In part seven of this multi-part presentation covering 115 key insights about the Primal Endurance approach, we’re talking about a very important (but often neglected) part of performing, recovering, and preserving your health—complementary movement and lifestyle practices.
As you will hear, the centerpiece of these practices is of course, sleep, but in this show, I present the idea that getting adequate sleep is not as simple as putting in the prerequisite number of hours every night—there are a lot of peripheral variables here, including the quality of the sleep that you get, the environment you sleep in, and even the time of year (sleep requirements vary depending on the seasons). Since everything flows downstream from getting adequate sleep, sleep quality is crucial, so you don’t want to miss this episode—if your sleep is not entirely optimal, this can show up as sub-optimal thyroid, cortisol, or inflammatory markers (it can also affect sex hormones like testosterone, etc).
When you look at healthy fitness goals, everything flows downstream from getting adequate sleep. It is more than just getting the requisite number of hours every night. [00:24]
There is a small percentage of people who have a gene that allows them to get by just fine on fewer hours of sleep, but there is a large percentage of people who wrongly believe they have that gene. [03:53]
It is important to have quiet and darkness in your sleeping room. [08:41]
Optimal sleep starts with minimizing artificial light and digital stimulation allowing for circadian influence that makes you feel sleepy. [11:43]
To feel fresh and energetic in the morning get outdoors and expose yourself to direct light…..then have you cup of coffee if you want. [12:48]
Keep your evenings as mellow as possible and dimly lit. [17:33]
Waking up perky in the morning indicates that you have had a good night’s sleep. [19:23]
An ideal sleeping environment is quiet and clutter-free and cool. [21:13]
Napping is a good way to catch up on your evening sleep deficiencies. And to fire up your cognitive function. [25:32]
The Active Couch Potato Syndrome is a real problem where athletes think can minimize activity for the rest of the day after a workout. [29:19]
Walking is the centerpiece of recovery. Extended periods of sitting can compromise musculoskeletal function, cellular health, and cardio function. [32:46]
Research shows that even a 20-minute period of stillness can decrease your body’s operation and cognitive function. [35:28]
Cardiovascular fitness is the ability to challenge the heart and certain muscles to perform extreme athletic efforts in order to deliver oxygen to all cells of your body. [37:07]
Create variation in your work environment. It takes more than a stand-up desk. [39:27]
Brain science confirms that humans are incapable of focusing for longer than 20 minutes without a break. [43:00]
Complimentary movements like Yoga and Pilates improve athletic performance. They also provide a calming balance to high stress workouts. [45:05]
Play is a critical stress release from the pressures, schedules and responsibilities of daily life. Play can take many forms. [48:10]
- Primal Endurance Mastery course (FREE bag of Whey Protein Superfuel if you sign up for the full course, just email us!)
- Brad Kearns.com
- Brad’s Shopping page
- Lights Out Sleep, Sugar and Survival
- Marick Health
- Huberman Lab
- Brad Kearns’s Morning Routine
- Brad’s First Simpler Morning Routine
- Red-colored flashlight
- Dr. Jack Kruse Podcast, part 1
- Dr. Jack Kruse Podcast, part 2
- Eight Sleep mattresses
- Take a Nap! Change Your Life
- Move Your DNA
- Ready State.com
- Mark Bell Podcast
- The Primal Blueprint
- The Primal Connection
- “A good night’s sleep starts first thing in the morning with getting outdoors.”
Welcome to the return of the Primal Endurance Podcast. This is your host, Brad Kearns, and we are going on a journey to a kinder, gentler, smarter, more fun, more effective way to train for ambitious endurance goals. Visit Primal endurance.fit to join the community and enroll in our free video course.
Greetings, endurance athletes listening to this lengthy series of episodes covering 115 things you need to know as a primal endurance athlete. And we are now in the wonderful part seven, hitting the category of complimentary movement and lifestyle practices. So if you’ve been with us from the start, hopefully, we covered the section of aerobic training. We covered a section on periodization. We covered a section on primal eating, then we went to strength training and sprinting, and now we have complimentary movement and lifestyle practices followed by recovery. And that will total eventually 115 of the most important things that will help you perform, recover, and preserve your health and pursuit of these ambitious endurance goals. Let’s go into the complimentary movement and lifestyle practices, the centerpiece, of course, being sleep. And that really should be the starting point for anyone with health and fitness goals. Everything flows downstream from getting adequate sleep.
We all know this, it’s pretty obvious. However, I’m going to, uh, present the idea that getting adequate sleep is not just as simple as putting in the requisite number of hours every night. There are a lot of peripheral variables here, including the quality of sleep that you get, uh, the environment that you sleep in. Uh, interestingly, sleep requirements vary a bit by the seasons. So when the days are shorter, we have a genetic requirement for more sleep. And when the days are longer in the summertime, maybe that’s the time when you’re upping your training and your recreation. You can stay up later and the body does fine with comparatively less sleep than is necessary in the winter. Unfortunately, we also mess up our circadian rhythms and our wonderful seasonal variation in activity and metabolic function because we artificially lengthen our winter days with artificial light indoors.
So we don’t really have that, uh, opportunity to tone things down, perhaps take time off from vigorous exercise during the winter. Some people like to train all winter, especially if you’re in a super hot climate, that might be your go-to season where you get more done if you’re in Phoenix or whatever. So, it’s not as wildly fluctuating as it might have been for our ancestors, but it’s something to think about. There’s more details in the great book titled Lights Out Sleep, Sugar and Survival. And they talk a lot about our ancestral experience and sleeping patterns and make the argument that for most of us, we need nine and a half hours of sleep per night in the winter and eight hours in the summer. So you’ve heard about that eight hours bantered around. Of course, there’s individuality here. Um, there’s this concept of genetic short sleepers people that can get by just fine on an hour or two less average sleeping hours than most people.
And Matthew Walker talks about this in his many popular podcasts in his best-selling book. And other people have brought up this subject. And one funny anecdote that I appreciate from this concept of the genetic short sleeper is, I think it was Walker estimating that it’s something like 1% of the population has this gene variant that enables them to be fully rested and restored, uh, with minimal sleep. Uh, one of those people in that category might be my wife Mia Moore, because she seems to be absolutely fine even when she gets the occasional night of very minimal sleep, she wakes up and says, oh, I just slept harder last night. And I’m like, I can’t even fathom. I can’t even imagine if I have one poor night of sleep, I report back that it affects me for four or five or the next six days.
I just don’t feel right. And that hardly ever happens cuz I get a ton of sleep every single night. And even if I’m an hour short of my, I would say my pattern is somewhere between eight and a half and nine and a half hours, uh, that I need and require. And if I’m falling short of that, I just don’t feel right the next day and I have to take a nap, sometimes two naps if I have a rough time, uh, whether it’s jet lag or something that’s interfering with my wonderful optimal night of sleep. So I do acknowledge that there are some genetic variability here within a normal healthy range. Oh, but the anecdote I was talking about, when the science suggests that we have 1%, uh, of people with the gene variant but something like 15% of people believe that they’re a short sleeper with these genetic attributes.
So, they are just going through life thinking they don’t need much sleep and somehow applying willpower or keeping busy all day with a difficult job and, you know, going through it, okay, uh, but possibly to the detriment of their health when you add everything up and especially go and do some tracking and blood values and hormone values. And I’ve talked about my association with Marick Health, where I have these wonderful opportunity for one-on-one consultation with experts to go over e every last bit of my blood tests and receive a detailed written report and go over that with me where we’re looking for optimization rather just rather than just landing in the normal range and thinking that’s okay, which is what mainstream western medicine is all about. We’re looking for disease screening. We’re not looking for peak performance optimization.
That’s just not how the model works. And so when you get your annual physical and your blood results and you’ve engaged with, uh, a mainstream medical consultants, that’s great. They’re trying to protect you from disease and catch things early. But then there’s a whole nother level to look at. And the advanced practitioners who are into, uh, a functional medicine, peak performance can now, look at things a little differently and try to optimize with supplements, with, uh, suggestions, dietary modifications to get you, bumping up on level. And I bring this up right now because if your, if your sleep is not entirely optimal, maybe your environment is not great, it’s noisy, there’s some light interference or maybe your hours, you’re just not putting in enough hours in the bed, you’re not winding down effectively. So you’re like streaming your e entertainment on a screen or working on those final few emails and then shutting the lid of the laptop and trying to go straight to bed, not doing those rituals that prepare you for an efficient cycling through all phases of sleep.
These things could show up in a little bit suboptimal with things like thyroid, cortisol, inflammatory markers, uh, uh, sex hormones, testosterone, estrogen, things like that. And, you know, working on your sleep could give you a bump in cognitive performance, physical performance recovery, uh, possibilities that you didn’t really, uh, envision until you make a concerted effort. So, uh, we’ll talk about some of those ways to do it as we go through the list. So part of this opening statement, I talked about sleep requirements varying by season. Rather than just doing this lip service, eight hours is the goal. Sometimes you need more. It definitely varies by training workload. And so I mentioned my typical pattern of needing between eight and a half and nine and a half, and I’d say that’s entirely relating to the workload of my training. And so I need an extra hour, the night after a high intensity sprint workout or jump workout or something that I really need to recover from.
Also, if we have more overall life stress levels, that’s gonna warrant extra sleep. And then we have those genetic variations, not just the, uh, the distinct gene variant that makes you a short sleeper, but within the normal population, there is very likely a range of perhaps an hour, hour and a half where people get by with what they consider to be plenty of sleep. And that might be different than your mother, brother, sister friend. Right? And so how do you figure this out? Well, the first step would be to try some sleeping in a completely pitch dark room. when I visit my friend Big George in Lake Tahoe, he has the fantastic automatic blinds that result in a pitch black room. And boy, does it make a difference. And yes, you find yourself perhaps or very likely sleeping a bit or a lot extra from what you’re normally used to.
And so we do have to do whatever we can to create this optimal environment of total darkness to allow the body, the parasympathetic nervous system to take over and kick into high gear with rest and restoration processes that don’t finish until you’re ready to awaken. But if your sleep environment starts to get disruptive when the garbage trucks and the buses start to squeal and shriek and the horns honk early in the morning, um, that’s gonna pull you out of this optimal cycling through all phases of sleep. And you think that you’re a person who sleeps seven and a half hours a night, but it could possibly be influenced by the garbage trucks coming and doing their beep beep beep backing up. So, pitch dark, quiet, comfortable place to sleep, if that means going on vacation to do your data research. Okay.
But, um, if you can, you know, log some days in an environment that gives you uninterrupted sleep, that’s how you can truly determine what your optimal number of sleeping hours per night is. So the idea there would be to retire when you feel sleepy, when you feel that melatonin flooding the bloodstream and the eyelids getting heavy. I believe that’s from the increase in melatonin as well as the drop in dopamine has some direct association with actually making your eyelids feel heavy. Uh, and then, uh, awakening when you feel naturally alert, refreshed and energized. And that’s where you are locking into a wonderful winning pattern. Okay, so, um, we’re finally getting into the numbered list of the 115 things, you know, and in the complimentary movement and lifestyle practices. We have 18 of ’em at this pace, having talked for a while without getting into number one yet, it’s gonna be a long show.
But, we’ve set up such a nice, uh, foundation and emphasizing sleep, and now we’re gonna just sail through these wonderful memorable insights. Number one, optimal sleep starts with mellow, dark calming evenings that minimize artificial light and digital stimulation after dark. This allows for the circadian influenced D L M O that stands for dim light melatonin onset to happen on cue making you feel sleepy in the hours after it gets dark. So we are strongly influenced by our circadian rhythms, even though we do everything we can to interfere with it by holding onto a mobile device, having that light blast into our eyeballs even late at night. But still, uh, all living things on earth have a strong direct connection to the circadian rhythm which is the rising and setting of the sun. And we have been tied to that for two and a half million years of human evolution.
Other than that, it’s not a big deal, the rising and setting of the sun, but so many things are tied to that. You’ve probably heard of the modern research about how digestive circadian rhythm is also also strongly influenced by light or dark cycles. So we wanna do the best we can to honor that in terms of optimizing our hormones, our mental health, our physical health. There’s some great content on the Huberman Lab podcast where Dr. Andrew Huberman talks in detail about how important it is to get out into direct sunlight first thing in the morning. And this sets your circadian rhythm. It helps optimize those hormones such as the natural elevation in cortisol and serotonin that allows you to have that energetic alert positive feeling when you start the day. We also have the natural drop in adenosine, the sleepiness hormone. Caffeine is known to suppress adenosine.
That’s how it works. In fact, to make you feel alert and energize. It doesn’t directly energize you, contrary to popular notion, it actually blocks the adenosine receptors, therefore it allows you to, allow your natural hormones to kick in and make you feel alert and energized. And adenosine builds and builds and builds in levels, uh, throughout the day. And it contributes to making you sleepy at nighttime. So if you kind of wipe that out with a cup of coffee, it has magnificent effects. However, as Dr. Huberman makes a good point. The best results for morning alertness and awakening is to wait an hour, allow the natural hormonal processes to play out and then have your cup of coffee if you wanna have that desired boost that you’re so used to. And so, number one for health energy hormone optimization is to get outdoors and expose yourself to direct light.
It doesn’t have to be, I say sunlight, but it doesn’t have to be a sunny day. So it’s the exposure of natural light, even if it’s a cloudy, overcast day in the winter in Norway, um, the importance is having that direct exposure as opposed to, for example, sunlight coming through a car window or the window of your home that, uh, actually blocks a lot of the uv and so you don’t get the optimal effects. So that’s number one is get out in the morning. Um, there’s a good quote: “a good night’s sleep starts first thing in the morning with getting outdoors.” Okay? So that’s your big morning assignment. And the content of number one is emphasizing the minimizing of artificial light and digital stimulation after dark. It doesn’t mean you have to shut things down and go to sleep soon after dark, although that’s not a bad idea.
Uh, but we want to have entertainment, social time, I important activities happening after dark. Isn’t that nice that we have lights and we have screens to entertain us? Uh, but I want you to think in the back of your mind when that sun sets <laugh> turn toward, uh, the setting sun in the east and say, thank you sun for another great day on the planet. And just put a, make a mental note that now it’s time to think about ways to wind down and the further away it gets from that setting in the sun, you know, the later into the night you want to really make the effort more sincere. And so if you’re going to engage in screen entertainment or high stimulatory activities of any kind, especially the difference between like cranking through some emails versus, versus sitting back relaxing and watching a show, uh, it’s much more stimulatory to have to do work.
And so get those things stacked earlier in the evening and at least prioritize the final hour for winding down rituals where you can relax, perhaps walk the dog around the block one last time, get some outdoor exposure. Uh, there’s also some really interesting benefits to, uh, getting outside around sunset and watching the sunset, not staring at the ball, right? We don’t wanna stare straight at the sun, but being outdoors when that light changes sense of profound signal to your genes and can be a great contributor to, again, falling asleep on cue and cycling nicely through all the phases of sleep, waking up near sunrise, feeling alert and energized. And there’s also good research that exposure to the red light, uh, devices that are so popular now in the biohacking community can kind of simulate that. So, the best, of course is to get out into natural light first thing in the morning and at sunset, if possible.
Okay, so that pretty much covers number one and wanting this dim light melatonin onset to occur by making your evenings as mellow in light source as possible. And there’s all kinds of great things you can do, like switch out, uh, some of the lamps in your home to the orange light bulbs that you’ll find at the home supply store. Sometimes they call ’em bug bulbs, uh, but they have different hues that are less offensive than the bright white, uh, light that we’re used to for indoor lighting. And this is actually called blue light. So you hear blue light critical comments about too much blue light, this too much blue light, that it’s not the color blue, uh, it’s coming from the white light bulbs or coming through your screen. Uh, but it represents the, uh, the most visible part of the UV spectrum.
And that’s why the sky is blue and the ocean is blue, because blue light is the most penetrating light, the most visible source of light. So for a little light lesson there, it’s the white light bulbs that emit blue light. And blue light is the one that’s the most disruptive to circadian rhythm after dark. So keep your evenings as mellow and dimly lit as possible. If possible, switching over to orange light or orange light bulbs or wearing the, uh, UV protective light colored lenses, whether they’re yellow or orange, they call ’em, uh, blue blocking lenses that can also help, but it’s not the end all. So I know it’s really popular for people to dawn these cool looking glasses and wear them around at night while watching a bunch of shows and staying up late. So it’s not gonna be like complete protection. You do wanna just mellow things and keep it dark and calm and cool.
Number two, and I covered some of this already, so we’re gonna be moving fast. Awakening naturally near sunrise, feeling refreshed and energized is indicative of adequate sleep. Feeling less than perky in the morning suggests that you must minimize artificial light and digital stimulation in the evenings. So yes, the possible dream is there for all humans to grab, and it just involves improving your sleep habits and your sleep environment, and then waking up one day feeling great and popping outta bed. Okay, I know that sounds a little easy, breezy and cotton candy, bubble gummy, and I’m not someone who pops outta bed every single day, uh, singing and, uh, <laugh> and, and dancing through the home immediately. However, my commitment to my morning exercise routine has been a fantastic catalyst to bring me a morning of high energy alertness, positive mood, all those things.
So if I do feel a little draggy, as soon as I awaken, I pretty soon am hitting the deck and starting with my leg swings. And my energy builds naturally and reliably every single time. So every time I complete my morning exercise routine, I feel way better than when I started. And I can’t emphasize this enough or recommend enough. If you do have trouble waking up and feeling great, just get outta bed and start moving, ideally outdoors so you can get that direct exposure to natural sunlight, and you will start to elevate your mood and your hormones and your energy. Um, that’s number two. Awaken naturally near sunrise. And if it’s still trouble, when you’re doing everything great in the morning, go look back at your evening habits. So we have to pair our morning habits and our evening habits.
Number three, an ideal sleeping environment is quiet clutter free set to the temperature of 68 degrees Fahrenheit or less and completely dark. Even tiny light emissions like LED devices, power charging strips that have little lights here and there. These can disturb the highly sensitive release of melatonin into the bloodstream and also the, uh, keeping melatonin high throughout the night. So if you do have to get outta bed at night to pee or whatever, I strongly recommend grabbing, uh, one of these red colored flashlights you can get on Amazon. I’ll put a link in the show notes. Uh, you have that by your bedside. And if you do need to light up your environment, do it with red light. Do not blast the phone and look what time it is or otherwise. Flick on a light switch. Uh, go take a quick break to look after the dog or go to the bathroom and then expect to lie down. It’s a very immediate and distinct disruption to melatonin to put on a light. I just heard a, a podcast talking about sleep wher just flicking on the light switch will, will crash melatonin.
And of course, we want melatonin high. It’s the repair hormone, it’s the sleepiness hormone. We want that sustained throughout the night. I did the podcast highlighting, uh, a 24 hour day, uh, of your hormonal function all inspired by a great article from Dr. Jack Cruz. And so you can find that show in our archives. And he talks about the critical importance of midnight to 3:00 AM as the time, time when growth hormone comes out to play and works its wonders repairing your body and your cells for a big day of energy and a lifetime of recovery, restoration, and performance. And so that 12 to three is the most precious time where you need to be absolutely pitch dark and calm and cool and comfortable in every way. And that’s why these temperature controlled mattresses are so popular today. I’m so excited to be associated with Eight sleep and just got our new unit, absolutely state-of-the-art wonderful technology to keep the mattress cool, because the winning tip here is you want a cool mattress, a cool room, but warm enough skin to feel comfortable.
That’s why the recommendation is just not to lie there on top of all your covers and try to go to sleep because your skin will get, get cold and you’ll start shivering in an extreme example. But it’s not an easy way to go to sleep. That’s why we like to get undercovers and feel warm and cozy in our pajamas and our giant comforter. So all that’s great to keep the skin temperature warm, but we want the environment cool. Hey, thinking back to ancestral times when we slept in cool dark caves, that’s where the programming comes through. So keep the skin warm and the room and the mattress cool. And that sometimes is at odds. That’s why the temperature controlled mattress is so important, because if you are under a lot of covers and your body is generating heat all night, you can warm up the environment, you can warm up the mattress, and then you’re throwing the covers off in the middle of the night and doing things that are known to disrupt your sleep.
So that’s the winning ticket right there. And yeah, ho hum, oh my gosh. Here’s another expense to consider when we have all this biohacking to-do list, and you’re supposed to get the red light boxes and you’re supposed to get the temperature controlled mattress, but particularly when it comes to sleep and investing in quality, sleep, environment, mattress, whatever it is, um, come on, you spend a third of your life there, it’s arguably more important than what car you buy. And so a lot of times it’s just, uh, reprioritizing your discretionary income and doing everything you possibly can to create this winning sleep environment. And so if you wanna start looking into eight sleep and what they offer, and think about that as a one day budget expense at, at high priority, that’s great. I know it’s difficult to, uh, to grasp and to take on all the suggestions, <laugh>, but for a $10, $12 red flashlight, go and grab that right now. Please, please.
Okay, number four is about napping. Napping is especially effective for catching up on evening sleep deficiencies, refreshing brain neurons after sustained periods of peak cognitive function, and generating a pulse of adaptive hormones into the bloodstream. So the power of napping cannot be understated. I enjoy a great book by Dr. Sara Mednick, called Take a Nap, Change Your Life ,where she cites great research. And I’ve become a professional napper in my adult life, dating back to my days as a triathlete when I was sleeping for half my life, as I’ve probably told you before. So I had a 10-hour sleep block every night and then a two hour nap every afternoon. Nowadays, I can have a wonderful results from a nap that’s usually only around 20 minutes, and then I wake up naturally and feel amazingly refreshed and energized. And one of those reasons is the refreshing of the sodium potassium pumps that help fire the brain neurons.
And so when you have that expression, I feel pretty fried. It’s been a busy afternoon. This is a literally accurate statement because when the brain neurons become fried, the chemical, the electrical signaling that allows the neurons and synapses to operate, when those get depleted of the important sodium potassium chemicals that allow them to fire effectively, your brain circuitry literally is fried. And if you lay down for a nap in a dark area and do a good job, just, you know, toning down, not racing thoughts, but just relaxing, maybe turning on an app if you need to, with some guided meditation or something to tone down brain function, it immediately kicks into restoration mode. And these pumps can be refreshed quickly. It’s kind of like taking a break between sets at the gym where you allow the ATP to regenerate in a matter of minutes.
And so if you even do a extended break where you’re taking five minutes between your sets of dead lifts, or if you’re sprinting a lot of the elite sprinters will take incredibly long recovery periods, like 10 minutes in between sprint sets. This is to allow the sodium potassium pumps in the muscles and the ATP to regenerate to allow you to perform explosively again after that rest period. So napping is key. There’s, you know, entire shows about that where I go into great detail and I talk to a lot of people that say, oh, no, I, I can’t take naps. I just can’t fall asleep. That’s okay. You will build the skill over time if you dedicate the necessary energy and attention to the task of napping. And so my role is whenever I feel a slight disturbance in peak cognitive function, energy and alertness, that is time to go down for a nap.
We have a natural dip in our circadian rhythm every afternoon anyway, so reliably at a certain time of day. Uh, it’s a great idea to try to get away from your high stimulatory work environment and go down for a nap. If it happens to be in your car in the parking lot or you don’t have a perfect place for a nap, do the best you can. I like to play my Raindrop app on my phone, put on a blindfold, and I can nap anywhere if it’s an airplane, if it’s outdoors on a park bench, <laugh> Mia Moore on her birthday, we walked down to the beach in Santa Barbara and laid down on a park bench, forgot about what the passerbys might think. We had a wonderful nap after lunch. So there’s always time to fit a nap in, because guess what, even if you do have a busy, hectic workday and you’re so important, your cognitive function is dramatically improved even after a short nap. So take the time and try to get good at it if you claim to be not good at it.
Now, number five, the active couch potato syndrome describes an actual scientifically validated phenomenon where devoted fitness enthusiasts nevertheless suffer from elevated disease risk factors due to predominantly sedentary lifestyle patterns. Katy Bowman, author of Move Your DNA and many other great books, founder of the Nutritious Movement, content and Lifestyle Movement, she talks about just leading a more healthy, active, energetic life and will point fingers at the extreme athlete community saying that there’s this, lazy athlete mentality where you feel like you have a hall pass because you did your badass workout at 6:00 AM this morning, and you got on the bike at the gym and slammed, for 45 minute interval session. Now you have a hall pass to just lays around, take the elevator, park at the closest spot and minimize activity for the rest of the day.
That’s where you fall into this active couch potato syndrome category. So we have a critical obligation at the deepest level of our human genetic expectation for health to get up and move around and take breaks from prolonged periods of stillness throughout the day. These can be real sources of breakthrough for goals like dropping excess body fat, because we know that when you work out hard, you also stimulate an increase in appetite and have a natural tendency to consume more calories because you slammed that 6:00 AM workout. But if you can keep your metabolic function optimal by taking frequent breaks and stay away from this active couch potato syndrome, that can deliver fantastic results. Interestingly, also, when it comes to recovery, uh, for example, after a really challenging workout, the best way to recover is to move more frequently in the hours after the workout.
Rather than say, oh, I had such a big workout today, I’m gonna spend the rest of the weekend on the couch. That will actually inhibit recovery because you want to get blood flow, you want to get lymphatic flow, you wanna remove those waste products, you wanna get good circulation into the muscles and tissues and connective tissue that you used, and that entails moving around. You’ve probably heard of the commonly cited, uh, injury protocol that’s, that’s, uh, the acronym RICE. It stands for rest, ice, compression and elevation. And that has long been the standard of care for an injury, such as turning your ankle or, uh, uh, pulling a hamstring. Uh, but nowadays the leading, the leading, uh, peak performance mobility flexibility, injury prevention experts like Dr. Kelly Starrett at readystate.com, are touting a different evolved protocol. And the new acronym is ECM that stands for elevate, compress and move.
So now the standard of care for an acute injury is to elevate it for a while and use compression gear, and that’ll help with the lymphatic function. And then as the days go by and you’re trying to rehab that pulled hamstring or that twisted ankle, you wanna move the joint through range of motion as much as possible. And that helps with the healing.
Walking would be the centerpiece of that, and that in fact happens to be number six on the list. Walking will improve many aspects of your general health and also contribute to aerobic fitness by stimulating the complete range of aerobic muscle fibers and energy producing enzymes. I’ve talked about this on many previous Primal Endurance podcast episodes and the great work of Dr. Phil Maffet4one, where we pull this insight where there’s no such thing as going too slow for a proper aerobic or cardiovascular training session.
So even walking, if you get out from, uh, uh, a chair and start walking down the street, your heart rate’s likely gonna be double or more resting heart rate. So you are actually getting an aerobic workout that’s making a direct contribution to your peak performance goals, even if you’re planning to go much faster when you’re running the 10 k or the marathon, or doing a triathlon or an ultra run. So walking is great training. Even short distance walks all contribute to your aerobic development because you’re using the same muscle fibers and enzymes that you do when you’re going faster, but still at an aerobic pace.
Number seven, extended periods of sitting and stillness can compromise musculoskeletal function, cellular health, cardiovascular function, and fat metabolism negating many of the benefits of endurance training. And this is simply, a key evolutionary biology insight that humans are built to move.
And the studies of modern day hunter gatherers like the Hadza where the females in charge of gathering are walking somewhere from 3.5 to five miles a day, and males are walking from seven to nine miles a day doing their hunting and other daily chores. And this has been going on for millions of years. So we are built to move, and especially the modern chair, sofa, car seat, these things are completely foreign to our genetic experience. So it’s time to bring back things like the standup desk if you do have to work at a desk, the low desk and the an archetypal resting positions where you’re sitting on the ground and interacting with the force of gravity on the ground has a much better. Contribution to musculoskeletal health than sitting on a chair where you deload things like your glutes. You tighten up your hand streams and your hip flexors, and you’re sitting there for hours, compromising many of the benefits of endurance training. So that general everyday movement objective can make a great contribution and help you perform and recover better than sitting around.
Number eight, taking frequent movement breaks throughout the day, improves insulin sensitivity and fat metabolism improves muscular balance, flexibility and bone density, and enhances cognitive function through improved circulation. The flip side of that is sitting there for as short as 20 minutes, there’s research suggesting that even a 20-minute period of stillness can produce a measurable decrease in glucose tolerance and increase in insulin resistance. So in layperson’s terms, your body starts to operate worse when you are still for even a relatively brief period of time. So you can negate these negative effects by getting up and moving for one minute.
I know we’re busy and we have to sit in front of the screen and we have projects and deadlines, and you can get carried away and find yourself, oh my gosh, it’s been three hours since I moved, I’ve been staring at this screen. And this is the point where a small things make a huge difference. So get up and move around for one minute every 20 minutes, and you’ll be much better off. And you can put these into the category of habit by making a great devotion to it, putting a sticky note in your visual field setting timers and using these apps that will remind you to get up and be active and just make it a part in life that’s, you know, automatic. And then you’ll feel, it’ll feel natural, and it’ll certainly help cognitive function as the bullet point suggests, and more details in the book and in the online course. So that was number eight, frequent movement breaks.
Number nine, the quote, athlete’s mindset of being lazy in everyday life on account of compiling an impressive workout log must be reframed to emphasize the importance of increased everyday movement to speed recovery and optimize metabolic function. So again, I know you’re putting in big energy in the workouts, you believe that to be the centerpiece of your progress towards your athletic goals, but these little things do go a long way. So avoid that lazy athlete mentality at all costs and resolve to be a little more active throughout the day, especially if you are confined in an office environment. Number 10, cardiovascular fitness is the ability to challenge the heart and certain muscles to perform extreme athletic efforts. Cardiovascular health is the ability to efficiently deliver oxygen to 100% of the cells in your body. This is an insight provided by Katy Bowman.
She’s got some good features in the book and a great sequence of interviews that I traveled to her home in Upper Washington to talk through. And this stuff is super important to understand that distinction. We now are well aware of the high risk of extreme endurance training to prompt heart trouble, especially as the years and decades accumulate. And there’s such a common incidence of atrial fibrillation and other heart conditions driven by an overly stressful approach to endurance training. So these specimens that occasionally will drop dead from heart attack or develop heart problems, they have tremendous cardiovascular fitness, but poor cardiovascular health. So this is a big fat awakening to the six-pack community who thinks they are immune to all manner of medical concerns because they can go out and hammer a 32 mile mountain bike ride and drop the rest of the pack.
We have to distinguish between the two. We have to respect the importance of overall cardiovascular health and how do you score better in that area. How about getting up and moving around more every day, as we discussed in the previous bullet points?
Okay, number 11, creating a standup desk environment is great, but the primary goal should be to create more variation in your workplace experience. This entails getting into a bunch of different positions and switching back and forth over the course of the day. So I talk about the great benefit of the standup desk. All my recordings are done in a standing position. That’s why my voice sounds so fantastic as opposed to sitting and compressing a little bit of that whole vocal cavity that we’re using <laugh>. Okay, just kidding. However, my voice sounds. I am standing up when I do all my recordings.
However, as soon as I’m done, hey, it’s been a while. I’m gonna go have a nice seat on a chair and relax and deload and give my muscles a break. And then I’ve also been in recent times, like let’s say over the past year, I’m really fond of the ancestral resting positions. You can see a great YouTube video with Mark Sisson talking about that he’s so excited about the subject that he actually co-authored a scientific paper on archetypal or ancestral resting positions. We have a whole section about this in the Primal Fitness Coach certification course. And basically we’re talking about getting down on the ground or sitting on a Bosu ball or creating a low desk experience where you have a stool or a Bosu ball, and then you put your laptop on a really low desk and you’re kind of in this squat position, and that will be vastly superior to deloading on a chair.
And so my workplace experience looks like time at the standup desk time, sitting in a chair time, relaxing with a bunch of pillows on a fantastic couch. So I’m totally chilling and typing away on the laptop. And then finally, a lot of time on the ground, usually my dog is nearby. We’re both enjoying the ground reaction force and the gravity giving ourselves a stimulation to the lymphatic system and the musculoskeletal system by being forced to support our weight on the ground. And guess what? Sitting your butt on the ground at first, it’s not as comfortable as sitting on a chair and, and you start to get stiff and sore. And so you gotta move around and vary your positions. And we have a whole sequence of positions that we discuss in the Primal Fitness Coach course where there’s the high knees, the low knees, there’s the side sit, the stretch, s different ways.
And it’s basically talking about where, you know, one legs extended, one knee bent and scrunched up toward your chest, and then you switch positions or you fold your knees out to one side. And so there’s all kinds of opportunities to engage with the ground and mix up your workday as much as possible. And then when it comes to, for example, taking a phone call. That’s a great opportunity to get up and do some walking throughout the day. Ben Greenfield does a lot of his podcasts while he is walking on the move, either outdoors or on his treadmill. Uh, and so, uh, my most recent episode with Ben, which I think we just republished, dusted off with a new introduction because I wanna really reinforce some of the, the great shows and get ’em back into your head if you did listen to the early one or if you didn’t, here’s a new fresh opportunity.
I believe he was walking the whole time on his indoor treadmill, so he was getting, getting some multitasking done as Ben is the king of that <laugh>, the maximum productivity day. Of course, you have to multitask and not in the bad way that we often criticize, multitasking, uh, walking and doing a podcast. Perfectly acceptable. Same with a phone call, right? Okay. that was number 11, creating the standup desk environment. But we really want variation.
Number 12. Brain science confirms that humans are incapable of focusing for longer than 20 minutes without a break. Taking a one minute break or taking a five minute break for every 20 minutes of peak cognitive focus and taking longer breaks every few hours will improve metabolic health and cognitive performance. I know we’re busy. I know we got pressures, deadlines, maybe we’re in a groove where we’re really on a roll and we don’t want to take that one minute break.
But in the big picture, this is a tremendous recommendation to improve your overall cognitive function, uh, taking some reflective time. So maybe when you’re taking that five minute break and you’re just getting out of the office environment and going outdoors and walking around the block, sometimes these can lead to, uh, cognitive breakthroughs where you have a fresh new look, uh, at the, uh, the problem that’s been baking in your head for a long time, or a wonderful, exciting, new idea. During my interview with Mark Bell on the B.rad podcast, he was talking about where he was sitting on a bench press bench just sitting there staring off into space and trying to think of how the exercise could be done with less risk of injury and pain, which is very common in the high performing power lifters because bench press is pretty much a challenge, a risk to the shoulder joint and the pectoral muscles.
It’s easy to tear them and do things when you’re really going for big numbers. And during that reflective time is when he came up with the idea for the slingshot, which was a multimillion dollar idea, and launched him to this amazing business that was all driven by an invention that came during some downtime, during some reflective time where he is just staring off into space at the gym. It’s a great story. Okay, and guess what? We can’t focus for longer than 20 minutes anyway. We start to lose it anyway. So get up and take a break every, every 20 minutes.
Number 13, complimentary movement and mobility exercises like Yoga and Pilates improve athletic performance by allowing you to preserve correct technique and optimal power output, even as you fatigue during workouts. So this is where the recommendation by Kelly Sarrett to spend 15 minutes of every training hour on mobility, flexibility and complimentary exercises is so important.
You can train, train, train, but if you have these peripheral weaknesses, muscle imbalances, whatever it is, and you start to get tired and your form goes, then whatever energy you have left in your body due to your fitness level and the hard work that you’ve done in training, a lot of it gets wasted because now your feet are slapping onto the pavement and you’re missing out on the explosive potential of every stride because your hip flexors got torched at mile 20 of the marathon. And so all this complimentary stuff will be critically important to preserve your explosiveness, preserve whatever power output you have, even as you fatigue. Same with a bike rider who gets lower back tightness every time they exceed the 70-mile pedaling in training. And once those things start to kick in, your power output starts to diminish. Even if you have more power left in those quadricep muscles or the heart and lungs. You get it? So if the low back is a weak point, maybe you need to do more core exercise so that your core is contributing more to stabilization of the lower back, uh, when you’re pedaling those first 70 miles. Okay? Big vote for complimentary movement and mobility practices.
Number 15, deliberate movement practices like yoga, Pilates, and then doing your own sequence. Things that you learn can also improve your ability to focus during challenging endurance efforts and provide a calming balance to the high stress nature of endurance workouts. Oh, I skipped 14. They’re all related here. So back to 14. Neglecting complimentary movement and mobility practices can compromise athletic performance by allowing inefficiencies and imbalances to occur from narrowly focused training patterns. Especially this leads to accelerated fatigue, diminished power output, and increased injury risk. So think about it, what you’re doing is already very narrow in scope.
If you’re an endurance athlete, even if you’re training for triathlon, you’re doing three activities that call for straightforward movement with certain muscle groups. Very, very repetitive. So you’re already in a very narrowly focused training regimen. Therefore, a bit of attention to, for example, side to side, sumo lunch exercise that really works. The quads. Throwing these things in will kick in when you start to get tired during performing in your, in your areas of peak effort, peak interest, right when you’re, whatever it is pedaling, uh, running, and so forth.
Okay, now we go to 16. Play is a fundamental element of human health and a key factor in the success of human evolution. Play is a critical stress release from the pressures, schedules, and responsibilities of daily life, and promotes the development of what the world’s leading play expert Stewart Brown calls a quote, “cognitively fluid mind.”
There’s great talk about this in the book, the Primal Blueprint in the book, the Primal Connection, and also some in Primal Endurance where boy, we’re addressing the endurance community who are pretty serious focus driven and like to work hard. But when we work hard and we play in kind of a similar realm, right? We’re, we’re training hard, it’s kind of a form of work, especially when it’s talking about endurance efforts and persevering to make it to the finish line. Sometimes we wanna mix it up a little bit and have some fun. And some of my greatest memories on the professional triathlon circuit were after the races, when we’re all still hanging around on the beach in Mexico or in the Caribbean or wherever we were water skiing on a lake in Canada. The day after these races, everybody’s looking to blow off steam.
And so we have oftentimes, physical as the centerpiece because everyone was pretty physical as athletes, we’d go and have some outdoor physical fun that was distinct from the swimming, biking and running that we were living and breathing during the, uh, the, the, the training regimen in the competition circuit .
Number 17 Play can take many forms, but ideally involves unstructured outdoor physical activity to balance the structured, confined and sedentary forces in modern life. Now, if you’re already out there training for 10, 15 hours a week, maybe just maybe your play endeavor is going to be shaping clay sculptures, which is one of my great hobbies. I like to do dogs outta clay, and that is in a seated position. So I’m getting a minus point score because I’m already sitting working on my computer during my core daily responsibilities.
But for me, me, it’s a nice disengagement from all the physical things that I do and all the cognitive work that I do that’s different than that. So play can take many forms, but getting outside, I think most of us have plenty of indoor time in a chair. That’s when you can get some real magic. There’s research from the United Kingdom recently that we spend I believe it’s, uh, 93% of our time indoors. That’s 86% inside houses or buildings, and 7% in the automobile. So, uh, trying to work on that pie slice and get more outdoor adventure time is a great balance to all the, the high tech elements of modern life. And the final one of the show and the final one in the section of complimentary movement and lifestyle practices.
Number 18, primal thrills can deliver a healthy burst of adrenaline to counter the mundane and predictable nature of modern life. Choose challenges that are well managed and just outside of your comfort zone. So I’m a fan of jumping off cliffs into water. I don’t know why. Wherever we’re going hiking to the lake, or there’s a special spot in Lake Tahoe that I like to take people to, and it’s just fun. You know, it’s a thrill to jump off something in land, in water. I’m not doing crazy dives or flips like you see the guys on YouTube. But it’s something to kind of take you away from the, all the structure and confinement of modern life. So in that context of play, going for some primal thrills. And, you know, the easy, obvious ones to think about are, uh, when you do your skydiving, bungee jumping, whatever, but primal thrills, again, can come in many forms and some of the stuff might be not as extreme, but still seems a little bit out on the edge to you. So that’s a little encouragement to go for it. Have some fun. And that wraps up a nice section. Thank you so much for listening. Stay tuned for the section on recovery, and please go back and listen to the other, uh, shows in this series so that we can cover all 115 for you.
I hope you enjoyed this episode and encourage you to check out the Primal Endurance Mastery course at primalendurance.fit. This is the ultimate online educational experience where you can learn rom the world’s great coaches and trainers, diet, peak performance and recovery experts, as well as lengthy one-on-one interviews from several of the greatest endurance athletes of all time, not published anywhere else. It’s a major educational experience with hundreds of videos, but you can get free access to a mini-course with an e-book summary of the Primal Endurance approach, and nine step-by-step videos on how to become a primal endurance athlete. This mini course will help you develop a strong, basic understanding of this all-encompassing approach to endurance training that includes primal aligned eating to escape carbohydrate dependency and enhanced fat metabolism, building an aerobic base with comfortably paced workouts, strategically introducing high intensity strength and sprint workouts, emphasizing rest, recovery, and annual periodization. And finally, cultivating an intuitive approach to training. Instead of the usual robotic approach of fixed weekly workout schedules, just head over to Primal endurance.fit and learn all about the course and how we can help you go faster and preserve your health while you’re at it.