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Old Tue, Oct-16-18, 04:44
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Demi Demi is offline
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Default Into the wild: paleo workouts swap studio floor for the great outdoors

Into the wild: paleo workouts swap studio floor for the great outdoors

Kate Wills discovers her inner cavewoman at a paleo fitness class

I spent this morning on Hampstead Heath, clambering up trees, throwing rocks, dragging logs, leaping over benches and wrestling my team-mates into the mud. No, I haven’t accidentally ended up in The Hunger Games — I’ve just been getting in touch with my inner cavewoman at a paleo-fitness class. Grunting definitely encouraged.

“Most people spend the majority of the day sitting in a box in front of a screen and then go to another box — the gym — to sit down in front of a screen on an exercise bike,” says Ben Medder, a natural-movement coach who runs workshops for Londoners who are craving a connection with nature.

“When was the last time you chased someone for fun? When was the last time you wrestled someone? It’s about rediscovering the innate play drive we had as children, which has been lost as adults.”

Medder’s sessions involve arboreal locomotion (playing games up a tree), running, climbing, jumping, crawling and connecting with the natural world. All the things early man excelled at. And he would have definitely beat your personal best on the treadmill.

“The gym can’t compare with the complexity you face in the natural environment, or with a group,” says Medder. Primitive-fitness advocates point out that moving around outdoors is not only better for your health and well-being, it’s also more sustainable than a gym habit.

“From an evolutionary perspective we all have these innate abilities, it’s just about reclaiming them. If something is enjoyable, and not a punishment, you’re more likely to integrate it into your life.”

Although the paleo diet — eating only the things our Palaeolithic-era hunter-gatherer ancestors would have had access to, such as meat, fruit and nuts — feels restrictive, the principles behind paleo exercise are much easier.
Workout systems that mimic the diversity of a hunter-gatherer lifestyle challenge your body in unpredictable ways, meaning that in theory you suffer fewer injuries, burn more calories and build new muscles.

Studies show that being surrounded by greenery is so good for the mind and body, that even looking at pictures of nature has been shown to lower blood pressure, stress and mental fatigue, and to boost your immune system.
“Moving outdoors, the way your body was designed to, has incredible benefits for posture, balance, core strength and preventing injury,” says Eric Walters, director of Wildfitness, which runs “transformative” retreats aiming to “rewild” your body and mind.

“Our core market is people from London — a lot of lawyers and bankers. We see about a 60/40 split women to men, ranging in age from 20s to one woman in her 80s on our Menorca retreat.”

In a Wildfitness week, cavepeople-in-training are put through a programme of primal movements such as open-water swimming, barefoot running and bodyweight-based “animal” movements, such as a crab and bear crawl or frog jumps. There is also an emphasis on getting plenty of rest and eating wholesome food, around a fire, with your tribe.

“The goal isn’t to lose weight — although everyone does — it’s more about an enhanced sense of connection to your body, to nature, to other people,” says Walters. “Just as our ancient ancestors needed strong social relationships to survive and thrive, we need that sense of belonging for optimal health.”

Erwan Le Corre looks like Tarzan, and is the founder of MovNat, an outdoor fitness system that prioritises natural movement over burning calories. “Being fit isn’t about being able to lift a steel bar or finish an Ironman,” he says. “It’s about rediscovering our biological nature and releasing the wild human animal inside.

“I meet men all the time who can bench 400 pounds but can’t climb up through a window to pull someone from a burning building. Lots of swimmers do laps every day but can’t dive deep enough to save a friend.”
To that end, participants at a MovNat workshop might pass rocks to each other, shimmy down poles and wade through swamps. Le Corre believes that our sedentary and sterilised modern lifestyles are the equivalent of a “human zoo”.

He says: “We have become divorced from nature, trapped in colourless boxes. We have lost our adaptability, and it’s threatening our health and longevity.”

Ben Medders agrees that primitive-style workouts are gaining popularity as we feel more disconnected from each other and the natural world.
“We spend so much time in front of TVs and computers, taking in information that someone else is feeding us,” he says. “Touching the earth, seeing things with your own eyes, tuning into your senses provides an opportunity to live first hand. It’s critical that people step away from their iPads on a regular basis, go out and feel alive again.”

After my morning of scampering around the Heath, I feel rejuvenated and primevally fit. There’s a satisfaction and adrenaline boost that you get from throwing a rock or climbing branches that you just don’t from a HITT class. And unlike the gym there are no handy mirrors in nature, so it’s only later that I discover I’m covered in dirt.

Suddenly my lonely lunch-hour jog on the treadmill seems a bit domesticated. It is a jungle out there, after all.
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