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Day 4 - What is the Primal Blueprint

I had been eating Paleo for a while before I became aware of the work Mark Sisson and his blog Mark’s Daily Apple.

A successful, professional marathoner, he found himself like everyone else that’s part of the current reevaluation of how we eat, move, and recover; the way that he’d been eating and exercising before wasn’t working for him.

His before pictures aren’t of someone that went from 350 pounds down to a svelte 175.

His before pictures are those of an elite runner that successfully competed in marathons for years before switching to triathlons to give his body a break. That feels weird to type.

Who in the hell switches to triathlons as a way of dialing back the damage?

But he and his peers were the poster children for overtraining.

What really got Sisson’s attention was the number of those peers who were either having heart problems or were actually dying from heart attacks.

He couldn’t figure out how that was possible since they should be the fittest people on the planet from a cardiovascular standpoint.

What he started to realize is that you could be incredibly fit, but that didn’t necessarily make you healthy.

Trying to figure that out led him to the work of Loren Cordain and the rest of the early paleo/ ancestral research community. It also led him to Phil Maffetone’s work regarding the benefits of building a strong cardiovascular base.

That work is focused on a protocol requires that the majority of your training be done at a heart rate of 180 minus your age.

Mark has a unique vantage point to appreciate Maffetone’s work. Mark’s best finish in the Iron Man was 4th place.

Meanwhile, Mark Allen, another elite runner, adopted Maffetone’s training regimen and heartrate precepts and went on to win the Iron Man SIX YEARS IN A ROW.

In addition to figuring out that his competitive training regimen had exacted a heavy toll on his body, Sisson also figured out that what had constituted fuel for those sessions hadn’t been doing him any favors.

When you’re running tons of miles, calorically you can get away with eating a lot of garbage.

The more he dove into the research, the more Sisson understood that overtraining wasn’t the only contributor to his inflammation. Mountains of pasta and other high carb high energy foods that he inhaled to fuel the hundreds of miles that he was running were wrecking his metabolism.

His body dictated that he was done running competitively – but what started as a medium to share what he was learning about a new way to approach nutrition, movement and recovery has now taken on a life of its own.

Today millions of readers enjoy the daily blog, Mark’s Daily Apple which he began in 2006.

In 2009 he wrote the Wall St. Journal and Amazon bestseller The Primal Blueprint with over 500,000 copies sold.

My diet and exercise reevaluation started in 2012 after finding out that I had heart disease.

I started with Robb Wolf’s The Paleo Solution, but over the years I’ve read the work of Loren Cordain, Art De Vany, Chris Kresser, Dr. Terry Wahl, Mark Sisson, Phil Maffetone and countless others.

That research and my own experience convinced me that following the “eat your heart healthy whole grains, avoid saturated fat and all things in moderation” wasn’t doing any of us any favors.

I also knew that if I had been conned by that message, millions of other people were still headed down that failed path.

My approach is a synthesis of what I’ve learned during my journey and my desire to find a way to make A Balanced You an approachable, sustainable pathway to better health, more resiliency, and greater enjoyment.

I completed Sisson’s Primal Health Coach Program in 2017 to go a bit deeper in his approach.

I find Sisson’s framework as a useful scaffold for figuring out how to build a better version of ourselves –  i.e. A Balanced You. This post provides a brief overview of that framework, pointing to the multiple dimensions to becoming healthy and balanced.

Here are the 10 Primal Blueprint laws to follow for full health. We’ll go into depth about many of these in our weekly discussions and in my daily posts.

  1. Eat plants and animals – something we’ve been doing for millions of years
  2. Avoid poisonous things – this seems like a no-brainer but it may be sitting on your kitchen counter.
  3. Move frequently – you’re not a potted plant- move.
  4. Lift heavy things – we’ll cover a number of ways to accomplish this
  5. Sprint once in a while – you’ll find multiple ways to accomplish this
  6. Get plenty of sleep – this isn’t optional
  7. Play – it’s not just for kids
  8. Get plenty of sunlight – your Vitamin D levels and your health will thank you
  9. Avoid stupid mistakes – ever looked at a text while you were driving?
  10. Use your brain – we’ve got to find life long ways to keep mentally sharp

Key Concepts from The Primal Blueprint (many of which we’ll be covering over the next few weeks):

  1. Yes, you can reprogram your genes
  2. The clues to the optimal gene expression are found in evolution
  3. Your body prefers burning fat over carbs
  4. 80% of your body composition success is determined by how you eat
  5. Grains are totally unnecessary
  6. Saturated fat and cholesterol are not your enemy
  7. Exercise is ineffective for weight management
  8. Maximum fitness can be achieved in minimal time with high-intensity workouts

These “Action Items” will also guide our work together:

  1. Eliminate Standard American Diet (SAD) foods
  2. Shop, cook and dine Primally
  3. Make the healthiest choices across the spectrum
  4. Exercise Primally- move, lift, sprint
  5. Slow life down

What’s interesting is how more and more of these items are being embraced by the broader health and medical community, but were considered fringe ideas when Sisson wrote them in 2009.

I think it’s funny that people sometimes describe the ancestral way of eating as a fad or an extreme approach, when you realize that agriculture has only been around for about 10,000 years and our genetic blueprint has been evolving during the two and a half million years prior to that.

It doesn’t mean that we have to abandon the grocery store and start living in caves, but what we have to consider is where are areas that our genetic predisposition is having a problem matching up with our current diet and lifestyle choices and what are some simple changes that can mitigate some of the turbulence.

We’ll be exploring how to do just that over the next few weeks, but today we’re going to add lift heavy things to our routine.

So in addition to going for a walk, eating real food and getting a good night’s sleep, we’re going to add a 7 minute workout.

Don’t worry if you can only do a few reps, do the best that you can.

Here’s  links to a couple of free versions on YouTube Option 1 & Option 2 or here’s the iphone version I use.

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