Tag Archives: fitness

Female sprinter | The Paleo Diet

So with the New Year upon us, diet and exercise resolutions typically feature prominently in many people’s lives.  However, in most cases, these resolutions fail fairly quickly and; in many cases, they have already been broken.  Despite the well-recognized beneficial impact of regular exercise on numerous health parameters, exercise participation and adherence in the general population remains poor1 – ‘lack of time’ being one of the most commonly cited reasons why individuals fail at committing to a regular exercise program2.  Consequently, it would be prudent to examine effective exercise programs that do not require a significant time commitment.

Last year, I wrote an article here that covered some of the science behind supra-maximal interval training (SIT), a mode of exercise that creates physiological benefits with a minimal time investment. And; so, if you think the title of this piece sounds too good to be true, I advise you to go and read or re-read that article so that the protocol I’m about to describe to you is more believable; as well as, understand that it does indeed have scientific backing and makes physiological sense. So the purpose of this article is to simply provide the reader with an easy to implement effective exercise protocol that requires an incredibly small investment of time.

When I lecture about SIT, I describe an activity that helps my audience understand why intensity, not duration, is the key ingredient to improving one’s fitness.  I ask the audience to close their eyes and imagine they are standing at the base of the stairs inside a football stadium. I, then, ask them to imagine ascending the stairs as fast as they can while I describe to them the many varied speeds that would be witnessed despite everyone putting forth the same relative effort.  I also describe what everyone would be typically feeling at 15, 30, 45 and finally 60 seconds when I shout stop. I, then, ask them to compare the heaving breathing and the feeling of lactic acid in their lungs and muscles that they would be experiencing to what they would experience following an hour-long walk or slow jog.  Then a simple question:  which of these two training modalities do they think is going to stress them more to cause a physiological change to their cardiorespiratory and metabolic fitness?  Common sense leads everyone to consistently choose the all-out sprint as the method that they think would lead to a greater physiological change.  After then quantifying the number of steps attained, I state that everyone is done training for the day and; since they will inevitably feel some effects from that all-out effort, they will have a day’s rest before returning to the stadium for their second all-out stair-climb on day three.  I tell them we are going to continue doing this for 30 sprints, which will equate to two months of training requiring just 3½ minutes per week! To clarify this time commitment, it would take two weeks to complete seven “every other day” 60-second sprints, hence 3½ minutes per week.  And, finally, the ultimate question, “does anyone doubt, that on the 30th sprint, you will be able to attain significantly more steps than you did back on day one?”  Intuitively, people understand that they would be able to do more steps on their last sprint compared to their first.  And if this happens, by definition one is now fitter since a greater amount of work has been accomplished in a given amount of time.  So you can indeed improve your fitness in just 3½ minutes per week when the training effort is maximal or close to maximal.

You can test this out for yourself, and so here’s your challenge for the New Year:  While continuing with your current level of activity, add just 3½ minutes per week of all-out sprinting and see for yourself what this can accomplish.  I will offer different options for you on how to accomplish adding in these “sprints”; but, first let me describe what I recently did to prove my point.  Since improvement is always harder when one is already very fit, I reduced my own training to the lowest possible quantity, given that conditioning people is part of what I do for a living and am; therefore, constantly on my feet; as well as, demonstrating exercises throughout the day.  However, eliminating my own training for a few months led to a significant decrease in my maximal 60-second sprint speed, on a treadmill set to a 15% incline, from about 9.0 mph to around 7.0 mph.  I, then, embarked on an exercise protocol that involved sprinting on a treadmill, set at a 15% incline, for just 60-seconds, every other day, beginning at 7.0 mph, a speed previously established as a maximal or at least close to maximal effort.  If the 60-second sprint was successfully completed, the subsequent sprint was done at a speed 0.1 mph greater than the preceding sprint, equivalent to running an additional 2.68 meters in 60-seconds.  If the 60-second sprint was not successfully completed, the speed was not increased for the next sprint until it was successfully completed.  The protocol was conducted for five weeks such that a total of 18 sprints were completed.  Table 1. shows the speed (mph), time completed (s), meters attained, increase in meters from the first sprint, and percent improvement from the first sprint for each of the 18 sprints, and Figure 1. graphically displays the additional meters attained from the first sprint.


Sprint Table with Caption (2)


Sprint Graph with Caption (2)


As both Table 1. and Figure 1. demonstrate, over the course of just five weeks, sprinting all-out for 60 seconds every other day, resulted in an improvement of 32.18 meters (105.58 feet) from the first sprint, a 17.14 percent improvement.  Note that not every sprint was successfully completed on the first attempt at the increased speed.  When you are working at a maximal effort, there are many factors that influence performance, mental fortitude probably playing the largest role.  But even when the sprint isn’t successfully completed, your system is still being significantly challenged and a training effect is still occurring.  Consequently, over time, you will see an increase in performance albeit with a few peaks and valleys along the way.

Now, while this protocol will help you improve your fitness, I’m not suggesting that adding a few more sprints to your work-out is not going to help you more.  In fact, you might be thinking, if I’m going to make the effort to get to the gym, I might as well do a couple more sprints while I’m there!  So, of course, you can do more; but, be careful how much SIT you do, as it is easy to over-train.  Research has already shown that SIT for 8 minutes per week for just 2 weeks can both double endurance capacity3; as well as, substantially improve insulin action4 , so doing significantly more than that likely isn’t necessary for most people.  Additional exercise time could be better spent in other modes of exercise to improve strength and mobility for example.  Since I began my interest in SIT back in the mid 1990s, the research has always suggested a similar quantity to that used in the above referenced research.  As a consequence, I have used with my clients and recommended in lectures, a 12-minute per week protocol that has proven very successful.  This 12-minute per week protocol involves completing four, 60-second sprints, separated by a 4-minute recovery, three days per week.  The three days also need to be separated by at least one days rest in order for the body to adapt and recover.  Consequently, a Monday, Wednesday, Friday timetable works well for many people.  It is important not to shorten the 4-minute recovery because if you do, you will not be able to maintain the power output attained in the first “all-out” effort interval.  In fact, 4 minutes is a minimal recovery timeframe and you can certainly take more recovery with no detriment to the training.  In fact, I have often stated that having a very long recovery (e.g., an hour or more) is better because you will ultimately be able to increase your power output by having more recovery. It is not about “keeping your heart-rate up” during the work-out, the 60-second sprint itself is challenging enough.  Now obviously having an hour recovery is not the most time-efficient if you’re doing this work-out at the gym; however, if you have access to a modality at home or work, this approach can work very well.  For example, many people have a tall enough staircase at their workplace which works well for SIT as the impact is low while the intensity can easily become maximal.

I have conveyed this message to thousands of fellow health-care professionals in my capacity as a lecturer for the Titleist Performance Institute, who, in-turn, have passed this on to their clients, and I have yet to hear that the protocol hasn’t significantly improved anyone’s health and performance.  A year after one such lecture, a physical therapist approached me at another seminar to thank me for the recommendation.  He worked at a hospital and used the staircase in his building to run four, 60-second sprints throughout the day on a Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. A great benefit to spacing the sprints throughout the day is that you do not really perspire in just 60-seconds and; so, with a long recovery, you do not need to be changing into work-out clothes – avoid high-heals; but, other than that, your pretty much good to go in your usual work attire.  The physical therapist went on to tell me that he corralled a group of his co-workers to commit to the program along with him and; in doing, so was able to lose over 50 lbs. over the course of the year!  Pretty good for just 12 minutes per week!

There are many different modalities that can be used for SIT; but, for those where balance, mobility or joint issues come into play, the upright stationary bike is probably the best alternative.  It also works well for everyone else, too.  However, unlike for most treadmills, where the speed is pre-determined, upright stationary bikes set a resistance and the speed is dictated by the user.  As a consequence, the speed is quicker at the beginning and slows quickly as fatigue develops with time; hence, 60 seconds feels like an eternity. So if you choose to use an upright stationary bike, set the resistance to as high as you can handle and complete the time prescription in 30-second increments rather than 60.

So, in closing, don’t give up on a new year’s exercise resolution because you can’t commit to a plan that requires an amount of significant time.  Hopefully, you’ve seen that a little exercise can go a long way when implemented with an all-out effort.  And if you do fail with your New Year’s resolution, don’t give up for the long term; realize that you can get right back on track any time with a minimal amount of time required.



[1]Hallal PC, Andersen LB, Bull FC, et al. Global physical activity levels: surveillance progress, pitfalls, and prospects. Lancet 2012; 380(9838): 247-57.

[2]Korkiakangas EE, Alahuhta MA, Laitinen JH. Barriers to regular exercise among adults at high risk or diagnosed with type 2 diabetes: a systematic review. Health Promot Int 2009; 24(4): 416-27.

[3]Burgomaster KA, Hughes SC, Heigenhauser GJF, Bradwell SN, Gibala MJ. Six sessions of sprint interval training increases muscle oxidative potential and cycle endurance capacity in humans. Journal of Applied Physiology 98: 1985-1990, 2005.

[4]Babraj JA, Vollaard NB, Keast C, Guppy FM, Cottrell, Timmons JA. Extremely short duration high intensity interval training substantially improves insulin action in young healthy males. BMC Endocr. Disord. 2009 Jan 28; 9:3.


Fitness, Technology, and Tracking Workouts | The Paleo Diet

One thing our Paleolithic ancestors certainly weren’t doing is tracking workout metrics via electronic devices. Yet in our modern world, this practice has become increasingly common.1 No doubt, ‘fitness tracking’ has become one of the biggest trends in the world, in the last 12 months.2 In fact, as millions of Americans are tracking workouts daily, this data is constantly being compiled and analyzed.3 Two of the biggest tracking companies, MyFitnessPal and MapMyFitness, recently published data4 revealing California, Colorado, and Washington as the three states in the U.S. with the most active populations. This analysis was based upon the length, frequency and type of exercise tracked.

So those states finished first – but which states came in last? That dubious distinction goes to North Dakota, South Carolina, and Delaware. In fact, of the 65 million users tracked by MyFitnessPal, 7 of the top 10 most active states were from the west coast. Does this come as a surprise? It certainly did to me!

MapMyFitness also helped to combine their data set with that of MyFitnessPal, where diet and sleep metrics were recorded and analyzed as well. Interestingly their data showed more than 45% of workouts performed in Texas, are running-based activities. This is more than in any other state! Unsurprisingly, walking was found to be the most popular activity, with California leading in this category pastime. 40% of participants claimed walking to be their favorite form of exercise.

One of the best benefits of tracking all this data? It holds us more accountable – a vastly needed advantage in our overly sedentary world.5, 6, 7, 8, 9 The “creepy factor” where everything you do is tracked, recorded, and analyzed by a company, is definitely present.10 But, if you lead a sedentary lifestyle, are overweight, or training for an athletic competition, following your activity, diet and sleep via one of these apps could very well help to save your life.11

In fact, as someone who has worked with a wide variety of clients, I can tell you first hand most are unaware of just how bad their lifestyle habits have become. And awareness is one of the first steps in improving your fitness, health and lifestyle!

We are at an interesting crossroads in human history. We are more overweight and unhealthy than ever before, and yet we have more options than ever available, to help us fix this problem! Meanwhile, we continue a constant debate between privacy and data tracking, the likes of which has never before been seen, in our culture.12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17

What is the Paleo perspective on all these issues? Certainly our ancestors had no central organization(s) tracking all the world’s movements, sleep patterns, and diet. But would this have been a welcome advancement, if the possibility existed? We cannot know the answer, but wonder what our Paleolithic ancestors would think. Wherever you fall on the spectrum of privacy, data tracking and health, there is no debate that we are certainly living at an increasingly interesting time in human history and need to focus upon achieving optimal health and wellness.



[1] Available at: http://www.marketwatch.com/story/fitbit-helps-thousands-train-and-race-smarter-during-summer-racing-season-2015-07-14-13159513. Accessed July 15, 2015.

[2] Available at: http://www.zdnet.com/article/diary-of-a-microsoft-band-user-heres-what-ive-found-out-so-far/. Accessed July 15, 2015.

[3] Available at: http://www.nytimes.com/2013/10/31/technology/personaltech/wrangling-data-from-a-huge-variety-of-fitness-apps-and-devices.html. Accessed July 15, 2015.

[4] Available at: http://newsdaily.com/2015/07/fitness-apps-data-reveals-american-workout-habits-most-active-states/. Accessed July 15, 2015.

[5] Available at: http://www.cnn.com/2014/02/18/health/health-fitness-apps/. Accessed July 15, 2015.

[6] Available at: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/the-active-times/sitting-is-the-new-smokin_b_5890006.html. Accessed July 15, 2015.

[7] Roth J, Qiang X, Marbán SL, Redelt H, Lowell BC. The obesity pandemic: where have we been and where are we going?. Obes Res. 2004;12 Suppl 2:88S-101S.

[8] Owen N, Healy GN, Matthews CE, Dunstan DW. Too much sitting: the population health science of sedentary behavior. Exerc Sport Sci Rev. 2010;38(3):105-13.

[9] Owen N, Sparling PB, Healy GN, Dunstan DW, Matthews CE. Sedentary behavior: emerging evidence for a new health risk. Mayo Clin Proc. 2010;85(12):1138-41.

[10] Available at: http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/wonkblog/wp/2013/06/12/heres-everything-we-know-about-prism-to-date/. Accessed July 15, 2015.

[11] Available at: http://www.cultofmac.com/325018/fitness-apps-gave-me-six-pack-abs/. Accessed July 15, 2015.

[12] Available at: http://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-23123964. Accessed July 15, 2015.

[13] Available at: http://www.rt.com/usa/snowden-leak-black-budget-176/. Accessed July 15, 2015.

[14] Available at: http://www.theguardian.com/us-news/the-nsa-files. Accessed July 15, 2015.

[15] Available at: http://mashable.com/2014/03/19/nsa-tech-companies-prism/. Accessed July 15, 2015.

[16] Available at: http://mashable.com/2014/03/31/nsa-iraq/. Accessed July 15, 2015.

[17] Available at: http://mashable.com/2014/06/05/edward-snowden-revelations/. Accessed July 15, 2015.

4 Outdoor Workouts to Skip the Gym Without the Guilt | The Paleo Diet

Are you looking for ways to exercise more like a hunter-gatherer? Break out of your regular indoor gym workout routine this summer and discover new ways to challenge your body. The current epidemic of lifestyle related health conditions are linked to the daily physical activity patterns that have evolved with modern life.1 By challenging your body with different movements, especially outdoors, we can optimize our gene expression and get the maximum benefits out of our time spent exercising.

Just like we eat seasonally available food, seek out seasonally available activities where you live. Running, swimming, and biking are all common warm weather activities to keep you in shape. However, there are additional opportunities to explore outdoor workouts this summer.  Skip the gym and reconnect with more Paleolithic forms of movement by going outside, trying something new, and being active with your friends and family.


Numerous options exist for creating strength based, and high-intensity workouts using existing structures. Whether you use the wide-open spaces at your favorite park or utilize the equipment at your local playground, you can get a great workout, in less than 15 minutes, while enjoying the outdoors.

Step-ups or jumps on a bench can build cardiovascular endurance, and strengthen the glutes, quads, hamstrings, and calves. Swinging and hanging on the monkey bars, which is much harder as an adult than it was as a child, provides attention to your biceps, lats, and abs.


You’ve probably heard you can incorporate more activity into your day if you take the stairs and skip the elevator. Take it to the next level with an stair-climbing, outdoor workout. It’s a thrilling, complete workout that will tax your lower half, and you’ll also benefit from both the ascending and descending movements.2

I am lucky to live in Seattle, which has over 650 public stairways that add up to a distance of about 100 miles to climb. If no stairways come to mind, check out your local high school stadium stairs near your home. Better yet, take the master in Stairmaster to a whole new level and explore steps worldwide at Machu Picchu, the Flørli stairs in Norway, and Switzerland’s suspended bridge over the Traversinertobel.3


Paddle boarding, one of the fastest growing water sports4, is a cross between kayaking and surfing. It’s simple and safe enough for even small children (with a life preserver) and dogs to come along for the ride, while you get the benefits from the workout. Above all else, it develops your sense of balance, as well as works the muscles of the arms and core.

As the sport evolves, it is being taken to a new level where some are doing yoga, Pilates, and even high intensity intervals of push-ups and squats on the paddleboard. Not close to water? Get all the same benefits from land paddling on a larger version of a skateboard (called a long board), which has rubber wheels.


Speedminton, which originated in Germany in 2002, is a trendy new game you can play in your backyard that’s a blend of tennis, badminton, and racquetball, using a “speeder” similar to the birdie in badminton. There’s no net, so the shots can go as low as you’d like and it can be played in any open space. Speedminton is a great way to build endurance and incorporate sprinting into your fitness routine as you dash for the speeder and have fun with your friends.

Wherever your fitness endeavors lead you this summer, consider broadening the way your body is challenged to perform. Not only can skipping the gym maximize the pleasure you get from exercise, but also allow you to experience the full benefits of sunny, warm weather.  Live Paleo. Move Paleo.



[1] O’Keefe, James H., et al. “Exercise like a hunter-gatherer: a prescription for organic physical fitness.” Progress in cardiovascular diseases 53.6 (2011): 471-479.

[2] Teh, Kong Chuan, and Abdul Rashid Aziz. “Heart rate, oxygen uptake, and energy cost of ascending and descending the stairs.” Medicine and science in sports and exercise 34.4 (2002): 695-699.

[3] Available at: http://travelblog.viator.com/best-staircases-in-the-world/. Accessed July 3, 2015.

[4] Available at: http://www.wsj.com/articles/SB10001424052748703720504575377023651849234. Accessed July3, 2015.

Be More Human | The Paleo Diet

Congratulations to the winner of the Reebok #BeMoreHuman Sweepstakes, David! Thanks for sharing your story!

“Started last year at 275 lbs. Implemented a Paleo lifestyle, working out, hiking and adding fitness bootcamps this year, have lost 80lbs and feeling the best I have in 20 years. I sleep better, have more energy, and find my passion for great healthy food and an active lifestyle life changing. Every week I am doing some great new hike, bike ride, and learning more about fitness and health everywhere I can. What is a better representation of being more human than living life, a healthy life?!”


Full Range of Motion Exercise: Part 2 | The Paleo Diet

Did you miss Full Range of Motion: Part 1? Read it HERE

In part one, we discussed how critical it is to perform multi-joint, functional movements that mimic the physical requirements of our hunter-gatherer ancestors. Functional movements increase and preserve both joint mobility and flexibility, and support strong muscles and overall physical fitness. Even though our modern lifestyle doesn’t demand the same, we shouldn’t shy away from regularly engaging in the three basic functional patterns typical of the Paleolithic man.

Contrary to popular belief, while exercising for an hour a day is good for our health,1 it doesn’t make up for being sedentary the rest of the time. We need to resist our natural urge to conserve energy to avoid the metabolic and long-term health consequences of too much sitting and not enough physical exertion.2 Get started by incorporating three basic movements, even when you aren’t in the gym.

Get Squatting

Imagine what your life would be like if you didn’t have any furniture. You would be  sitting cross-legged or kneeling to take a break from standing. If we look to cultures outside of western society,  we see individuals spending hours squatting in their day-to-day activities, especially when first world amenities are not available.3 Characteristically, the squat is considered a comfortable resting position.4

Let’s put it into practice. See how long you can rest, with a straight back and your feet on the ground in a squat position. Then begin to squat for various intervals through the day. In the privacy of your own office while you’re on a conference call? Squat. Playing with your kiddo? Squat.

Pick Up Heavy Things

Dead lifting is the practice of picking something heavy off the ground to a full standing position. It’s widely accepted by strength coaches as one of the top exercises to develop total body strength, including the hip and knee extensors, spinal erectors, quadratus lumborum, core abdominals, as well as the back and forearm muscles.5 Hunter-gathers didn’t have baby strollers, grocery carts, or more complex equipment like forklifts to move and lift the heaviest objects. All things were moved by manpower.6

Challenge your body by picking up heavy things regularly. Keep a traditional weight, like a kettlebell, next to your desk to use throughout the day. Make a conscious effort to lift other objects that you come across, like the extra-large bag of dog food. My favorite thing to pick up repeatedly? My toddler! The laughs alone are worth it.

Carry Heavy Loads

Anthropologists estimate that the typical hunter-gatherer mother carried her child until about age 4, covering upwards of 4,800 km with the child in her arms over this period of time.7

Moreover, our ancestors carried heavy loads to transport drinking water, killed game, and bundles of gathered foods.8 Now these activities seem to physically demanding for modern day. Carrying heavy backpacks has been attributed to nonspecific back pain in over 50% of teenagers by the time they are 16 years old.The solution isn’t to avoid carrying heavy things, but rather to learn how to do so safely by gradually building the necessary total body strength.

If you’re a hiker, snowshoe, or cross country ski, load a couple of extra water bottles in your backpack. If it gets too heavy you can simply empty the water. As you gain strength and endurance, add a couple rocks or weights. For everyday activities, carry two grocery baskets while shopping and if you’re child is walking, leave the stroller at home and opt instead to hold them if they get too tired.

Stephanie Vuolo

Stephanie Vuolo | The Paleo Diet Team

Stephanie Vuolo is a Certified Nutritional Therapist, an American College of Sports Medicine Personal Trainer, and a Certified CrossFit Level 1 Coach. She has a B.A. in Communications from Villanova University. She is a former contributor to Discovery Communications/TLC Blog, Parentables.

Stephanie lives in Seattle, WA, where she is a passionate and enthusiastic advocate for how diet and lifestyle can contribute to overall wellness and longevity. She has been raising her young daughter on the Paleo Diet since birth. You can visit her website at www.primarilypaleo.com.


[1] Fletcher, Gerald F., et al. “Statement on exercise: Benefits and recommendations for physical activity programs for all Americans a statement for health professionals by the committee on exercise and cardiac rehabilitation of the council on clinical cardiology, American heart association.” Circulation 94.4 (1996): 857-862.

[2] Katzmarzyk, Peter T., et al. “Sitting time and mortality from all causes, cardiovascular disease, and cancer.” Med Sci Sports Exerc 41.5 (2009): 998-1005.

[3] Done, What Is To Be. “Using a Squat Toilet: Aging in a Developing Country.” Journal of gerontological nursing 39.7 (2013): 2-3.

[4] Hewes, Gordon W. “World Distribution of Certain Postural Habits*.” American Anthropologist 57.2 (1955): 231-244.

[5] Bird, Stephen, and Benjamin Barrington-Higgs. “Exploring the deadlift.” Strength & Conditioning Journal 32.2 (2010): 46-51.

[6] O’Keefe, James H., et al. “Exercise like a hunter-gatherer: a prescription for organic physical fitness.” Progress in cardiovascular diseases 53.6 (2011): 471-479.

[7] Panter-Brick, C. Sexual division of labor: energetic and evolutionary scenarios. Am J Hum Biol. 2002; 14: 627–640.

[8] Cordain, L. and Friel, J. The Paleo Diet for Athletes: A Nutritional Formula for Peak Athletic Performance. Rodale Books, New York; 2005

[9] Sheir-Neiss, Geraldine I., et al. “The association of backpack use and back pain in adolescents.” Spine 28.9 (2003): 922-930.

Injury Prevention | The Paleo Diet

We exercise because it is good for our health. Many are motivated to move their bodies in order to maintain strength, support cardiovascular health, and because it is fun – especially to compete and push physical limits. Despite good intentions, people often hurt themselves during workouts, and in contrast to popular belief, clinical evidence shows stretching prior to exercising doesn’t reduce the incident of injuries.1 Fortunately, it’s possible to mitigate the risk factors to prevent unnecessary ailments while still enjoying your favorite physical activities.

Are some fitness programs more dangerous than others? A recent study reported the average rate of injury from participation in CrossFit was roughly 20%2 and another more controversial study3 found over 73% of participants were injured at some point during their training.4  These two studies, which relied on self-reporting surveys of injuries, could unnecessarily alarm many participants and dissuade them from the well-researched benefits of high intensity training. 5,6,7, A wider look at the analysis of injury rates among other types of exercise, like running, indicate similar results. For example, one study found a 19.4% to 79.3% rate of injury among runners.8 This same percentage of injuries was also identified among elite power and weight lifting athletes.9

Ultimately, your body is a machine. How you maintain and take care of it determines how well it will work for you, especially as it ages. Injuries happen, both in physically active and sedentary individuals, and if you’re aware of the risks, you can take the necessary steps to prevent getting hurt. 10,11,12,13

Dial in Your Nutrition

Our bodies are designed for movement, but need to be fueled for optimal performance, especially for high-intensity and endurance athletes. In The Paleo Diet for Athletes, traditional diets for athletes are often lacking in total calories, protein, or micronutrients. So it begins with quality and quantity:  eat the right Paleo foods (vegetables, fruits, and lean animal protein), and eat them at the right time (pre, during, and post- workout),14 meanwhile adequately hydrating. The anti-inflammatory benefits, such as a higher dietary emphasis on Omega 3 fatty acids15 and branched chain amino acids (BCAA), from following a Paleo Diet can aid in the prevention of injuries.16

Program Rest into Your Routine

Lifestyle stress, overtraining and not allowing the body to recover with enough rest are all major risk factor for injuries.17,18, 19 Further, many recreational, often competitive athletes, aren’t equipped with proper knowledge of training principles, and accelerate their program too rapidly without adequate recovery time.20

In The Paleo Diet for Athletes, Dr. Cordain explains, “it is far better to prevent overtraining in the first place than to deal with the aftermath of it. Effective training is a carefully balanced state of well-being between stress and rest.” The most important and overlooked factor in recovery is sleep,21 and research shows we are chronically sleep deprived.22 The equation is simple: improve sleep quality, recover faster, and improve your performance.23,24

Incorporate Strength and Balance into Your Fitness Regime

Improving joint stability through balance and strength exercises has been shown to lower the risk of injury by 45%- 68%. 25 According to the American College of Sports Medicine, “reducing the incidence of injury by engaging in a resistance training program is as beneficial for the noncompetitive beginner as it is for the professional athlete.”26

While CrossFit specifically focuses on heavy lifting with barbells and other weights, evaluate how strong you are in performing body weight exercises. Body weight exercises are easier on joints than traditional weight and resistance training exercises because they allow for a more natural range of motion.27 Challenge your muscles and improve your joint stability with handstands, one-arm handstands, pistols, pull-ups, and planks.

Obviously we cannot guarantee taking any or all of the measures will prevent injuries. We recommend working with certified trainers who provide detailed instruction on proper form and technique, especially when lifting very heavy weights. The whole emphasis of any training methodology should be focused on the goal of keeping your body healthy and fully functioning.  Making small increments of progress on a regular basis is not only beneficial in the long run, but will also assist you in preventing unnecessary injuries.


[1] Witvrouw, E, et al. Stretching and injury prevention. Sports Medicine 34.7. 2004; 443-449.

[2] Weisenthal BM, Beck CA, Maloney MD, DeHaven KE, & Giordano BD. Injury Rate and Patterns Among CrossFit Athletes. Orthopaedic Journal of Sports Medicine 2.4 2014; 2325967114531177.

[3] Available at: http://ftw.usatoday.com/2014/07/crossfit-sues-over-study-that-alleges-high-injury-rate. Accessed on October, 21, 2014.

[4] Hak PT, Hodzovic E, & Hickey, B. The nature and prevalence of injury during CrossFit training. Journal of strength and conditioning research/National Strength & Conditioning Association. 2013.

[5] Boutcher SH. High-intensity intermittent exercise and fat loss. Journal of Obesity. 2011; 868305.

[6] DiPietro, L, Dziura, J, Yeckel, CW, & Neufer, PD. Journal of Applied Physiology. 2006;100(1), 142-149.

[7] Talanian,  JL, Galloway, SD, Heigenhauser, GJ, Bonen, A, & Spriet, LL. Two weeks of high-intensity aerobic interval training increases the capacity for fat oxidation during exercise in women. Journal of applied physiology. 2007; 102(4), 1439-1447.

[8] van Gent, BR, Siem, DD, van Middelkoop, M, van Os, TA, Bierma-Zeinstra, SS, & Koes, BB. Incidence and determinants of lower extremity running injuries in long distance runners: a systematic review. British journal of sports medicine. 2007.

[9] Raske A, Norlin R. Injury incidence and prevalence among elite weight and power lifters. Am J Sports Med. 2002;30:248-256

[10] Langevoort G, Myklebust G, Dvorak J, Junge A. Handball injuries during major international tournaments. Scand J Med Sci Sports. 2007;17:400-407.

[11] Nilstad A, Andersen TE, Bahr R, Holme I, Steffen K. Risk factors for lower extremity injuries in elite female soccer players. Am J Sports Med. 2014;42:940-948./

[12] Robinson TW, Corlette J, Collins CL, Comstock RD. Shoulder injuries among US high school athletes. 2005/2006-2011/2012. Pediatrics. 2014;133:272-279.

[13] Hootman, Jennifer M., et al. Epidemiology of musculoskeletal injuries among sedentary and physically active adults. Medicine and science in sports and exercise. 2002; 838-844.

[14] Zajac, Adam, et al. The Effects of a Ketogenic Diet on Exercise Metabolism and Physical Performance in Off-Road Cyclists. Nutrients 6.7. 2014; 2493-2508.

[15] de Mattos Machado Andrade, Priscila, and Maria das GraÁas Tavares do Carmo. Dietary long-chain omega-3 fatty acids and anti-inflammatory action: potential application in the field of physical exercise. Nutrition 20.2 (2004); 243.

[16] Frassetto LA, Schloetter M, Mietus-synder M, Morris RC, Sebastian A. Metabolic and physiologic improvements from consuming a paleolithic, hunter-gatherer type diet. Eur J Clin Nutr. 2009;63(8):947-55.

[17] Kuipers, H, and HA Keizer. Overtraining in elite athletes. Sports Medicine 6.2. 1988;79-92.

[18] Croisier, Jean-Louis. Factors associated with recurrent hamstring injuries. Sports medicine 34.10 (2004): 681-695.

[19] Satterthwaite, Peter, et al. Risk factors for injuries and other health problems sustained in a marathon. British journal of sports medicine 33.1. 1999; 22-26.

[20] Pearce, P. Z. A practical approach to the overtraining syndrome. Current sports medicine reports 1.3 (2002): 179-183.

[21] Available at: http://journals.lww.com/nsca-scj/Citation/2002/04000/Sleep,_the_Athlete,_and_Performance_.5.aspx. Accessed on October 21, 2014.

[22] Ferrara, Michele, and Luigi De Gennaro. How much sleep do we need? Sleep Medicine Reviews 5.2 2001;155-179.

[23] Halson, Shona L. “Nutrition, sleep and recovery.European Journal of sport science 8.2. 2008;119-126.

[24] Available at: http://sleepfoundation.org/sleep-tools-tips/healthy-sleep-tips. Accessed on October 21, 2014.

[25] Available at: http://www.foxnews.com/health/2013/10/17/strength-balance-exercises-may-prevent-sports-injury/. Accessed on October 21, 2014.

[26] Available at: http://www.acsm.org/docs/current-comments/rtandip.pdf. Accessed on October 21, 2014.

[27] Available at: http://jasonferruggia.com/is-bodyweight-training-effective-for-building-muscle/. Accessed on October 21, 2014.

Natural Movement Workouts: Hang Time

The Journal of Clinical Psychology reported jungle gym pastimes are a thing of the past, and gone are the days when swinging from the monkey bars is a safe activity on the playground.1 But is the related danger really something adults and children should be overly concerned about? Exercise today neglects to include many functional movement patterns, like hanging or brachiating (swinging from rung to rung on an overhead ladder or bar).2 “Hanging and the much more challenging action of swinging from object to object, uses upper body strength in a general sense. Swinging requires the full participation of every bit of tissue from the fingers to the lower body,”3 said Katy Bowman, a biomechanics specialist on natural movement and development.

Although our physical exercise capabilities have not changed from our Paleolithic ancestors, we have mechanically engineered the functional movements of climbing and carrying very heavy loads out of our modern life.4 Our bodies are paying the price. Increased rates of osteoporosis, osteopenia, and sarcopenia,5, 11 in addition to common shoulder and back problems can be attributed to muscle and joint weakness or imbalance. In 2006, approximately 7.5 million people were treated for shoulder injuries,6 and the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases estimates 8 out of 10 people will experience back pain in their lives.7 So, how might we incorporate hanging and brachiating into their exercise regime?

Our bodies were genetically designed for these kinds of movements. Paleoanthropologists suspect bipedalism in humans was directly correlated to swinging and suspensory climbing, rather than for walking.9 Just look at all babies today. The palmer grasp reflex that enables them to grab a finger is the very same mechanism our hunter-gatherer ancestors used to grab a branch.8, 10 In fact, babies are even strong enough during their first six months of life to be able to suspend their entire body when gripping a bar.12 The grasping reflex begins to disappear at 6 months of age, however research suggests it is only the lack of cultivation of the capability that reduces its appearance.8 For this reason alone, we should encourage our children to hang on their arms, and join in on the fun.

Where to get started?

Begin to add isometric hangs and brachiation movements to your fitness routine a few times a week, working up to daily sessions of up to 7 minutes.13 You can install a pull-up bar in your home for convenience or visit your local playground.

Passive hang

Begin by holding onto an overhead bar with your hands about shoulder-width apart, and your arms completely straight. In this passive position, your shoulders are relaxed and up close to your ears. Ideally, you are able to support your full body weight.

However, if you are a beginner or rehabilitating a shoulder injury take some of the weight off of your arms by placing your feet on the ground, either by using a low bar at playground or placing your feet up on a bench. In the supported position, your hands, wrists, elbows, shoulders and hips will be in alignment, and your knees and feet will form a 90° angle.

Active hang

From the passive position above, retract your shoulder blades back and down towards to the ground. Return to the passive position and repeat for your desired amount of time.

Active Hang

Brachiation Basics

Once you have built enough endurance to successfully perform passive and active hangs, experiment with brachiation. Test your strength to see if you can perform passive or active hangs on one arm at a time before adding in the momentum. Try swinging from side-to-side, using each arm as you move across an overhead ladder, like monkey bars at a playground. As you become more skilled, the options for where you can go with your arms are unlimited.


1. Schwebel, D. Safety on the playground: Mechanisms through which adult supervision might prevent child playground injury. Journal of Clinical Psychology in Medical Settings 2006:135-143.

2. Available at: http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/health-topics/topics/phys/types.html. Accessed October 7, 2014.

3. Available at: http://breakingmuscle.com/family-kids/katy-bowman-and-biomechanics-human-growth-necessity-monkey-business Accessed October 7, 2014.

4. Gordon AM, Forssberg H. (1997) Development of neural mechanisms underlying grasping in children. In: Connolly KJ, Forssberg H, editors. Neurophysiology and Neuropsychology of Motor Development. Clinics in Developmental Medicine No.143/144, London: Mac Keith Press. p 214–31.

5. O’Keefe J H, Vogel R, Lavie CJ, Cordain L. Exercise like a hunter-gatherer: a prescription for organic physical fitness. Progress in cardiovascular diseases 53.6.2011: 471-479.

6. Available at: http://orthoinfo.aaos.org/topic.cfm?topic=a00327. Accessed October 7, 2014.

7. Medline Plus. Back Pain. http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/backpain.html. . Accessed October 7, 2014.

8. Crompton, RH, Vereecke EE, Thorpe SKS. Locomotion and posture from the common hominoid ancestor to fully modern hominins, with special reference to the last common panin/hominin ancestor. Journal of Anatomy 212.4 2008: 501-543.

9. Jones, D., Hoelscher, D. M., Kelder, S. H., Hergenroeder, A., & Sharma, S. V. (2008). International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity. International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity, 5, 42.

10. Hadders-Algra M. The Neuronal Group Selection Theory: a framework to explain variation in normal motor development. Developmental Medicine & Child Neurology, 2000: 42: 566–572.

11. Cotter M, Loomis D, Simpson S, Latimer B, Hernandez C. Human Evolution and Osteoporosis-Related Spinal Fractures. PLoS ONE 6(10): e26658. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0026658.

12. Pennock E. From Gibbons to Gymnasts: A Look at the Biomechanics and Neurophysiology of Brachiation in Gibbons and its Human Rediscovery. 2013. Student Works. Paper 2.

13. Available at: http://www.idoportal.com/blog/hanging. Accessed October 7,2014.

Food Politics | The Paleo Diet

Dr. Cordain,

About 20 years ago I also read “Are you Confused?” as part of my interest in nutrition health and sports. Today I have a MSc in Nutritional Science and work as a sports dietitian in River Plata soccer club in Argentina. I ended up with your book after delving into my hobby: physical anthropology.

I have recently read your book and tried your diet for four weeks, feeling great and losing three kgs without physical activity, needless to say I’m hooked and will continue. I was very fearful and skeptical at first, imagine that after several years of brainwashing by the ADA and USDA curricula, pyramids and “research,” I thought that cutting out three food groups amounted to outright quackery and faddism. Then I read Food Politics by Marion Nestle. Coupled with the evidence exposed in your book I went for it.

Sorry to derail you from a likely busy schedule, my sincere thanks and congratulations, keep up the good work.


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