In attempting to re-integrate back into N. American life and ultimately get back to where I was at (or beyond) prior to leaving, I am paying especial attention to my fitness. It started with wanting to get back down to the weight I was at before I left, but my intention is now to incorporate exercises I typically do not do and see where it takes me on the scale instead. And not just any exercises; where possible, I want to perform exclusively exercises which mimic natural movements. I have alluded to this desire previously (“Tenderfooting,” 30 August 2011) when I started training barefoot, but I really want to run with it now. Call it the primal lifestyle if you will, although that implies a change in diet as well, and I am not looking to completely overhaul what I eat. For the time being, its all about the exercise.
Now when it comes to strength-training and muscle-building, doing it like a caveman seems easy enough; lift rocks, climb shit, bash your woman over the head with a weighted club, etc. Cardio training, for me at least, is a little more problematic.
“Why don’t you ride your bike,” you ask? Well, come winter I only really use my bike for commuting as you never know what condition the trails (where I do my bike cardio) will be in. And while a muddy, slurry of dirt and melted snow might make for awesome and challenging terrain, I must weigh this potential benefit against the reality of being stranded out in the cold, kilometres away from help if I have any bike breakdown or malfunction.
Or if, ya know, a rock falls on me
“Why don’t you go for a run,” you ask? Well, this is what kind of got me into primal exercise mode in the first place; all the running I was doing over the last year with conventional trainers was giving me chronic ankle & foot pain and I was looking to do a conversion to barefoot running. The problem for me now is that its January and fucking cold.
“Why don’t you use the Vibram 5-Finger shoes you’ve been dick-riding hard for the past few months to run ‘barefoot’ in the winter,” you ask? A good question, and I will have to look into a new pair (the pair I used for going around the world may still be athletes foot infected and they are also a trekking model more than a running model) of those once I start wage-slavery again and have money to spend on shoes.
For the time being however I decided that if I wanted a lean “swimmer’s physique,” why not swim (cavemen swam, right?). I have heard only good things about swimming as exercise but I have always been too lazy to actually bring trunks to the gym and then carry my wet gear back with me. On top of that, I always just viewed swimming as leisure; I go to the beach or a friend’s pool, float around some, get hammered and that’s it, and its been that way since I was a kid. But now, with my desire to adopt primal exercises more completely into my lifestyle, I was forced to take another look at swimming as the only viable way to get cardio-training for the time being (it was either swimming or intercourse).
Today was my first day at the pool and not long after entering the pool I realized with some alarm that I don’t really know how to swim. Sure I can fake it for a length, but when I start to get winded, any technique I might be aping falls apart, my speed in the water (such as it is) tapers off, and I am sort of left kicking haphazardly in the water trying to stay afloat. The problem I realized was fundamentals; essentially, I have none. I don’t know how to stroke, I don’t know how to breathe, I didn’t even know the direction of traffic flow in the pool.
Still, I toughed it out for half an hour (it might have only been 20 minutes, but it felt long) and I think I completed only 8 full lengths of the pool, with breaks at every end and more than one break mid-length. While changing, I asked this dude who had been out there and was obviously more experienced than me (goggles, no boardshorts) how to breathe during freestyle stroke. He said exhale while your face is in the water instead of trying to both exhale and inhale during the brief moment my face comes out of the water every third stroke. That may seem like a small thing but the implications are mind-boggling; I now await my next trip to the pool eagerly, wanting to employ my new secret weapon: breathing.
Now I’d be a fool to think that my breathing is the only area I can improve. ‘Til my rematch with the water I plan on seeing if there are any vids on basic swimming on youtube kind of like I did when I was taking up parkour. Armed with the experience and wisdom of others plus my own stubbornness I figure it’ll be like a week before I’m Michael Phelpsing out there.
“HYAH! And monkeys might fly out my butt!”