Back to basics: Paleo exercise

You know all about Paleo eating, but what is Paleo exercise?

‘If cavemen didn’t eat it, you shouldn’t either.’ The Paleo diet is certainly one of the most popular eating plans of the past decade, seeing devotees consuming only fresh and whole foods, and avoiding anything processed – just as people in ancient times did. It’s about going back to basics – a concept that can also be applied to your fitness regime…

Primal living

Do you think there was an obesity problem among cavemen and women back in the Stone Age? How about a diabetes pandemic? Cancer? Nope. These ailments are a modern affliction that many experts attribute to our unhealthy lifestyles of eating chemical-laden, highly processed convenience foods, coupled with ‘the new smoking’, sitting all-day long. The paleo lifestyle attempts to reverse the damaging effects of sedentary modern living and works off this basis: Eat like a caveman and train like one too.

Functional fitness has become a buzzword in the industry thanks to training programmes such as CrossFit, HIIT and the like, and encompasses what paleo fitness is all about – using your body for what it was built to do by incorporating natural movements into your workout that our ancestors would have done every day, whether they were running from a predator, lifting heavy rocks, climbing trees or throwing a spear.

Paleo: Older or ancient, especially relating to the geological past.

The basic movements

• Walking/running/sprinting
• Squatting
• Lunging
• Pushing
• Pulling
• Jumping

Many modern-day exercise regimes involve all of these movements on some level, often in isolation (nope, 1 000 crunches alone are not the key to flat abs), but when you combine all of them and do them every day, you have yourself a highly effective full-body workout that will leave you feeling strong and energised, making day-to-day tasks and activities, such as playing with your kids, carrying your shopping bags, lifting a heavy box or running for the bus, that much easier.

The cavewoman workout

Get back to your roots by doing this primal workout. Do three rounds of the following circuit.

• 2 × kettlebells – dumb-bells or a medicine ball can be used as alternatives.

1. Shuttle sprints

Mark off a 10 m ‘track’ wherever you have enough space. Sprint from one side to the other, touching your hands on the ground when you reach each side. Continue until you’ve accumulated 100 m.

2. Squat jumps

Standing with your feet shoulder-width apart, toes pointed out slightly and arms extended in front of you, squat by bending at the hips and knees, and dropping your bum to the floor. Keep your back straight and push your knees out. When your thighs are just below parallel to the floor, jump up into the air as high as possible. Land back softly in a squat, and repeat for 10 reps. Hold a kettlebell in both hands at chest level to spice this move up a bit.

3. Push-ups

Starting in a high-plank position, bend your elbows and lower your chest until it touches the floor. Keep your body in a straight line with elbows tucked into your sides throughout. Push back up to the start position. If this is too challenging, do modified push-ups from your knees.

4. Kettlebell farmer’s walks

Holding a kettlebell in each hand at your sides, walk back and forth along your 10 m track until you’ve accumulated 50 m. Keep your back tight and shoulders square.

5. Sumo-deadlift high pulls

Stand with your feet wider than shoulder-width apart. Place one kettlebell between your feet, bend your knees and drop into a 1/4 squat. Grab hold of the kettlebell with both hands, palms facing in. Pushing through your legs, lift the kettlebell, straightening your legs then extending your hips as you do. Squeeze your glutes as the kettlebell reaches your hips – use the momentum of this to pull the kettlebell up to just under your chin, shrugging your shoulders and pointing your elbows out to the sides. Keep a neutral back and neck position throughout the exercise.

6. Kettlebell walking lunges

Lift one kettlebell up to rest on your shoulder. Keep it steady by holding it by the handle, keeping your elbow up and pointing out. Lunge forward by stepping one foot forward and bending both legs until your back knee touches the floor. Make sure your front knee doesn’t track over your toes. Stand back up, bringing your back foot to meet your front foot. Repeat on the other leg, continuing to lunge in a walking motion for 10 m. Place the kettlebell on your other shoulder and repeat for another 10 m.

Paleo exercise benefits

• Full-body workout
• Boosts heart health
• Builds strength
• Assists in weight loss and improving overall health
• Wards off boredom – no two workouts need be the same.

Walk whenever you can… Like your Palaeolithic counterparts would have

Cavewomen didn’t have cars or public transport to help them run their errands. If possible, ditch the wheels and walk the kids to school or to the shops, even get off the bus a few stops early and enjoy strolling in the fresh air the rest of the way. While you’re at it, take the stairs too.

Originally published in Balanced Life October 2018 issue.

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