Aug 10, 2011

The Second Step: Excercise

By the time I'd been eating a Paleo diet for a couple of months, I was ready to start exercising. Well, not start, as it wasn't as if I'd been completely sedentary. But I was ready to step it up, to start doing something a little more formal.

By this point, my energy level was back up. While I am still not one of those people who starts the day rarin' to go, and I still don't have that need to exercise, I felt I had the physical and mental energy to tackle one more rung on this getting-fit ladder.

Those friends I knew who were eating Paleo? They are also all "doing" CrossFit. CrossFit is a pretty interesting fitness regimen.  It is used by police and military folk to get in top shape. Which makes it sound really intimidating. And if you go to YouTube and look at any of the CrossFit videos there, you might think CrossFit isn't for you.

But the great thing about CrossFit is it's scalability. The trainers are able to scale the workouts for ANY fitness level, and indeed there are grandmas and pregnant ladies who do CrossFit. It promises to get anyone fit, strong, flexible, sounded great, in other words.

So I went along with a friend to a free "class" at one of the local facilities. Wow. The warm-up alone was more than I usually did during one of my own workouts. Then the workout...well, it kicked my ass, to put it politely. And it was scaled way back for me! But I loved it!

What I didn't love was the price. CrossFit isn't cheap ($150/month and up). I found that hard to justify when I already belong to a gym that only costs me $20/year. (Let's not talk about how I've only been to that gym 3 times in the 9 months since my daughter was born....)

Part of how i keep my motivation going is to read things all over the web. And in so doing I came across the blog of Mark Sisson, a former marathoner and IronMan competitor who wrote a series of books on ancestral-style lifestyle called "The Primal Blueprint". I really appreciate his philosophy, his writing style, and especially the way his blog posts are full of research-based information.

Sisson's take on exercise, called Primal Fitness, is based on things you can do at home, at parks, or while otherwise out and about. He believes we should not just eat like our Paleolithic ancestors, but move like them, too. Hunter-gatherers did not spend 30 minutes a day lifting rocks and trees to get in shape. They just lived their life - walking everywhere, foraging, occasionally sprinting after game (or away from a predator), and lifting game to carry it home and themselves onto trees or rocks.

I downloaded the free e-booklet (you have to subscribe to his newsletter, but that is no hardship), did my assessment, and started working out the Primal way. My one expense was a doorway pull-up bar, about $30.  I love this way of working out. I don't need a sports bra (except for the sprints) or to put on shoes (even for the sprints. Although I bought a pair of Vibram Five Fingers after reading Sisson's many posts of the benefits of barefooting.)

I've been doing the bodyweight workouts for a couple of months now. Again, one of the things that's great about this "workout" is it's scalability, only Sisson's labels them progressions. I started off in the most basic progressions for everything except the squat. That meant that instead of toe push-ups, I was doing them against a wall; I use both feet on a stool for supported pull-ups, a low-bench for overhead presses, and am on my knees and hands for planks. 

I still really suck at pull-ups, and am not at all sure I am doing them right. But I've noticed a little muscle in my arm that I don't remember being there. I recently progressed to doing overhead presses on the floor (WAY harder!), and am about ready to move to the next progression in push-ups. I am getting stronger, fitter, and I feel it more when I don't get my workout in!

I am slacking on the sprints (once every 6 weeks is not the same as once a week!). I am still interested in Olympic-style lifting (deadlifts, cleans, etc.). I would like to try CrossFit again sometime, when it fits better in our budget. But right now, I'm sticking with moving Primally. It fits my life, my lifestyle, and my mental attitude the best.

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