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Get Rid of the "Necessities" for Paleo Fitness

For Paleo fitness, if you want to work out and work out well, the truth is that all you need is a pulse. Everything else is either a bonus or a distraction.

Necessary for the participation in any given conventional fitness routine is a list of stuff that's always pretentious, expensive, and wrong. These are the "must gets," or what many may label as true necessities for fitness; they include fancy footwear, highfalutin apparel, exaggerated supplements, affected heart rate monitor — and so on and so on.

The Paleo fitness aficionado is an ultra-light traveler, toting only the bare minimum necessities, and aims to mimic the cave man, who was, after all, a fitness vagabond (if there ever was such a thing). His gym was all of Earth.

He cared nothing for dumbbells as he lifted stones, logs, and carcasses. He cared even less for treadmills as he sprinted regularly outdoors to hunt and to avoid being hunted. And besides, he'd have nowhere to plug one in.

So with Paleo fitness, the list of "must gets" is mostly short and, aside from a set of kettlebells, already complete. However, here is a list of "must get rid-ofs."

Ditch the shoes

The occasional jog that's both light and bouncy is a marvelous way to keep on the move. And save for a few unusual circumstances, it's best performed barefoot.

So should you dismiss shoes from your feet and embrace an entirely barefoot lifestyle? The answer is no. That'd be silly. Shoes were invented for a reason, such as to avoid stepping on glass, nails, and jagged rocks, so they still serve a purpose.

If you've been in shoes all your life, ease your way into barefoot running and lifting. To avoid injury, you must give your feet, ankles, and calves ample time to adapt. Don't do too much too soon.

When it comes to Paleo fitness, barefoot is the way to go for these reasons:

  • Greater support/stability: Exercising and lifting weights in shoes, particularly shoes with a lot of cushion or heel, is almost like lifting on a mattress. It's unstable. And when it comes to lifting heavy things, you want the most stable base of support you can get. When you ditch the shoes and go barefoot, you can root yourselves to the ground and secure a more stable position.

  • Better lifting form: Few shoes are designed with heavy front squats or dead lifts in mind, so few shoes promote proper lifting mechanics. For example, a shoe with a lot of heel naturally edges the weight forward — toward the front of the foot — which is precisely where you don't want it to be when squatting, lunging, dead lifting, and so on, because it translates to greater stress on the knees and the low back.

    Consequently, when you ditch the shoes, you may shift your weight back toward your heels and lift more from your hips and less from your knees or back.

  • Stronger feet, ankles, and calves: Shoes put the muscles of the feet, ankles, and calves out of work, either in part or in whole. In turn, they grow weak and dysfunctional, which puts you at a higher risk for injury. Without shoes, the artificial support is gone and your lowermost extremities must go back to work, so they grow stronger, and you're less likely to fall into injury.

  • Increased proprioception/bodily awareness: The bottoms of your feet have sensors that pick up and transmit valuable information to your brain about your position and orientation in space — called proprioception. Shoes often distort or misinterpret these signals, and subsequently, the quality of your movement suffers.

The less shoe, the better. But if for whatever reason you can't go strictly barefoot, then opt for minimalist footwear, such as Vibram Five Fingers, New Balance Minimus, or if you're feeling bold, a pair of flip flops.

Cancel the gym membership

Do you need a gym membership to implement a Paleo fitness program? Not at all. Will it help? It can't hurt. If nothing else, it can provide equipment such as kettlebells, dumbbells, and barbells, for your Paleo fitness journey. Just be sure to steer clear of the equipment you don't need, like the treadmills, ellipticals, and exercise machines.

There's certainly something to be said about training alfresco. It's primal. It feels good. And you get your daily dose of sunlight. Whether you choose to cancel your gym membership is entirely up to you, but break your Paleo fitness routine out into the sunlight every now and then.

Dismiss preconceived notions

One last thing to purge before you begin your Paleo fitness journey is any and all preconceived notions that you have about fitness and health. You'll soon find that Paleo fitness is marked by minimalism, which is precisely what makes it such a good fitness program.

In fact, Paleo fitness has in it all that you look for in a significant other but rarely find. It's uncluttered and unfussy. It never tires you unfairly. And when you need some time off, it doesn't make you feel guilty about it.

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