Running sucks.

OK, so that’s not entirely true but it caught your attention didn’t it?

While traditional long-duration, steady-state cardiovascular exercise such as running confers numerous health benefits, for most people it’s also a very inefficient (and potentially risky) way of losing excess body fat and getting in shape.

There’s nothing inherently wrong with running. In fact, there’s nothing inherently wrong with any form of exercise that makes people get up and move.

We encourage this! We applaud this! Movement is good.

We want people to move more and sit less.

We even called this out on a previous post about the most dangerous thing you do all day.

However, on the wrong feet and by the wrong person, running can put certain individuals at increased risk of repetitive strain and overuse injuries such as shin splints, plantar fasciitis or the oft-lamented IT-band syndrome. In our experience, many novice runners unfortunately haven’t prepared their bodies for the rigors of this type of exercise, and we regularly see the painful fallout at our clinic.

For this reason, we strongly believe in getting fit to run, not running to get fit.

Now if you LOVE running for hours on end, and you’ve trained your body to an appropriate base-level of fitness that can tolerate the constant pounding, then by all means, go out and run to your heart’s content.

You’ve earned it.

But if you HATE running, it bores you, and the only reason you’re doing it is because you heard that it’s was the best way of dropping extra pounds and improving your fitness, please keep reading.

What we’re about to tell you may just save you a few extra hours a week and help you drop a few extra pounds in the process (assuming that you’ve taken care of your nutrition!).

Results in less time, isn’t that what we all want?

Enter High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT)

Q. What is HIIT?

A. As the name suggests, HIIT is the term given to a form of cardiovascular system training where bouts (intervals) of very high intensity exercise are interspersed with periods of recovery. In true HIIT, the work segments should be completed near or at maximal intensity whereas the recovery bouts involve complete rest or are done at a much lower intensity.

Q. How does HIIT work?

A.  Without getting too deep into the still controversial physiology behind HIIT, suffice to say that after the interval session is complete, this leads to an increase in a physiological event called Excess Post-Exercise Oxygen Consumption (EPOC) when compared to stead-state cardio. In EPOC, our bodies undergo numerous physiological processes designed to return us to the pre-exercise resting state. This process of returning to baseline requires energy, which is furnished by the body from its energy stores.

Q. How do I do a HIIT session?

A. There are many methods of completing a HIIT session, using various modalities (bike, swim, run, rower etc). The only limitation is your imagination! HIIT can be performed with a work to rest ratio of anywhere from 2:1 (e.g. Tabatas: 20 seconds ultra-intense activity:10 seconds rest) to 1:4 or greater and can be repeated for any number of cycles (typically 4-10) lasting for a total session timeline typically between 10-20 minutes.

The following is an example of a HIIT session that we’ve used with clients in the past, repeated 2-3 times a week:

  1. Warm up (5 minutes)
  2. 30 second all-out bike sprint
  3. 120 seconds slow recovery pedaling
  4. Repeat the cycle of 30 s: 120 s a total of four times (10 minutes)
  5. Warm down (5 minutes)

Q. Why would I want to do HIIT instead of steady-state cardio exercise such as running?

A. If you love running and have the time for it, keep running. However, as noted earlier, if you don’t enjoy it and could get similar or better results in less time, why would you do it?

  • Minimum time investment: HIIT requires only a fraction of the time investment when compared to steady-state cardio but can often confer similar or better results for fat loss and conditioning (important note: HIIT is only one component of a well-rounded training and nutrition program).
  • Decreased repetitive strain/overuse injury risk: The duration of HIIT sessions is only between 10-20 minutes, the repetitive stresses faced by the body when compared to an hour or more of running are far less. Think about it this way, in an hour long run, you are taking thousands of steps, each having it’s own impact through your body. In 10 minutes, the odds are that you’re not even coming close to the number of impacts.
  • Avoid boredom: Many people get bored with hour long steady-state cardio sessions. The fast-paced, short duration set up of HIIT is often fun and engaging. And we all know if we enjoy something, we’re more likely to stick with it.

Q. This seems too good to be true. What’s the catch?

A. Yup, there’s always a catch. You don’t ever get something for nothing and the same holds true for HIIT.

  • To get the true benefit of HIIT, the high intensity bouts have to be very high intensity. Real high intensity intervals hurt. They’re incredibly hard. They might make you feel like you are going to vomit. Your muscles will be extremely sore. And that’s why most people don’t do true intervals. They are uncomfortable. Incredibly so.
  • HIIT may also put you at risk for injury. This of course depends on your starting fitness level and the type of training you’re doing (e.g. sprinting is higher risk than stationary bike) but is still a consideration when deciding whether HIIT is for you.
  • Due to the intense nature, correctly performed HIIT should not be performed daily but 2-3 days per week at most.

In summary:

The two most important pieces of advice regarding  any form of exercise, including steady-state cardio and HIIT are:

  1. Build up your fitness level gradually and progressively (e.g. if you’ve been a regular on your couch, don’t go all out into HIIT or even jogging, start gently and let your body adapt).
  2. Pick an activity that you enjoy and will actually do on a regular and consistent basis. If you love to run, go and run. If you love dancing, go out dancing. If you prefer something more intense and are crunched for time, consider interval training. Each has its benefits and risks. Find something that suits your lifestyle and do it.

Yours in movement,

Team Primal



The importance of the everyday

Through our professional careers and even our own personal experiences, our team has been privy to a gamut of injuries from sprains and strains, to broken bones and “slipped discs”, among many others.

Over the last few years working in the sports performance, fitness and injury rehabilitation industries, we’ve noticed something quite different than what we would have expected: the vast majority of the people that come through our clinic doors don’t have a sudden acute injury.

It’s true.

Most of these people didn’t have an immediate trauma that started their pain and problems: no one took them down in a crushing tackle; they didn’t fall down the stairs.

That’s not to say that there wasn’t an event that set it off.

In fact, quite a few of these individuals do recall a specific incident where things started to go downhill fast. However,  their injury history actually tells quite a different story. If probed enough, most of them can remember multiple episodes of low back pain or multiple occurrences of spraining their ankles before the “noted injury”, the tipping point, if you will.

And that’s what brings us to the importance of the everyday.

This is probably the most valuable lesson we attempt to impart on our clients. It’s the one major piece of knowledge we try to pass along to them with every visit, and truly make sure that they understand why it has such a huge impact on their health, fitness, and ultimately happiness.

It’s quite often your repeated everyday activities that injure you over time or that will keep you in pain.

Restated, the above simply means that there’s something that you do as part of your daily activities that continues to irritate or injure your tissues or body structures, leading to pain and loss of function.

If you could remove or modify that specific irritation, your body would be given the opportunity to do what it does best, heal.

If you’re eating well, getting enough rest, and exercising properly, your body has all the tools and resources it needs to start fixing what is broken.

The challenge now is to figure out what is causing you the problem in the first place. And then remove it.

Yours in movement.

Team Primal

The most dangerous thing you do all day?

Based on the work we do at Primal Human Performance, we see a lot of people come in with all sorts of aches and pains to be treated by our physiotherapists, chiropractors, and registered massage therapists.

That’s not surprising.

What would be considered surprising to most people is that a majority of these injuries would not be considered acute injuries. Sure they may have acute onset such as the bending-down-to-play-with-the-kids back pain, the direct-contact sports injuries, the post-surgical rehab, and the fall-related ouchies.

However, most of these have underlying causes that have built up over time through repetitive strain or overuse.

The biggest culprit?

Through our assessments we’ve noticed that for a vast majority of people, the one fairly constant dangerous (in)activity that they do on a regular basis for prolonged periods of time is…


And unfortunately, most people unknowingly considered this a fairly benign part of their daily life.

We typically start our sitting in the morning at the breakfast table, then continue with our sitting during the commute to work or school, then we sit at our desks until lunch where we just shift our sitting from the office chair to the lunchroom chair.

Then, after lunch, most of us will return to our desks to carry on with the same form of sitting that we did all morning. At the end of the workday, we have our seated and sedentary commute home to look forward to.

Finally we arrive at home,  the television is switched on for some well deserved post-work relaxation before supper, which will take place while seated on the soft, comfy couch. Post-supper, the same posteriors are plunked back down on those plush cushions for some more relaxing reality-TV.

Then we do the same thing the next day. And the next day after that. And the day after that.

While the above may not apply to everyone, there are a significant number of people who would have no difficulty in seeing their daily routine played out as noted.

Here’s the rub…

This pattern of inactivity which plays out in millions of lives every day has fairly serious health consequences.

A recent editorial press release for the British Journal of Sports Medicine entitled: “Are we facing a new paradigm of inactivity physiology?” nicely sums up some of these dangers.

The authors discuss how recent studies suggest that long periods of sitting and “whole-body” inactivity (what we term sedentary behaviour) are “strongly associated with obesity, abnormal glucose metabolism, diabetes, metabolic syndrome, cardiovascular disease (CVD) risk and cancer, as well as total mortality.”

We don’t know about you, but we think that those are some pretty serious consequences from the simple act of sitting for too long.

The authors propose their new paradigm which consists of the following four tenets:

  1. Sitting and limiting non-exercise activity may independently increase disease risk
  2. Sedentary behaviour is a distinct class of behaviour with specific determinants and effects on disease risk, separate from the behaviour of leisure-time exercise.
  3. The molecular and physiological responses in the human body of too much sitting are not always the same as the responses that follow a bout of additional physical exercise.
  4. People already insufficiently physically active will increase their risk even further by prolonged sitting time.

The authors conclude that there are actually two behaviours (and their resulting effects) that we need to address:

  1. The benefits of regular moderate to vigorous intensity physical exercise
  2. The risks of too much sitting and limited non-exercise everyday life activity

So what can you do about it and how can you avoid these serious dangers of sitting for too long?

First, make it a priority to get a dose of moderate to vigorous intensity physical exercise. Moderate and vigorous here means moderate and vigorous for you, in your current state. If you are currently inactive, sedentary, or out of shape, you don’t need to start doing an hour of Ironman training a day. Just get started with five or ten minutes of physical activity and build from there. And it really doesn’t matter what you do as long as you do it and you enjoy it. This takes care of behaviour 1.

Second, be aware of how much time you actually spend sitting in a day and make a concerted effort to minimize it. Instead of hanging out in the cafeteria for your whole lunch hour, take a brisk walk for 30 minutes. Instead of fighting for that seat on the bus or subway, stand for half the commute. When watching TV, get up and walk around during the commercials instead of flipping from channel to channel. These are just a few of the easy strategies you can implement to reduce your risk and improve your health. In the end, don’t over think it: sit less, and move more. And this takes care of behaviour 2.

Do you agree? Disagree? Let us know with your comments!

Yours in optimal health and ultimate performance.

Team Primal.