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Rethinking Exercise - Obligation to Adventure

Updated: Sep 30, 2022

How I run a 60mile Ultra marathon averaging only 16miles a week training and used a mixed holistic method, molded on our primal blueprint. Containing key strategies and tips for you...

To begin with, I feel that the way we view exercise in modern life is all wrong! We have a warped sense of it. Even the word “exercise” implies an extra-curricular activity that we have to do! Because our bodies would deteriorate otherwise.

Yes, this is true, but it asks a bigger question… what are we doing with our lives that has put us in this mindset and state? For me, it is just another reason, on top of plenty of other reasons, of how we are living misaligned lives. Lives that are far removed from our human design, laid down by nature and the passage of evolution.

Many people struggle to consistently exercise and they lose motivation quickly! Maybe they have short stints of hard exercise, but then they pick up niggles that lead to full blown injuries. Maybe this subsides, but then they are a regular at the physio, for years! Their sedentary lifestyle and poor eating habit also means that they gain weight easily which makes exercise progressively harder and less appealing. Sound familiar?

All in all, I believe we need to rethink “exercise” and redesign how we live our lives. I’m not talking about throwing ourself back to the stone age (although I wouldn’t mind a bit of that), but rather reintroducing primal philosophies back into our lives. This is now what I teach, as a health and adventure coach – namely the 10 primal blueprint laws. It is also how I live my life and is how I run a 60-mile ultra-marathon, over mountains, with only averaging 16 miles of running per week. Let me explain.

I have just complete the Isle of Arran Ultra Marathon. It was (actually) 58 miles (93km) over 2 days. 9500ft (2900m) of ascent, over very challenging terrain, bogs, beaches, rocks and mountains. It took me 17.36 hours of moving time. I was not the quickest, but comfortably in the middle to higher end (I finished 108 out of 271).

I went out slow and steady (perhaps overly) but day two I really came into my own. I was deteriorating at a much slower pace than others on the trail. In fact, it felt like I was powering up as other people were slowing and struggling. I finished just as strong on the last few miles as when I started!

My motivation was not a good time though or finish position, it was to challenge myself and to enjoy myself in the process. To me this is what adventure is and I achieved both. I realise now that another aim was to see how little “training” I could do and still achieve a good result. I wanted to see how far these primal principles could take me. How much of a fit and healthy base I could create.

Here are a few key elements to my training. For the 10 weeks leading to the event:

🔥I averaged 16.1 miles running per week. In comparison my first ultra (before going fully primal) I was running 30-60 weekly miles. My running was slow at a 10 minute mile pace. My heart rate was also low to build my aerobic base.

🔥I averaged 15500 steps a day and complete regular mobility exercises. Basically, lots of low-level movement. This helped to avoid the active couch potato syndrome (sedentary, other than during exercise) – something I was very guilty of previously.

🔥I really focused on diet and nutrition. I got myself in a “fat adapted” state. AKA - Fat as Fuel. This taps into humanities preferred source of energy and is how we have lived for 2.5 million years. That is until humans became overly “civilised” some 10000 years ago and introduced high quantities of grains, sugars, starches and overly processed foods in to our diets.

🔥I integrated strength and conditioning sessions. I molded these on primal movements (hanging, climbing, lifting, crawling, sprinting etc.) that incorporate full body movement and functionality. Basically, very short gym workouts, hill reps and sprint sessions (20-30 mins max).

🔥I completed at least 6 hiking days – This was to get time on my feet, over rough terrain and building my aerobic base. As well as being loads of fun!

🔥I complete a number of breaks through runs. 10- 21 miles. These were to get good mileage in my legs as there is no getting away from this!

🔥I focused on holistic fitness and overall health – completing daily breath-work to boost my CO2 resistance (think altitude training in the comfort of your home!), nasal breathing during all my runs (strengthening the diaphragm and breathing as we are designed to) and cold-water therapy which stimulates and builds the vascular system (think capillary/ veins) in the same way as an aerobic run would.

This training was by far more enjoyable and less demanding on myself, work and family time. Bar a few days that required a bit of a motivation kick, I got so much fun and enjoyment out of my training. I often say:

80% of why I do these types of events is the build-up (excitement, nerves and challenge), the training (going to beauty spots), the focus and discipline they bring me and only 20% is actually the event its self!

For me, it’s not about constantly hitting the treadmill/ pavement or trail and churning out massive weekly mileage which takes up huge chunks of time, requires high levels of motivation, that increases the risk of injury and actually drains you!

Instead, it is about priming the body and mind in a way that fits into daily life, that isn’t gunna burn you out and that brings a huge sense of satisfaction and enjoyment. This is not “exercise” that comes from a place of desperation and obligation, this is healthy living, saying yes to adventure and saying yes to life!

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