The Tao of Paleo: Finding Your Path to Health and Harmony


JG: I like to move it move it.

JS: Don’t. Please.

JG: I like to move it move it.

JS: Jason. The book is over. This is just the workout template section.

JG: Nothing’s over till we say it’s over!

JS: Oh boy.

JG: Was it over when the Germans bombed Pearl Harbor?

JS: Please. Less shtick, more workout template.

JG: OK. Before we start, we’d like to remind you that this is only one of many acceptable paleo movement templates. Eventually you might end up doing something completely different. Darryl Edwards, for example, uses a template for his clients that may look entirely different. It’s up to you to find the Tao that maximizes your health and happiness. That being said, if you’re looking for some guidance this is an excellent place to start.

JS: Enough qualifying. Let ‘er rip.

JG: Fair enough. We’re going to divide this section based on levels of fitness, but these templates are designed to be evolutionary - as you lose fat and improve your fitness level, you can bump up your level of movement.

JS: I see what you did there. Anyway, we’d like to reiterate as well that if you are unfamiliar with any of the exercises we mention, or if you feel that you need professional assistance to start your workout program, hire a professional to help you.

JG: First and foremost, if you are sedentary and/or have very high levels of body fat, we suggest a walking program ONLY for now.

JS: Walk in a LEISURELY manner, either outside or on a treadmill. Do not walk at a pace that requires labored breathing or intensive effort. If you are completely sedentary and significantly overweight, we’d like you to start with a ten minute walk and add a few minutes of duration per week.

JG: At first walk three times a week, gradually adding a walking session until you reach five sessions per week. Eventually, each of these walks should be a minimum of half an hour in duration and a maximum of one hour.

JS: In the chapter Move we explained the tremendous health benefits that can be achieved with a walking program alone. However once your Tao has taken you to a point where you feel like you are ready for another element, we suggest adding one sprinting session and one weightlifting session per week.

JG: This doesn’t mean that you should stop walking, however. You should continue to take those long, leisurely walks as often as you can.

JS: Right. The first task of your lifting sessions is to get comfortable with proper form. This might mean lifting extremely light weights for quite some time until your form supports higher effort. Eventually, we’d like you to shoot for a minimum 80% of your maximum effort in each set with a target of 95%. Your trainer can help you determine where those numbers are in terms of actual weight.

JG: Your initial lifting schedule should be once weekly, and should incorporate the following:

- A whole body movement like front or back squats, dead lifts, power cleans, or snatch lifts. You should perform a pyramid of sets in the following pattern: 5 repetitions, 3 repetitions, 1 repetition, 3 repetitions, 5 repetitions.

- A partial body movement like standing military or overhead presses, bench presses, or lunges. These should also be performed in a 5, 3, 1, 3, 5 pyramid.

- As your fitness level improves, you can add a fitness/support, movement, such as kettle bell swings, farmer’s carries, or Turkish getups. You should perform five sets of five repetitions of the movement you choose at the end of the workout.

JS: You should not huff and puff at all in between these sets. Take adequate recovery time in between in order to allow heartbeat and respiration to return to a resting state. Two minutes minimum is a good starting point.

JG: We can’t overemphasize enough that the purpose of this sequence has nothing to do with cardio or breathing hard. You’re working your fast twitch muscle fibers and creating a hormonal reaction that will burn fat and build muscle over the next twenty-four hours. I often say that the purpose of the workout isn’t the workout.

JS: That’s pretty deep there Buddha.

JG: What is the sound of one hand clapping you right in your yap Joe?

JS: Again, it’s vital that you consume a significant meal composed of protein AND carbs within an hour of finishing this workout in order to take advantage of the insulin sensitivity you’ve created and to maximize muscle building and fat loss.

JG: You should also have a day of rest before and after this workout to avoid overtraining. Remember rest doesn’t preclude those long, slow walks which you should shoot for even on rest days. You might even want to take one the same day you lift, and that’s just fine.

JS: At the same time you add a lifting session you might want to add an interval sprinting session. We recommend it once weekly.

JG: Make sure that you stretch adequately before and after sprints. At first, try for a short, choppy stride instead of a long one in order to avoid hamstring or groin pulls. Find a good pair of shoes too.

JS: I actually prefer Vibram Five Fingers shoes which are minimalist and have almost no support. I don’t care about the lawsuit, they are excellent. But find what works best for you. We’d like you to start with eight intervals. You might begin with your sprint as a 50-yard jog followed by a 50-yard walk and a minute of rest.

JG: As your conditioning improves increase the distance and work toward a full-out sprint during the sprinting portion, followed by a brisk walk for the same distance, followed by a short rest.

JS: Eventually you can eliminate rest entirely and up the number of intervals. Be careful, however, because too many sprints or too long a workout duration and you eliminate the benefit and start to do harm. Although you may have a lot of enthusiasm, you have to ease into it.

JG: At my relatively advanced level of fitness, I do ten to twelve intervals, each composed of a 110-meter dead sprint followed by a 110-meter brisk walk with no rest in between. I do them in the cul-de-sac in front of my home or at the local high school track. I often do these sprints barefoot on the beach while on business trips. Firm sand is an absolutely ideal surface.

JS: If you are unable to sprint outside, you might use a treadmill program where you alternate walking with a fast run. Perform 2 minute intervals comprised of 1 1/2 minutes of a comfortable walk followed by 30 of a fast jog. Again, shoot for 8 intervals to start and eventually extend yourself to 10-12, while increasing the run portion to 45 seconds and decreasing the walk to 1 minute 15 seconds.

JG: You need a day off before and a day off after sprinting, and this doesn’t exclude walking.

JS: As with the lifting sessions, the sprinting workouts are designed to exercise the fast twitch muscle fibers. This in turn will increase insulin sensitivity, increase muscle, and burn fat. Once again, you’ll need to eat within an hour after your sprints in order to maximize the positive effects.

JG: When your level of fitness is such that you can handle a regular schedule of sprinting and lifting along with your walks, you can consider adding high intensity interval training (HIIT) training to your repertoire.

JS: Remember, HIIT training is typically a series of exercises performed in a circuit at relatively high repetitions with minimal or no rest in between stations.

JG: We look at HIIT like dynamite. Used properly, it can be an effective and powerful tool, especially when it comes to burning fat. Used incorrectly, it can blow up in your face in the form of overtraining or even fatigue. It is absolutely critical that you rest the day before and after a HIIT session. Do not attempt to back a HIIT session up to a lifting or a sprinting day.

JS: You need to achieve a basic level of fitness before you start HIIT training and be comfortable with sprints and weights.

JG: HIIT training should be performed no more than once a week. For a basic routine, pick six exercises from the list below:

- Push-ups (set of 8-12)

- Pull-ups (assisted if necessary, set of 5)

- Sit-ups or Swiss ball crunches (set of 10)

- Lunges (weighted or unweighted, set of 10)

- Box or platform jumps (set of 8)

- Kettle bell swings (set of 8)

- Rowing machine sprints (30 seconds)

- Jumping jacks (set of 10-15)

- Jump rope (30 seconds)

- Kettle bell goblet squats (set of 8-12)

- Burpees (set of 8-10)

- Kettle bell Turkish getups (set of 5)

- Wall Squats (set of 8-10)

- Running in place (30 seconds, high knees)

- Incline push-ups (set of 8-12)

- Hyperextensions (set of 8-12)

- Mountain climbers (set of 8-12)

JS: Start with an eight-minute session. Move as quickly as possible between your six selected exercises, taking a short break of 10-15 seconds at the end of each six-movement circuit. Do each exercise at high intensity.

JG: If you’re not used to this kind of exercise you’re likely to find it exhausting at first. That’s why we recommend you start with no more than an eight minute session, extending the total length of the workouts about a minute at a time every few weeks and gradually eliminating the rest period at the end of each circuit.

JS: We’d never advise you to do HIIT more than once per week, or move beyond twenty minute sessions. We want you to work well within the glycolytic pathway - this means that we don’t want your body to exhaust glycogen stores and start catabolizing your muscle tissue.

JG: Excessive or overlong HIIT training can also trigger excessive cortisol releases, which we want to avoid.

JS: If you’re going to do HIIT training, you need to significantly increase your intake of starchy carbs both the night before your session and during the meal immediately following the workout.

JG: Fuel and refill those glycogen stores. Don’t risk bonking during your workouts or jeopardizing your recovery. If fueled properly, HIIT can burn fat off your body like a paleo blowtorch and significantly increase your level of functional fitness.

JS: Let’s review. First, if you are sedentary or carry a large amount of body fat, start with a walking program until your fitness level improves significantly. Believe us, it will, if you follow the basic template we’ve laid out for you. If you go too fast, you can sabotage your progress and it will take much longer to get back on track.

JG: Next, add in a weight session and a sprint workout once each per week, adding intensity as your fitness continues to improve. If you’re pretty fit to begin with, you can start at this point.

JS: Finally, if you feel that HIIT training supports your goals, you can add a HIIT session per week - provided you’re comfortable with sprinting and weights.

JG: If you choose to follow the template we’ve provided, you’re going to be seriously fit by the time you hit the upper limits we’ve laid out for you. You’re going to feel great. You’re also going to be pretty darned lean, because this template is designed to burn fat and increase healthy, lean, muscle. You’re going to enjoy what you see in the mirror in the morning too.

JS: Just remember that for us, movement is a means to an end. The idea is to enjoy a happy and healthy life, not to become a gym rat. Don’t become obsessed with your workouts. This can lead to addictive behavior that can compromise and eventually ruin your newfound health and vitality. More is not necessarily better - in fact, in this case, it usually isn’t.

JG: Think we’ve just about covered it?

JS: I think we’ve beaten it to death.

JG: What do you feel like doing now?

JS: Should we go to the gym? There’s a two hour marathon Zumba class that starts in twenty minutes.

JG: You haven’t paid any attention to anything we’ve been talking about for this entire chapter, have you?

JS: You’re so cute when you’re angry.

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