Bust Out Of Your Routine

Exercise, Health, Nutrition, Rant Add comments

It’s easy to start getting complacent with your health and fitness plan.

hamster wheel order

You eat breakfast at 7am, lunch at noon, protein shake at 5, and dinner at 7.

You go to the gym and do 45 minutes of cardio, 5 days a week.

You take a multivitamin and 3 fish oil capsules every morning.

You see the same people every day.

You follow a set routine, doing your best to cover all the bases.

And while I think rigid routines are the best way to lose a lot of weight (quickly and safely), does a routine really match up with our genetic programming to lead to long term health?

So, for the sake of discussion, you’re not training for a specific goal (examples: lose 40 pounds by summer, deadlift 500 pounds, run a 2:30 marathon) and just want to improve fitness, health, energy, and vitality.


Can you start mixing it up a little?

The idea for this post came when I was trying to explain my supplement program to a friend.  I take the basics most days: multivitamin, fish oil, krill oil, vitamin D, vitamin C, garlic, magnesium, zince, probiotics, etc.

But I’ve got one of those weekly pill boxes that let you set up 7 days ahead of time.

So I mix stuff up, with the thought that hunter/gatherers wouldn’t get the exact same nutrients every day.

Some days have lots of garlic, vitamin C, and cod liver oil.  Other days there’s extra magnesium, no fish oils at all, and a small bump in zinc.  A little more randomness to keep my body from getting complacent.

(If you do something like this, be smart about it – too much of a vitamin can be poisonous.  I know my body very well and understand nutritional supplementation and diet.  Work with a natural health care expert if you want to randomize your plan.)

That’s just an example.  Think about all the other things that we were exposed to as hunter/gatherers.  There were probably lots of vagarities every day.

sabertooth suprise

What irregularities can you start playing with to spur your body on to fully expressing its healthy genetic heritage?

Food?  Environment?  Sleep?  Companionship?

Here are a few ideas to get you started:

Energy Expenditure – In this Cheetara Diet post, the idea was to match energy intake (food) to exertion levels (exercise).  Some days, weeks, or seasons would have called for more activity than others.  And sometimes you’d have plenty of resources and would be able to kick back and relax for a while.

Tarzan climbing

Mixing this one up is easy.  Maybe for a month you lift weights every other day and hike every day, followed by a week where you lift heavy twice a day, and then for 11 days you just do some light bodyweight exercises and play.

Sleep – Sometimes people skip a workout because they didn’t get “enough” sleep.  But really, there were probably all sorts of reasons our ancestors didn’t sleep the night through and they still had to get up and move if they wanted to eat.

Even if you go to bed at dark and get up at sunrise, your sleep time would change every single day.  Now, I’m not suggesting that you force yourself into sleep deprivation in order to make your workouts more challenging, just to say that variations in sleeping patterns is another way to throw some stimulating randomness into your life.

Environments – Hot and cold.  Dry and humid.  Bright and dim.  Loud and quiet.  Windy and still.  Your ancestors had to live with all sorts of fluctuations in their environment.  No heated cars and air conditioned houses.

Someone asked an abbot at the Shaolin Temple (a martial arts school) how they dealt with training outside all year round.  His answer was great: “In summer we sweat, in winter we shiver.”

shaolin training

This is an easy one to diversify.  If you run in the winter, wear fewer layers.  Go do your kettlebell swings down by the river and get some humidity.  Turn off your air conditioner in the summer.  Listen to loud music one workout and the next play no music and try to be as quiet as possible.  The variations are endless.

Companionship – Sometimes you’re alone, sometimes you’re in a group.  Sometimes you’re guided, sometime you’re self-directed.

Taking down a mastodon sounds like something you’d want backup for.  Team sports are basically play battles with specific objectives.  Hiking with family to gather plants.  Connections and companionship are how we survived without fangs, claws, or wings.


But other times you want to climb a big rock for fun, go for a walk by yourself, maybe spend some time by yourself practicing with your bow so you can show off at home.

Workout alone.  And with a partner.  And with a team.  And with your kids.  Play and recreate alone.  And with a partner.  And with a team.  And especially with your kids.

 Food And Cooking – It’s totally understandable to have a few “go-to” meals.  You like the foods you like, you know how to cook them, you get comfortable… so why change it up?

The problem is that only eating from a narrow range of foods isn’t how our predecessors ate.  Produce is seasonal, and so are the types of game meat that are available.

Drill down into someone’s meal log now though, and you’ll see maybe 10 different foods represented.  Chicken, tuna, eggs, spinach, broccoli, and bell peppers are delicious and healthy, but they aren’t enough for total health.

Expanding the number of foods you eat limits your exposure to any toxins in the food, helps protect you from damage by lectins, reduces your likelihood of developing food allergies, gives you access to a wider variety of micronutrients and phytochemicals, and keeps you from getting bored with your diet plan.


One way to introduce a little randomness into your diet is to eat local foods.  Another is to really try new foods, new spices, and new cooking methods.

Meal Frequency And Amounts – This is a hot button topic in the health and fitness world.  It’s gone from “3 square meals a day” to “eat every 2-3 hours” to “fast 16 hours and eat for 8.”

Which one works best?  All of them.  So mix it up a little.

Occasional fasting (not eating) has been shown to improve health and accelerate fat loss.  Skipping breakfast, lunch, dinner, or even a whole day of eating won’t kill you.

hunger hangry

Eating a bigger meal right after a workout is natural too – you would’ve had to exert yourself to get those calories, so eat some more.  Skipping breakfast before your workout is another option, your body will work harder in response to hunger.

Create A Little Chaos

The key to creating movement is to disrupt equilibrium.  All of the ideas above are ways to kick your body and mind out of a rut to allow new changes to happen.  This will promote health, energy, youthfulness, and – luckily – leanness.

Moreover, the stressors our hunter/gatherer ancestors ran into were varied – some once a day, some once a week, some once a year – and so our genes express themselves best when there are deviations from the accustomed.

The thing to remember is that your body is more like a computer than like an engine.  Your activities (exercise), diet, eating habits, and lifestyle all give information to your body – it’s not a passive fuel burner.  The information your body receives tells it what to do.  Keeping your body computer out of a routine keeps the good stuff happening, you keep making changes and your genes express themselves at their best.


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