My 4-Week Paleo Fitness and Primal Play Program
The modern environment tends to encourage us to pursue a lifestyle of inactivity. We are lured by gadgets, transport options, labor-saving devices, and technological solutions that have led us down an evolutionary path of sedentarism. It is a temptation that is difficult to resist, and for many physical exertion is becoming increasingly optional, if not extinct.
We thrive on a broad repertoire of activity and intensity, designed to be movement generalists, multi-skilled, multi-faceted, and not forgetting an element of fun! I believe our training should reflect this.
This is how we will format each week and there is built in flexibility to work around your schedule, rest, and recovery requirements.
This is movement technique and focus day. Based on what we call a Paleo fitness circuit, here we focus on technique and play around with differing levels of intensity while working on the flow between exercises.
Be slow, precise, and controlled. Instead of an abrupt stop and start of exercises, we want an uninterrupted flow of movements, of constantly varied speed and intensity. String these exercises into one continuous flow of movement, transitioning from one move to the next. This is a more natural way to move. Think of this day as a slow-paced to focus on form and technique with occasional bursts of increased intensity.
This is a high-intensity Tabata interval day. Here you want to give it everything! For beginners, this will start as a four or five minute workout (including recovery period), leading up to twenty minutes for advanced participants.
The Tabata protocol is a training method that was originally used by the Japanese Olympic speed skating team and is based on the work of scientist Izumi Tabata. The key finding from the research was that a short period - four minutes - of this high intensity interval gave similar improvements to the aerobic system (exercise involving using oxygen) as sixty minutes of moderate intensity exercise. The other key difference was an increase in the anaerobic system capability compared to moderate intensity exercise.
This is a day of fun! Maybe where you try something you haven’t done before, or you take an opportunity to play. This day is about stressing the fun element, but still being a challenge - keep it playful and enjoy the fellowship of others.
This is a day where we focus on some strength training. This could include carrying others or pushing a car for a given distance.
Rest as required during any of these activities. But, instead of just standing hunched over to catch your breath, stand tall and walk - also known as active recovery. It will be far easier to breathe and will increase the amount of movement per workout as well as improve the rate of recovery over time.
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I use the acronym PRIMALity to define the principles of Paleo fitness with Primal Play:
- Playful Movement - Movement that invigorates is imaginative, spontaneous, inherently motivates, and provides its own reward. We should seek to reclaim the enjoyment of movement that we experienced as children. Beyond function, train for life’s challenges, not just the safe constraints of the gym environment. Play can be unpredictable. It is thus easier to train for the unexpected. Play out - rather than just working out.
- Restorative Movement - Regenerate, reinvigorate, and restore your body to its natural state of wellness and wellbeing. Performing moves such as a squat (i.e. sitting without a chair) correctly, comfortably, and easily. Lifting with good form for safety and to ensure maximum strength.
- Instinctive Movement - Focuses on movement patterns that are universal and which we would do naturally without the rigidity or limitations of system based conventions being applied. Walking, running, pushing, pulling, jumping, dancing, squatting, balancing, lifting, carrying, and so on.
- Mindful Movement - Mind and body fully engaged in activity. Not mindless. Focus your mind's attention on your own body, thoughts, emotions, and the environment around you. Become curious about your experience. Be in the presence of the present moment. Live in the moment, not speculating about future goals or sifting through the past. Instead, put the full weight of your attention into the here and now.
- Adaptive Movement - The ability to shift between challenges, intensity, and multiple disciplines. Learn to adapt rather than to be adapted to a particular movement discipline or skill. This adaptability allows your body to be fit and ready for known and unknown challenges. The capability to perform tasks efficiently and effectively.
- Life-Enhancing Movement - Train for the way you want to live. Train for health and life. Train for longevity.
- Integrative Movement - No primary focus on isolating muscles or a reductionist approach to exercise. But getting your body to experience a holistic and whole-body experience. Compound multi-joint exercises that rely on the coordinated actions of several muscle groups to move two or more joints through a range of motion. Focus your body on movement not muscles.
- Tactical Movement - Be opportunistic about movement with brief periods of intense work such as sprinting and strength, with less intense work that is enjoyable and playful.
- Youthful Movement - Movement that exhibits vitality, creativity, and passion.
Most of the exercises in this program are to be performed outdoors. In the spring or summer, you will get your dosage of Vitamin D, which has a role in bone, heart, brain, and immune system health, as well as cancer prevention. In the colder weather, studies show you burn up to 12% more calories and up to 32% more fat!
There are a variety of movements in this four-week program, with some variants to trusty favorites as well as exercises you may not be familiar with. Enjoy, and please post your experiences, thoughts, and questions to the comments below!