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Primal Fitness is Natural Fitness is Your Best Fitness
If you are into natural fitness you’ve probably heard the term primal fitness. It’s fitness at it’s raw, innate state. It gives your body freedom to move how it was designed. It is what allows you to walk longer, or sit, stand, and go up and down stairs and hills without pain.
Lifting a set amount of weight for a specific period repeatedly and running extremely long distances often may be fun for some people, but they’re not going to help with movements you should be doing daily. Movements like walking, getting up from the ground with ease, carrying loads of varying weights, and being mobile much of the day.
That is not to say I’m not all for pursuing your athletic goals! Just keep in mind that these modern exercise habits of weight lifting and marathon running training can actually be very damaging if one is not diligent. Practicing mindful movements is different than training for a sport, it is a way of life.
Primal fitness is not exercise, but movement. More movement, mindful movement, and dynamic movement
Being in the best physical health for your body will mean you need to move a lot. Humans are not designed to be as sedentary as most of us have become. Choosing the stairs over the elevator is a great start, but you can do better!
Create a Movement-friendly Environment
People are more likely to move when they have the space to do it – if your surroundings don’t make it easy to move, change them!
- Remove furniture and extra things from your home.
- Create a better outdoor space.
- Try to spend more time outside.
- Hang a bar from your door frame or a rope outside.
- Make a recreation room with these playroom ideas!
Change Your Mindset
Here I am at the Tulum ruins, taking advantage of their short “doorframes” and stretching my shoulders. You can do this on your modern-sized human doorframes too! Keeping your ribs down, stretch your hands to the doorframe and add a nice shoulder release each time you pass a doorway.
- Stop thinking of moving as something to do only when working out. Movement does not equal exercise.
- Work on changing positions every few minutes, whether you’re lying down, at a desk, cooking, etc.
- Instead of setting aside time for movement exercises, use the time you do have and move. Squat, stretch, or stand while on the computer. Walk or move around while on phone calls, listening to audio books, or podcasts.
Make It Easy
- Wear comfortable clothes that make it easy to move in. I find myself barely moving much if I’m in a skirt or jeans, whereas I can break out a handstand whenever I want if I’m in cotton shorts. Something about the right clothes just make you feel more sporty!
- Find a partner to go on walks together, or make evening walks a family priority – your kids need to move too! I have been trying to incorporate morning walks with my family (it’s a one minute walk to the beach from our house – we have no excuses!). I find myself happier all day after getting some morning movement outdoors!
- Invest in gymnastics mats or use make-shift equipment to jump, hang, roll, or sit on. I can’t tell you how much easier it is to stretch or move around when you have a mat you sit on instead of a couch! It’s like, “why not, I’m already down here!”
Mindful Movements and Human Biomechanics
Innate Moves is about consciousness in every move, or, intentional movement. When we are mindful of the molds we put our body in, we create awareness within our physical self. This is what creates our best fitness.
Try focusing on your body right now. If you are sitting to read this, are you hunched over your computer or phone? Is your head pushing forward past your chest? Next time you are standing, notice your posture. Is your back straight? Do your shoulders hunch over and is it hard to bring them back? What about your lower half – do you always stand a certain way with your feet? These are all questions to start asking yourself to bring your attention to your body mechanics.
Aligning your body correctly isn’t always possible, especially after a lifetime of misalignments. Start with your alignment while standing. Biomechanist, Katy Bowman has a brief article on what proper human stance should be here.
Don’t forget about your upper body – keep ribs in, shoulders back, and head high and neutral. To do this, do not puff chest out, but keep in. Learning to disconnect my ribs from my shoulders has really helped my shoulder flexibility and posture.
Notice the difference in the pictures below. The first one I have my ribs out, as if they are connected to my arms when raised. In the other, my rib cage is lowered and my arms are lifted with the flexibility of my shoulders, not by puffing my chest.
In the photos I have my arms raised to demonstrate the connection (and how to break it) between the shoulder girdle and rib cage. But keeping your shoulders back and ribs lowered is just as important while standing, walking, and going about your activities.
Walking more is a tenant of primal fitness, but let’s take a deeper look at how to walk without hurting.
First – ditch the shoes. Go barefoot as much as you can, easing your way into it. If you are used to wearing shoes at home, stop that nonsense. Invest in minimal shoes to places you can’t, or are uncomfortable with, going barefoot. (No, flip-flops are not considered minimal because our foot has to unnaturally grip to keep them on, making a natural gait impossible.)
Once you are not burdened with clunky heels and shoes that squeeze your toes together abnormally, you can start working on your natural gait. The main issue I notice (yes, I have a habit of watching people’s movements) is a heavy heel strike. Most of us were taught that your heel should hit first, whether walking or running. Nope.
Let your entire foot hit the ground mostly at once, perhaps your forefoot striking first, but not your heel or toes. Let it be natural and don’t use your shin to hold your toes up. Tread lightly. Don’t walk on a tightrope, but keep your legs straight down from your hips. Lastly, don’t step too far in front of your body to keep the weight over your feet.
It may feel funny at first to change your gait, and probably unnecessary. But you could be saving your future self from a lot of pain. You’ll be surprised at how easy it is to change your habits once you are mindful and notice how much better it feels to walk the way you were made to!
Dynamic Fitness and Movement Training
Once your body starts moving more, you will probably notice that you start craving movement. Hopefully you’ll notice changes in your body for the good simply from your increase in mindful habits.
For those that crave that next fitness level there are primal fitness exercises. They provide far superior health benefits than gym workouts and man-made exercise equipment.
Body Weight Exercises to Build Muscle
You really can get an intense workout by using your own body. You are in complete control of when and how much to back off or add by holding poses longer or doing more. There are endless numbers of body weight activities you can do, but typical ones are lunges, squats, and planks.
Remember that just because you are not using weights and machines doesn’t mean that you can’t use anything. A bar or tree branch, for example, should be utilized for hanging. A wall or something stable is really useful for handstands and other skills. If you don’t have carpet, grass, or sand, a mat may be desired for a softer surface.
Burst Workouts and Long Leisurely Cardio
I remember being taught that we should be doing 30 – 60 minutes of medium intensity cardio exercises a day for the best health. Nature, however, disagrees. Our bodies were designed to carry out large amounts of low-intensity cardio (aka, “movement”) daily, leaving short, intense cardio workouts to compliment. A game of tag with your kids, running to catch your bus, or a strenuous swim can be considered the short intense exercises. You can also add bodyweight exercises, yoga, gymnastics, or other intense workouts you enjoy.
Get High and Low
Getting on the ground is natural. The act of sitting down and getting up off of the floor takes many more muscles than sitting and standing from a chair. While on the floor, moving around is more natural and innate.
Try sitting on the floor on your bum with your feet close and your knees up. Can you get up without using your hands or crossing your legs? You should be able to, but most people have a really hard time with it or can’t.
Hanging, like floor sitting, is something most of us don’t do enough of. It’s great for your upper body strength, flexibility, and grip, and is a nice way to release tightness in the lower body. Hanging from trees are best but bars and ropes will do just fine. I generally spend some time hanging with my kids from the monkey bars at parks.
Practicing natural gymnastics has you moving in all directions, increasing your mind-body connection. Gymnastics offers a way to discover your body’s abilities and can be so much fun. Any age can start gymnastics, check out my articles on adult gymnastics for more information.
If moving more is causing you pain or if you have issues in certain areas there is a good chance you have some bodily misalignment. This can occur anywhere in the body and is normally due to bad habits we’ve picked up in our lives. Often it results in certain muscles working too hard and others not hard enough. Knowing how to properly align your body when standing, sitting, and lying brings a balance to your muscular system, easing straining. Katy Bowman offers excellent movement training tips in her books, you can check them out here.
Remember to think of the body as a whole, dependent system to realize a pain in one body part may be the result of misalignment or uneven pressure in another part. Practicing mindfulness of your body while incorporating more smart movements should solve your misalignments and keep your body functioning at its peak!
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