new year resolutions

Palaeolithic Workout & Diet – Yeah Right!

Evolutionary fitness pioneer Erwin LeCorre

Evolutionary fitness pioneer Erwin LeCorre. Photo by Emily Shur, Outside Online.

Okay, so I was looking for something new in the exercise realm and I saw this lead-in for OUTSIDE Online:  

The Workout that Time Forgot: Will caveman calisthenics be the next big thing for adventure athletes? 

As an archaeologist who teaches about the Early, Middle, and Upper Palaeolithic (aka Early, Middle, Late Stone Age in sub-Saharan Africa), as well as the Neolithic, and one who knows a thing or two about prehistoric and contemporary hunter-gatherers, I couldn’t resist checking out this article EVEN THOUGH I knew it was going to be like watching a train wreck — I just couldn’t turn away.

I will spare you my diatribe about everything wrong with “Caveman Camp”, wait, no, I just can’t let one thing go, we no longer use the word “caveman” BECAUSE there were also cavewomen AND not all Palaeolithic people lived in caves – that’s just ridiculous.  

Moving beyond the obvious mistakes made by those who use the past for motives that have to do with money, yes, I am a wee bit bitter about this, here are the basics of the Palaeo lifestyle: 

“MovNat is a comprehensive lifestyle,” Le Corre [founder of this movement] tells us. “It’s about diet and nutrition. It’s about exposure to sunlight and nature…MovNat [is founded] on the premise that humans once dashed around untamed landscapes with power and grace, gathering berries, toppling mastodons, and so forth—and that proficiency at such things will help reconnect us to the world in which we evolved.”

Besides romanticizing the past and promoting the same old tired “Man the Hunter” scenario, I agree that people should get outside more and that using nature to exercise is a great idea – I like that part of the Palaeo workout approach.  I will also agree that LeCorre is in fantastic shape – however – other tenents of the Palaeo-lifestyle are just wrong:

Run. Howl. Eat Meat. Repeat (excerpted from Outside Online):

Tenent 1: Avoid foods that were unavailable before the advent of agriculture and animal husbandry (like dairy and grains). Instead consume mostly meat, fish, fruits, veggies, and nuts.

 

Eating mostly fruits, veggies, and nuts, is fine, but fish were not exploited until very late in the Upper Palaeolithic, and meat, meat makes up a very small part of hunter-gatherer diets.  In fact, up to 80% of hunter-gatherer diets is made up of gathered foods (food contributed mostly by women, by the way, so we weren’t sitting around camp waiting for “our” men to bring home the bacon afterall). 

 

Since meat is a much smaller contributor than gathered foods, i.e., plant foods, to hunter-gatherer diets, promoting a lifestyle that suggests we eat more meat to be more like our ancestors is just wrong.  Also, I am pretty sure the meat our ancestors ate (even during the Neolithic – after we became farmers) was not obtained from factory farms and wasn’t filled with antibiotics and hormones. 
Tenent 2. Exercise like early man…

 

Really?  I guess “early woman” didn’t exercise.  C’mon!  I devote an entire lecture to gender based stereotypes, images, and language used in the present to describe the past.  OUTSIDE Magazine, LeCorre, Palaeo-diet inventor, please enter the new millennium, please.
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There are some good things about this approach: 

Tenent 3. Focus on skills that have a real-world application. Instead of mindlessly working out, throw things, catch things, climb trees, jump from rock to rock, practice holding your breath, play with your dog, etc.
 

Tenent 4. Stress your system. Skip a meal once a week or so. Try working out first thing in the morning without breakfast. Participate in something competitive, like a race or a game.

I am not quite sure about the last one, but that’s for you to decide.

 

OUTSIDE Online posted a few Palae-workout videos demonstrated by LeCorre.  You just have to watch how to lift a log: Log Lifting 101.

 

You can read the entire article by Nick Heil here: The Workout that Time Forgot.
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The moral of this story is, if you want to eat and live like our ancestors you should be an opportunistic omnivore, eat no processed foods, and move, move, move.

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3 thoughts on “Palaeolithic Workout & Diet – Yeah Right!

  1. I know a lot of people like this way of living & eating but it just ain’t for me. We all have to find things we can live with long term & that is juts not one of them. Fine for those that want it but I am not for the my way or the highway thing….

    On to better stuff… Just about 100% & had a great workout!

    Happy new year!

  2. So, I lifted weights like a cavewoman yesterday (kidding!). I did lift weights, but let’s leave the cavewoman/man out of it :). Yesterday, I had a terribly hard time making myself go to the gym, but we eventually made it. We ran on the treadmill for 30 minutes, then did weights. It was fun lifting with Jimmy. We ended with Abs.

    Today I went to Zumba. My legs were very tired from my weights so it was hard to really enjoy class, but I did get a good workout.

    I still weigh 135.5, which is pretty good considering my workouts really dropped off from Thanksgiving on (right now we only have 13 days in for December). I am looking forward to mixing up my workouts and putting the pedal to the metal in the coming year!

    We are starting the one hundred pushup challenge again…we stopped during Thanksgiving week on Week 4, but I need to start again to work my way back up that ladder.

  3. Darla, I am proud of you starting weight again! Awesome. Greg and I went to the gym and did the lower body workout, it was very hard and my muscles are exhausted, but I feel great! Loved the article and the video about log lifting 🙂

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