Fuel seems to be a major topic in the paleosphere. I have spoken about it at length (perhaps ad nauseum, considering all the other places out there). What’s not addressed nearly so much is the fitness aspect. There is definitely a call to action in paleo circles to get fit, and many folks turn to CrossFit – myself included. In many ways the two philosophies go hand in hand – CrossFit focuses on ten spheres of fitness – cardiovascular/respiratory endurance, stamina, strength, flexibility, power, coordination, agility, balance, and accuracy. Paleo or primal lifestyle (particularly the fuel portion of it) focuses on quality of intake vs. calorie of intake, the eating of nutritionally benevolent foods vs. nutritionally indifferent (or even malevolent), eating the correct amount of food, and eating in such a manner that is ethical – insofar as it is the diet the human animal was meant to eat – as well as caring about the status of our food BEFORE it became food – whether plant or animal.
And still, even in paleo circles, and even in crossfit circles, there’s still a drive to be skinny – a nebulous word that means something different to every person you come across. There’s a trend in Hollywood to ‘get skinny’ to the point it becomes pathological. People go on crash diets to ‘get skinny’ and sacrifice lean, expensive muscle for it. When they leave off on the crash diet – as they eventually must – it’s an unmitigated disaster and people often will gain back the weight plus more.
And then there’s the way we work out. Not crossfit, but the gymmills which dot the urban and suburban landscapes. You walk in to a brightly lit air conditioned sanctum surrounded by mirrors. You look around, past the rows of treadmills, elliptical machines, and stationary cycles to see whether or not the dumbbells are occupied. They are, so you go and get onto a treadmill – you need to warm up anyway. So you do 25 minutes at a light run, and pretty soon the show you are watching is over. Thank goodness that show was on, or it would have been BORING to do that. You’ve got a nice little sheen of sweat going on. The dumbbells have opened up, so you run over there and do a 5×5 set of bicep curls. You once heard someone in the gym – someone that looked like they knew what they were doing – that 5×5 was the way to get stronger. And your biceps certainly FEEL worked.
You get done with those and you see a couple of machines. You pull on each one of these for a few minutes, get a good burn, and go home. You’ve done good. You’re feeling strong, and you’ve done better than the majority of your co-workers. Today was a good day.
This cycle continues itself for weeks, then months. You don’t notice any change in your body type, and you’re not making any progress. “But,” you think to yourself, “at least you’re treading water.”
The real problem is that no real progress is made. You don’t really get stronger, or faster, or lose weight. Effectively you’ve failed in every goal you made for yourself with one exception – you’re going to the gym frequently.
Enter CrossFit. You start it. It burns you out. You feel exhausted and euphoric. Everything is great. You notice your body is getting stronger. Sure you’re sore, but that’s okay – just means you’re working hard. At first you make a LOT of gains. You really enjoy the camaraderie of the gym, are seeing fantastic results and are feeling good. After a while, though, those gains start to taper off. You begin to wonder if you’ve hit that magic wall, or if there’s something else you could do. You begin to look at other things.
You find strength training. It seems so foreign to you, now. A single workout can be slow and procedural, and maybe is not a lot of fun, and probably doesn’t leave you feeling wiped out or as though you’ve had a ‘good hard’ workout. What’s next?
You have the core pieces already in place. You’ve cut the cord with conventional strip mall gyms and have struck out on your own in hopes of finding something that works for you – in any situation. Your goal from here is to make the most of what you know and to work it into what works best for you.
But do some work. Lift heavy. Spend some time getting completely wasted – not every day, but sometimes. Learn what pain is, and learn how to work beyond it. Your life, like it or not, is passing you by one day at a time. If you’re not out there, making the changes you want, or not living the life you’re wanting to live, what the hell are you doing? Get healthy. Get fit. Get out there and find out what it means to be alive. If everything else in the world disappears, you have two things – your body and your mind. Use both. These things should come with a label – don’t use at your own peril.
The time is now.