overhead presses or cleans or goblet squats. Depending on how far you throw the ball and how fast your dog is, you can end up doing short or long sets. This has ended up being one or two of my workouts each week.

Another example is people who hang pullup bars in a doorway and have the rule that they must do five (or however many) pullups each time they pass through. Without fail. If it’s a heavily trafficked part of the house, you might accumulate 30 or 40 pullups on an average day. Those add up.

Maybe you do squats while brushing your teeth. Or “sprint every hill you see.” Or “walk after every meal.” The point is to repeat these rules and stick to them until they’re part of you, and you find yourself training without making the decision to do it. What begins as an arbitrary rule (what rule doesn’t?) will eventually become sacrosanct.

Dance

If you have kids, this is a great way to spend some awesome family time. Have everyone hang out in the kitchen as you prep dinner. Throw on some music. Dance. Get silly. Try something new, don’t be afraid to really move. A Spotify (or similar service) account works well here, because you can create playlists and just throw them on when needed.

I’m partial to the “A to Z of African Dance” YouTube video. Great beat, great dancing, and it’ll give you some good ideas to try that provide a good workout.

Go Creek Walking

Don’t have a creek at hand? Apologies. If you do, however, I want you to visit it at least once a week for the next month—and spend at least an hour during each visit traveling up and down it, jumping from rock to rock, balancing on logs, wading through the water, squatting down to look for crawdads (or crayfish) and frogs and salamanders (but definitely not newts), sprinting up banks, crawling, lifting heavy rocks and logs. It’s a great opportunity to get a variety of movement patterns, expose yourself to nature, and get some barefoot time.

Make the World Your Playground

No matter where you live, the environment offers a wide variety of options for movement, play, and exercise.

Trees: Climb them, do pull-ups on the branches, do handstand pushups against the trunk.

Stairs: Run them, jump them, bear crawl up and down them.

Park Benches: Jump over them, crawl on the back, balance on the back.

Hills: Roll down them then sprint back up.

Traffic Lights: pull-ups, sprint across intersections (when green).

Curbs: Treat like balance beams, do calf raises (or stretches) off the edge, single leg hops up and down.

Target (Store): Hurdle and climb those big red balls they have at the entrance (beware of dirty looks from parents whose kids try to emulate you).

Everything is an opportunity for movement and exercise. You just have to be willing to stand out.

I’d say make the local playground your playground, but certain cities have strict laws against adults using playgrounds without children. Too bad.

Still, know you can always add workout “toys” to your own the backyard (or a willing friend’s if you don’t have one yourself). The slackline has been one such piece of play equipment for me. Check it out—and then see how you could WIN one yourself. 

Now For the Contest…

I want to hear your favorite ways to turn exercise into play—and your questions around enjoying more play in your (and your family’s) life. Simply leave a relevant comment here by the deadline, and you’ll be entered to win.

The Prize: 

Your very own Slackline + The full line of PRIMAL KITCHEN® Collagen products (Collagen Fuel, Collagen Peptides, and Collagen Bars)—the ultimate ways to support the health of your joints, tendons and muscles (not to mention skin, hair and nails).

The Deadline: Midnight PDT, June 21th, 2018

Thanks for stopping in, everyone. Good luck!

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The post 10 Ideas to Make Workouts More Fun (and a Contest) appeared first on Mark’s Daily Apple.

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woman write action plan text on notebook with coffee and phone on tableWe’re almost halfway through 2018. History is accelerating. New advances, technology, scientific findings, and social changes are occurring faster than ever before. There’s never any time like the present, but these days it feels like the present is slipping away at an exponential rate. This is no time to be resting on your laurels, biding your time, or waiting to see what happens. It’s time to act. It’s time to make the changes you’ve been mulling over, the ones you know in your heart are the right moves to make.

To help you on your way, I’ve put together a 30-day action plan for the month of June. No one has to follow this to the letter, or even at all, but use it as a template or inspiration. Wake up on June 12 swelling with energy and unsure how to direct it? Check out the action plan. Feeling a bit lazy on June 19? See what the action plan recommends; it may resonate.

Let’s get right to it:

June 1st: Plan your month. Set a goal or two, aiming as high as you realistically can attain.

June 2nd: Track what you eat, how much you move, how long you sit or stand, what you do in the gym, how much you procrastinate or waste time, how much time you spend in flow or being productive. Get specific, get precise—it’s just one day, and you can handle it. Get a good baseline, so you know what you’re working with. Then try to improve on it every day forward.

June 3rd: Try the fitness or movement pursuit you’ve been thinking about for a long time. That thing you know you should be doing, like foam rolling at night or doing a light mobility session in the morning, but keep putting off. Just do it. Feels good, right?

June 4th: Take a cold shower.

June 5th: Wake up a half hour earlier than usual, if necessary, and do some hill sprints before the weather heats up. If no hills, flat sprints. If flat sprints hurt, try an alternative.

June 6th: Reflect on your approach to competition. Who are you competing against? Who should you be competing against? Consider that it might be a better idea to compete against your former self, because besting your former self is a reliable path to self-improvement.

June 7th: Take three walks. One in the morning, one at lunchtime, and one after dinner.

June 8th: Meditate, if you’ve never tried it before. If you have and it doesn’t work for you, try an alternative method for reaching a similar headspace. My favorite way as of late is just sitting quietly at the beach, watching the waves go in and out across the horizon.

June 9th: Have a big dinner party. Make something delicious (and Primal), pour some good wine, have some good laughs.

June 10th: Don’t just go to the farmer’s market. Make friends with your favorite farmer’s market vendors.

June 11th: Pickle something. It’s really easier than you think to make your own fermented food. Mix 50 grams salt with a liter of quality water, pour over garlic/hot peppers/shallots/pretty much anything you can stuff in a jar until submerged, place something on top to keep everything submerged (a roof of carrots wedged against the sides of the jar works well), lightly cover, and wait for the bubbles to start. When you like the taste, you’re done and can refrigerate the jar.

June 12th: Plan a camping trip for later during the month. Get your family and/or friends together, throw your gear in the car, and make a weekend of it somewhere nice and secluded. Leave electronics behind if you can, or at least limit artificial light after dark (red LED on the headlamp is a must when camping).

June 13th: Wake up and write down ten ideas. About anything at all. They don’t even have to be good. They just have to be on paper.

June 14th: Go for a PR in something. Pick a physical activity, and try to beat your personal best.

June 15th: Fast (if your personal context permits). Men, aim for the full 24 hours. Women, shorter will probably work better—somewhere in the realm of 12-16 hours (less if you’ve never tried).

June 16th: Grill something over open flame. At least one animal and one plant.

June 17th: Crawl everywhere you go in your house (and office, if you’re game). Use different techniques, go at different speeds. Throw in a few push-ups while you’re down there.

June 18th: Try a new recipe. Or just cook something new freestyle, using no recipe at all.

June 20th: Read for two hours. Books, not blogs or social media feeds (present blog excluded).

June 21st: Try to assemble the least expensive, most nutritious day of meals you can.

June 22nd: Have a glass of good wine with someone close to you. Friend, spouse, child (if of age).

June 23rd: Meal prep for the week ahead. Take an hour and get all the basics you need for the rest of the week ready to go. Roast veggies, start something in the Instant Pot, boil some eggs, prep Big Ass Salad makings. What you can cook ahead of time, cook ahead of time.

June 24th: Climb a tree. Be safe, just not too safe. Try to get the blood pumping.

June 25th: If you have any nagging health concerns you’ve been worrying about, make an appointment with a medical professional to get them checked out. Eating, exercising, and living well can transform our health, but we’re not invincible.

June 26th: Dance. Preferably with someone watched (and joining).

June 27th: Dream big. What’s your biggest, most ultimate dream that still has a chance of happening? Write it down, and figure out what you have to do to make it a reality.

June 28th: Forage for something in your yard, neighborhood, local park, or forest. Edible plants are everywhere.

June 29th: Grill some fruit in cast iron over open flame. The best fruit of the year is in season—peaches, cherries, nectarines, berries of all kinds—and yet most people don’t know that you can grill them over open flame and improve the flavor. Top with unsweetened whipped cream (you don’t need the sugar).

June 30th: Show gratitude for the awesome month you just experienced.

I’ll also have more on June’s staff-led 21-Day Challenge next week, so stay tuned. Have a great end to the week, everybody. Thanks for stopping by.

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