Even before the world shut down, 80% of kids don’t get enough exercise.
What do you think these numbers look like for grown-ups?
Somehow we find ourselves in a world where we need to fight for our right to recess. Even if we’re adults. No matter what country we’re in.
I can’t think of a better person to remind us how important it is to go outside and play than our friend Darryl Edwards.
Darryl is a former investment banking technologist turned movement coach, author, researcher and creator of the Primal Play method.
He’s also a talented musician, as well. Being a creator, some sort of artist, whether that be visual art, theater, performance of any kind, but certainly music and play. These are all very related to each other, and building one of these modalities can help build the others, I believe.
On today’s show with Darryl, we’re talking about:
- How the phrase “I play” can transform you
- Making functional fitness fun again
- How to take the superhero path
- What NOT to do in an emergency situation
- How not to get completely steamrolled by life—that’s important right now.
- And tons more…
Let’s hang out with Darryl.
Darryl Edwards: Animal Moves & The Joy of Play
Abel: Alright folks, returning to the show today, Darryl Edwards is a former investment banking technologist turned movement coach, author, researcher and creator of the Primal Play Method.
It’s been a while since we last hung out in person but last time I saw you, Darryl, I’m pretty sure you were pushing cars uphill, carrying people around on your shoulders and climbing up buildings like Spiderman.
So, I’m really glad you’re back.
Yeah, that sounds about right.
So, since I last saw you, I climbed down the building, parked the car and now ready to have a chat.
Abel: So, we’re just talking about the first time I had you on this show, which I think it was 2013, a long time ago.
And it’s so weird how the world has, I don’t want to say evolved since then because that’s not the right word, but things are a bit different now.
I’m glad to see that you’re still at it, still putting great books out there. You’ve got your deck now.
So, just catch us up on where things are at and how we can deal with this crazy world.
I thought it was getting better for a minute, now I don’t know for sure.
Yeah. Things have certainly shaken up in the last few years.
And I suppose, for me, kind of navigating the health sector and where I felt I could add the most value.
So, a number of things have happened in my life.
My sister passed away in 2016 from cancer, and there was a huge amount of difficulty dealing with her death, dealing with the lack of ability to control the situation.
Feeling as if, “Don’t worry sis, we’ve got this,” and recognizing that there were times that you can’t, no matter what knowledge you have, no matter what experiences you have, no matter who you know, you may not be able to help those that you care for.
Coming out of that, I became even more passionate about looking at the evidence base around helping people with health challenges, expanding the audience that I wanted to appeal to.
So, rather than focusing on the elite, those who have access to certain resources, those who feel as if the message of fitness appeals to them, I really wanted to start speaking to an audience that isn’t included in the conventional message around fitness.
The majority of people are physically inactive, globally, that’s from the very young to older adults.
There are many who have mobility issues or have disabilities or also aren’t included in that health message, that public health message around becoming more physically active.
And so, when we first spoke, Paleo Fitness was my bag—that was my book at that time—that was my first book that was published.
And I suppose, in some respects it was quite a hardcore message.
Shirts off, look great, do incredible superhuman things—you know me—be a caveman.
And now, my focus is much more on the joy of movement, the pleasure of movement. Celebrating what you can actually achieve—functionally, capably—through movement.
And that way, it’s much more about the individual.
So, whatever my issues are, whatever my age, my skill level, my dealing with pain or whatever, I’m dealing with in terms of improving my health.
We all have superhuman ability in some way, shape or form.We all have superhuman ability in some way, shape or form. @fitnessexplorer Click To Tweet
And for many of us, that isn’t being realized.
And so, I wanted that. I wanted that for myself.
I wanted to be able to demonstrate that to my audience. And that’s been a significant shift, both personally in terms of my messaging and in terms of my offering now.
It’s been an incredible journey—many, many ups and downs—but I’ve kind of come through this really recognizing what’s important in terms of my message, where I feel there are many of us who are not speaking.
We’re not speaking on the same song sheet, so to speak, and those are the individuals that I want to seek out.
Those who are disenfranchised by what’s happening in the fitness industry, those who don’t feel great, who don’t want to join a gym, who feel that the “no pain, no gain” message doesn’t appeal to them.
So yeah, that’s probably a summary of the significant shift in how I think about movement now, as I get older. So, this year is a benchmark.
I don’t know what to call it, but it’s one of those landmark ages where you go, “Oh, I have to think a little bit differently about life now.”
So, there’s a zero at the end and I’m like, “Okay, well, I’m coming out of my 40s.”
I hit the big 50 this year, and so yeah, longevity and healthy aging is far more important to me now than say 10 years ago where I probably would be more focusing on aesthetics.
Like “I want to look great, I want to look like I’m still in my 20s, I want to do crazy stuff I’ve never been able to do before.”
Now, my focal lens is much more on, “Hold on a second, I’m thinking about another 10 years when I’m 60. I’m thinking about maintaining independence and quality of life, and maintaining function, physical function and cognitive function.”
So again, another shift. And I suppose my audience, a lot of my audience, also have that one eye on longevity, as well as present day health.
So, it’s been exciting. Yeah, that’s been exciting, Abel, for sure.
Abel: It’s so funny when you were just saying that. I’m just like, “Man, there’s no way he’s more than 40. There’s no way.”
I’m doing the math in my head.
I’m like, “Wait, no, I know his backstory. Wait, is he 50? Holy wow!”
You violated all sorts of norms.
The idea that you’ll be 60 in 10 years and the way that you’re moving now, the way that you’re living now, even the way that you speak, the way you show up in the world reflects that you’re going to be, I think, living a long health span.
At least what you’re doing now is protecting your vitality, isn’t it?
Yes, and I suppose it’s really important to know—for those who didn’t listen to our first podcast discussion—I had a background of poor health.
So, I had a very sedentary lifestyle. I was working in investment banking.
I was pretty much sitting all day, poor diet, physically inactive, and I was paying the price.
I had prediabetes, I was one step away from full-blown type 2 diagnosis.
I had a really poor lipid profile so I was elevated risk of cardiovascular disease.
I had blood pressure through the roof, I was suffering with low back pain, I was wearing knee supports. It was uncomfortable just walking.
Taking the stairs was uncomfortable. I’d basically collapse. My knees would kinda give away just walking.
So, it’s important for people to be aware of my background. I wasn’t a jock. I wasn’t an athlete.
I was a geek. That’s why I did computer science.
That’s why I worked in the field that I did because I was great with computers. And humans weren’t a part of that.
I wasn’t a very social being, I much preferred interacting with computers.
Abel: So crazy.
Yeah. So, having that very amber warning around you are suffering from the disease of aging, whatever that is, you’re suffering from those in your supposed prime.
That was my, “Hold on a second. Really? I need to take statins? I need to take beta blockers for my blood pressure? I need to take metformin for my blood glucose? Is there anything else that I can do?”
And I knew that physical activity was one way of addressing some of those ailments.
So, I knew it would help my blood pressure. That was probably the only thing that I knew about physical activities.
So I was like, “Okay, if I get more active, I might get my blood pressure down, I may reduce some of the stress that I’m dealing with.”
But I also had other benefits like my blood glucose started to normalize, so I was no longer close to type 2, no longer prediabetic and my blood glucose was optimized, and my lipid profile improved.
So, that was my first awareness of movement being like medicine.
That was my gateway, actually, to improving my health and well-being.
It wasn’t diet, it wasn’t nutrition.
It was actually movement first, and that then led to me going, “Okay, I need to be able to fuel my physical activity and I want to be able to make better food decisions.”
So, I encountered the world of paleo and the like. But that understanding, that movement was an important part of my health journey, and then wanting to understand why.
I was like, “I know nothing about movement in the scientific sense. I don’t understand the underlying mechanisms.”
“I know it’s good for you, but I want to know why it can help to lower my blood pressure. What does movement do in relation to that?”
“How can it reduce inflammation? How can it reduce the risk of chronic lifestyle disease?”
I had no idea.
And so, that has been another development, really, of looking into the research, of seeking out an evidence base, of speaking about those topics in a way that is, one, that I’m passionate about.
But secondly, that I can translate that science and that evidence in a way that is prescriptive.
So, what can I do?
What do we need to do as humans in order to improve our health both physically, emotionally, socially, cognitively?
What can I do with movement that will help to address some of the issues that we’re facing in the 21st century?
And often not discussed is this kind of pandemic of physical inactivity, of sedentary living.
And the more you look into this, us being in this—I suppose we’re in a bubble, in some respects.
A lot of people we know are active, have gym memberships, are using movement as part of their health prescription, but the majority of individuals are not.
And even those who do have gym memberships may not be aware they’re still living sedentary lifestyles.
So, one interesting bit of research is around sitting, known as the sitting disease—so, several hours per day spent sitting.
And what you have to do in terms of physical activity to undo the harm that comes from sitting.
And the research tells us that you need to be doing 60 – 80 minutes per day of moderate intensity physical activity to undo 6 -8 hours of sitting.
And 6 – 8 hours sounds like a lot, until you factor in your commute, if you’re commuting in a car to work.
Then you’re at work, and you’re sitting pretty much all day.
Then you come back home on your commute, then you probably need to rest.
So you’re sitting, watching whatever you’re watching on TV or whatever you’re doing.
So, more and more of us are becoming sedentary.
Our children are getting more screen time, they’re having less access to free play and free range activities away from home.
So it’s becoming more and more of the norm, and our time in the gym may not be enough to improve our health.
So yes, I wanted to address that fact.
Like when people say, “Oh, I’m really active now. I go to the gym 3 times a week. I do some weight training, I do some cardio, I’m all good.”
And it’s like, “Actually, that may well not be enough to help with disease prevention, to help with improving your physical strength and maintaining health and longevity and vitality.”
We need to be doing far more.
And if we’re time pressured, we need to be making better choices around intensity and types of activities that we’re doing, in order to still meet the requirements of humans to move in a way which maintains good health.
So my book, Animal Moves, discusses that issue of sedentary living, the issues of how we are forgetting our animal needs, our primal needs in relation to movement.
And the fact is that the animal kingdom is a great reference.
If we look at the animal kingdom and move like the animals we are, and use the animal kingdom as a reference, it’s amazing what we can do, how we can move; from crawling, from climbing, and jumping.Look at the animal kingdom and move like the animals we are, and use the animal kingdom as a reference. @fitnessexplorer Click To Tweet
And it’s an expression of youthfulness and vitality, as you mentioned earlier.
So you look at young children and they just have this zest for life, this energy, this curiosity.
And a lot of that curiosity involves movement, it involves looking at the world around them and deciding how they can interact with the world around them.
And other animals, they don’t just switch off once they become adults.
Big cats don’t go, “Oh, I’ve got no time for play. I’ve got no time for vigorous expressive movement anymore because I’m now a big cat and I’m just going to sit here swatting flies all day.”
A big cat is more powerful, more expressive, more capable of movement than the young.A big cat is more powerful, more expressive, more capable of movement than the young. @fitnessexplorer Click To Tweet
But for many humans, some of us peak before our teenage years even. Or we might peak in our teens, or maybe in our early 20’s and then we let that decline.
And actually, we should be maintaining—well, not maintaining, “maintenance” is probably the wrong word. We should be increasing our capability, I believe, well into our 30’s, 40’s, 50’s.We should be increasing our capability, I believe, well into our 30’s, 40’s, 50’s. @fitnessexplorer Click To Tweet
I can’t say any later than that because I’m not there yet.
But I think there’s a lot that we can maintain over a wide, diverse range of activities.
And I remember when I was 30, thinking, “This is it. It’s downhill from here. I’m already feeling weaker, I’m in pain. I’m being prescribed with medication of all of these issues. They’re obviously genetic, there’s nothing I can do about them.”
And of course, there’s lots we can do without medication to maintain good health.
And I suppose, I don’t want to be ignorant to the fact that things can go wrong but I just want to be in the best possible place I can be.
So, if I do suffer from whatever particular ailment in the future, at least I’ll be in a stronger position. At least I’ll be more prepared, more resilient, more robust.At least I'll be more prepared, more resilient, more robust. @fitnessexplorer Click To Tweet
Rather than deciding 20 years ago that this was it. There’s nothing I can do to support my health apart from popping a pill or two.
So, yeah, movement I do believe is medicine. I do believe it’s the poor cousin of the health messaging.Movement I do believe is medicine.@fitnessexplorer Click To Tweet
Abel: Can I dig into that a little bit?
Yeah, of course.
Bulldozer Parenting & What Happened to Phys Ed
Abel: Because I wanted to ask you about this specifically. Because you come from, to some degree, your first career was a prestigious one.
As was mine, because I was paying off loans. Investment banking, consulting, you’re ushered into these things and then they’re just like, “You better not get out of here because you’re going to be VP soon and then you’ll make big bucks.” And it’s all prestigious.
Whereas, on the other side of things, it’s like physical education teachers, at least in the U.S., are low on the totem pole.
They’re at the bottom of the barrel, for no apparent reason.
So, what’s that about? Is it similar in the UK?
It’s certainly similar in the UK.
Of course, teaching as a profession is certainly not recognized in terms of financial value, in terms of salaries being paid, that’s for sure. Even though we know deep down how important it is, how important education is.
And then I think physical education is probably the bottom rung of that ladder.
It’s being squeezed out of school curriculum, it’s being pushed out to extracurricular activities.
And “You want to do physical stuff, you do it in your own time.”
Parents are deciding, “Let’s not have our children have the type of childhoods that we had.”
I had a childhood which was literally, “Get out of the house, I don’t want to see you until the sun comes down. Get out, amuse yourself, don’t get into any trouble. And get back when we tell you to get back.”
That was a great.
That was the majority of my childhood, “Get outside, play. A little bit of mischief, but not too much.”
And now we have helicopter parenting, we have bulldozer parenting—the latest expression I’ve heard being used now, where helicopter parenting isn’t enough.
Let’s not just spectate and make sure we’re watching whatever our children are doing, we need to remove any hazards, any obstacles, any conflict.
We need to basically make sure that our children don’t have to make any decisions which are difficult.
Or, where they’re challenged by having to be told, “No, this isn’t possible.”
“Let’s enable everything for our children, because I didn’t have that childhood. I want to make life a lot easier for my children.”
There are so many children now who are suffering.
Abel: Adulthood though.
Yeah, exactly, of course we know the reality, that real life is about disappointment, is about hardship, is about navigating difficult situations, and adversity.
Abel: It can be hostile.
Even in the best of circumstances, it can be hostile or go sideways. And I feel like as the years have gone on, even I’m blindsided all the time by just getting steamrolled by life.
Of course. Yes.
Abel: If that doesn’t happen to you a few times when you’re younger, how are you possibly going to be prepared for that?
Well, we know that our children, the current generation of children are the most depressed, anxious, have greatest instances of self-harm, bullying—pretty much all of the worst situations that can occur in childhood, our children are facing and experiencing at a far greater rate than ever before.
Childhood suicide, child labor. Whatever metric you want to use, however you want to compare the children of today in comparison to other generations, considering other generations lived through world wars and famines.
Let’s not paint a rosy, romantic picture of the past. It wasn’t all great.
But there were certain aspects of childhood which have been diminished to the point where children are being forced to live these very sheltered lives.
Probably the most important currency for children being play—a lot of children are bankrupt, pretty much, that’s the only way I can term it.
Play has been so engineered out of their lives.
Abel: Now it’s in social media and video games.
Abel: That takes up that time.
Social media, video games, structured play.
So that becomes the, “No, I do let my children play because they have play dates.”
“I do let them play because I take them to play soccer 2 hours on a Saturday morning. They’re doing so many activities that I didn’t do as a kid because now they can do ballet, then they can do some hip-hop dancing, then they can do gymnastics, then they can do… ”
There’s all these activities that they can take part in, but again, if you look at this, if you look at the research, here’s another fascinating bit of research.
Two hours of a structured activity—say like soccer—when children are actually monitored wearing accelerometers to see how much physical activity they’re doing that’s beneficial to them in terms of quantity, it’s like 15 – 20 minutes in a two-hour period.
Because most of the time, they’re being instructed, they’re being told, “Watch what somebody else is doing, now it’s your turn for 20 seconds.”
Then you sit down and wait for somebody else to do their drill. And then maybe at the end they may have a bit of time to play.
So you think as a parent, “My son’s getting two hours, my daughter’s getting two hours of movement on Saturday morning.”
Actually, no. They’re getting very little time.
And again, adults are the focal point. Adults are making the decisions as to what children are engaging in.
And I’m sure you can remember yourself, I certainly can remember, the most fun activities as a child involve you making your own decisions, usually involve risky types of play.
Usually multiple age groups, your peers of all different ages, and you’re problem solving, you’re risk assessing, you’re learning.
Again, you’re learning about the world around you.
There’s conflict that has to be resolved because if you don’t resolve it, you’re not going to play.
You fall out with your mates one day, then you’re best friends the next.
There were all these things that happen, whereas now, it’s like, “No, no, no, let’s not have any conflict, and let’s not have anyone falling out. Let’s make sure the rules are set by us because we’re the parents, we know best always.”
There is, again, lots of studies as to the harmful impact of emotional intelligence and social intelligence and social awareness, which can only come, which can only be developed by a child acting on their own initiative, basically.
That’s really the crux of the of the matter.
They have to be involved in making those type of decisions as to what they do, what they enjoy doing.
And this kind of play psychology, when I started looking into this, I was like, “Play is fun. Hey, skipping through the hay. Let’s just have fun doing exercise.”
But actually, when I think about it, we did some pretty hardcore stuff as a kid.
Climbing trees, jumping. I mean, we would jump off one-story buildings.
Abel: Yes, I fell off one.
Yeah, yeah, just piggyback carrying, on our bikes for miles and miles and miles, and then praying we’d get back on time, praying that we’d actually find our way home.
There’s no GPS.
We didn’t have maps telling us where we were.
It was just like, “We need to get back before mum or dad finds out that we’re on the other part of the city.”
So, there was so much of that experience, which I now appreciate for its explorative nature, the curiosity.
“Shall we go down that ravine? Shall we cross that? Shall we go into that garden? Oh, there’s apples in that tree, are we going to climb the fence and shake the tree? And what if we get caught? What if the neighbors see us? What if…”
There’s how one of our boundaries, you know, if adults do see us and our parents get told what we’ve been up to, you know.
So, there’s all of these situations that we had to navigate that would help us become more resilient.
And when you consider that children are three times more likely to get admitted to hospital falling out of bed than out of a tree compared to a generation ago. That’s, I mean that’s what I’m talking about.Children are 3 times more likely to get admitted to hospital falling out of bed than out of a tree compared to a generation ago. @fitnessexplorer Click To Tweet
It is shocking about the physical literacy of our children means that they know less rough and tumble play.
They don’t know how to jump and land, they don’t know how to fall, because they don’t play those type of games, that, again, many of us would play.
My bedroom, I used to share a bedroom with my brother. That bedroom, one day it was a wrestling ring.
We would climb the wardrobe, sometimes it would be like mountaineering.
We would climb the wardrobe. Sometimes we would drop, jump off, pile drive.
I mean it’s pretty shocking when I think about it, I’m like, “Oh my goodness, I’m surprised we didn’t break many, many bones.”
Abel: Yeah, kids just bounce.
Yeah, we just, exactly. We just did stuff which was pretty crazy.
And again, we’d stop doing it as soon as the parents were around.
If they knew we were jumping on the bed, probably breaking the bed. You know, can you imagine?
But yeah, we would do some crazy, some crazy, crazy things physically. But you just become aware of your abilities, you decide what you can and can’t do at a given age.
I can’t, I can’t climb that tree now, I’m too young, I’m not strong enough. But I’ll watch my peers do this, I’ll learn how it’s done. I’ll get some help and assistance, I’ll know that If I climb too high and I can’t get down, I’m on my own.
And as an adult I think this is something which is missing from a lot of conventional fitness, actually.
We are given this prescription of a lot of time keeping us within our comfort zone, and getting us to do one or two or three things.
Rather than actually going, “Hold on a second, there is far more to our capabilities as humans than just running and lifting weights, and maybe going on a bike.”
Abel: It’s being useful.
Yeah. Yes exactly.
Abel: We just moved our whole house again, the past few days. And I was wearing my little like smart ring to track my activity.
And it was fascinating because when I go out for a run, it’s like seven or eight miles up at 8,000 feet. It’s like, it can be pretty intense. Sometimes I’ll do some sprints out there, sometimes I’ll bring the dog or whatever.
When I do my heavy lifts it’ll be dead lifts with free weights, I’ll do some presses, and I’ll do some you know pushes, pulls. I’ve got pull-up bars and whatever.
But I’ll usually workout for about a half an hour.
But just yesterday when I was setting up the studio—I moved it from one house to another, I’m glad everything seems to be working—I expended more than double the energy of my eight mile run, or my strength workout. I expended more than both of them put together.
Oh, for sure. And you are probably going to feel it more.
Abel: I was so shocked when I looked at that. Crazy, right?
Yeah, yeah. Actually, you know what, Abel?
As you can tell, folks, Abel’s in sunny Colorado right now. I’m in London, it’s getting dark.
Abel: It’s getting darker and darker.
So, I’m going to put the lights on. I don’t normally have the lights on, but I think it might be better for the audience.
So what, bear with me for one second.
Abel: Yeah please, go for it.
Abel: I can see you.
So, I wouldn’t normally put these lights on, for obvious reasons, but just so you can see me, and not just hearing a voice.
But yeah, I think, you know, I remember helping my friend move house and I’m like, “I relish the opportunity.”
I was like “Yeah, don’t get any removal men, just, we’ll move the sofas. And we’ll do…”
And oh my goodness. Especially when you don’t know the technique.
Obviously removal men or women know, they know how to move and ship big pieces of equipment.
And you know, we were trying to get big sofas upstairs, and it’s like you’re taking all the strain, and trust me, you feel that you’re really fit, but you just do something which is just like a hard days bit of labor, of movements that you don’t normally do.
Trust me, my body was letting me know that, “You probably need to be doing a little bit of more this sort of stuff, Darryl, because you know, you’re complaining a little bit too much.”
Abel: Totally. I notice my legs. I’m just like, I haven’t felt this in my legs. This tired, weird type of pain, like when you’re just totally exhausted.
And that’s where I was, I was so fascinated by that.
Another thing I noticed is that when you’re lifting weights, you’re doing it with correct form.
Even free weights, you’re keeping everything in line, but when you’re moving stuff, when you’re moving a sofa through a space like that, you’re on one leg and your knees tweak this way and you could really rip something or blow something.
Oh, you could. And I think this is, again, this is another aspect of modern fitness, which is kind of missing a trick.
You know, this focus on the correct form.
And most natural movement is never symmetrical, never evenly balanced, not evenly distributed weight.
It’s awkward. Awkward angles, awkward body positions. Compromised, joints are compromised. You’re not stable.
We want to be able to improve our performance and make sure we’re doing things correctly.
But as soon as we move functionally in the real world, no wonder many of us are getting injured, because as soon as we shift outside of that very structured, safe, everything is an alignment way, we’re so weak because we don’t. We never train that way.
Abel: Consulted fitness, right?
Abel: It’s like what we were talking about before.
It’s exactly right. So, I think it’s important to model some of our training, some of our fitness needs to model real-world scenarios.
And, you know, functional training isn’t like standing on one leg on a bosu ball, doing some shoulder presses.Functional training isn't like standing on one leg on a bosu ball, doing some shoulder presses. @FitnessExplorer Click To Tweet
That doesn’t replicate the real world.
It’s not often I stand on one leg to perform something very functional.
You know, everything about that scenario is a very unique scenario and situation.
You’re not doing that on a regular basis.
You certainly won’t, if you’re on one leg, you wouldn’t be on a bosu ball, you’d be on a stable surface when that happens. Do you know what I mean?
So, of course we have two legs, you’re going to be on one leg at some other points.
But in terms of exercises that we’re given, you know, stand on one leg knee height, squat on a bosu ball, work your core as you’re trying to stabilize yourself.
And it’s like, well how much of that will be useful to me when I’m moving home?
Or when I’m doing another physical activity that is useful for me, that is actually practical for me to do?
So, I’m not knocking somebody who wants to balance on a bosu ball with one leg and shoulder press, but I think there is more useful practical movements that are more likely to reduce injury, will improve functional capability.
And it reminds me very much of the training montage in Rocky IV.
Ivan Drago liked using the best of tech, all-isolation movements, like all sexy stuff, then you had Rocky chopping logs and…
Abel: Chasing chickens.
Moving boulders and chasing chickens and, shifting cars that are caught in the snow and stuff.
And I watched that movie as a teenager and I’m like, I didn’t really understand. I thought it was just about old versus new, you know.
And actually, no. It’s actually about what humans have been doing for hundreds of thousands of years.
If you believe in evolution, at least 250,000 years of Homosapiens have been moving that way.
Relatively recently we have created this concept of exercise which is only here because we have less physical activity available to us through our day to day lives.
We don’t need manual labor. We don’t need to source our food physically, it comes to us. We don’t need to build our shelters anymore.
All the stuff we used to have to do, we no longer need. So, exercise is a good supplement.
It’s like, “Hey, here’s something you can do to try to fill that gap.”
But it isn’t ever going to be as good the real stuff, like you moving home.
Nothing you do in the gym would ever ever replicate that type of work. But we need to get as close to that as possible.
We need to model that as closely as possible.
And so with Primal Play, that’s what the “Primal” part of Primal Play is about.
Trying to have a system of movement which does acknowledge the push, the pull, the lunging, the squatting, the climbing, all of these very different movement patterns that we should be engaging in.
The very slow, steady motions, right through to the most vigorous and powerful of activities.
And I suppose it’s like water.
If you look at water that’s moving, sometimes it’s very still.
I mean, you’ve got to look at it for quite a while before you realize, “Oh actually, there’s some movement there.”
It isn’t as still as it looks. But then you could have the most vigorous and violent of movement that comes from water.
And we operate on that spectrum, as well.
We should be able to move very gracefully, very slowly, very controlled, not make a sound, very measured movements.
But I should be able to sprint. I should be able to climb, I should be able to jump and land, and feel comfortable in doing that.
I should be able to lift and carry, you know. Not just lift and put it back down.
Lifting is actually, is the precursor to taking something somewhere.
Even then I’m thinking about, “Hold on a second. Yeah. All the lifting I’ve done in the gym, most of it is lift. Oh this looks good, feels good.”
Abel: Right. Stick it back down.
Pop it back down. And even sometimes, most of the time actually, I wouldn’t even put it down.
It would be like, “Drop the weight, it’s so heavy.”
Abel: Right, yeah.
I could only lift it up. I was not strong enough to be able to set it back down.
Abel: Which you have to when you’re moving house. If you’ve got a big TV, for example.
Yeah, exactly. Yeah, can you imagine.
Abel: You can’t just drop that thing.
Drop the sofa. Yeah. Drop the TV.
“Drop the flatscreen now. It’s too heavy. I can’t hold it any longer.”
Yeah, so even that short circuiting of the things that we do for fitness.
You know, another thing, you might do a 10k run.
But then you’re thinking, “Ah, I’ve got to walk back. I’m so tired.”
You know what I mean? “I’ll get an Uber back.”
Actually why not just run 5k and then 5k back?
Why not have some purpose for your run rather than just thinking about that goal of distance?
Why not actually think about the purpose of running?
“I mean it’s locomotion, I need to get somewhere in a given time. That’s why I’m doing this.”
So, everything becomes more mindful when you think of movement in this way.
Not just because you’re in a dark room, listening to chill out music and burning incense and listening to Enya.
And, “Oh, now I’m really blissful,” and deep breathing.
Actually, I want to be just as focused if I was being chased by whatever.
You know what I mean? I don’t want to be panicking.
I want to be like, “You know what? I reckon I can make the right decision, right now. I’m aware of my abilities, I’m aware of my limitations, I can manage this stress response in an appropriate fashion.”
Which means I have to be mindful. I can’t just run aimlessly.
Do you know what I mean? There’s all these things that you feel the fitness world tells us: If you want to reduce stress, if you want to become more mindful, then you have to just slow things down.
Have some water dripping in the background. There’s going to be some sort of gong going off every few seconds.
Hit a triangle, and get into this nice Nepalese blissful state.
And it’s like, yeah, it’s kind of easy to be. You know, it’s easy to be chilled out when you’re in Nepal.
Do you know what I mean? Living like a monk.
But you want to feel that way when you’re in the middle of mayhem, you know.
Abel: Like when your truck breaks down in the desert this summer, and you’ve got to walk for miles and find water. That literally happened to us.
And when stuff like that happens to you, you see health and fitness as a responsibility.
Yes, of course.
Abel: It’s something you need to keep up. Because if you don’t, you might just die.
And so you can run, you know what I mean, when stuff goes really wrong, and it does.
It does, yes. You know, we need to recognize fitness for those extraordinary feats.
You know, like in that situation you could have just gone, “You know what, I’m just going to stay here and hope somebody comes by to help.”
Abel: Yeah, we did by the way, we called AAA, and they never came. 24 hours, they did not come.
Abel: That was a big lesson.
And again, imagine you may not have been able to make a phone call.
You might have been just out of signal.
Do you know there’s so many things that could have gone wrong, but the fact that you were like, “You know what? Fine, I’m call AAA, but there’s other things we can do about this. And part of it involves my physical fitness. And that is part of the solution.”
And I think it’s really important.
I remember one of my clients a few years ago, she came to one of my first group sessions.
We were doing fireman carries and kind of like lifting carries, and sprinting.
And she was just like, “What the heck is this? I’m a mother of two kids. When am I ever going to need to do stuff like this? This is just… You know, I’m not in the military.”
She really made a song and dance of it.
And I said, “Oh, you never know when you might need to be able to do something like this.”
And literally within about a month or two, she came to the class and she’s like, “Darryl, you won’t believe what happened this weekend. I’m in the hotel, several floors up, fire alarm goes. It wasn’t a false alarm. My husband had a few too many jars,” if you know what I mean. He was on the sauce.
“Passed out. I’m with the two kids. I literally tried to wake my husband up. He’s like, ‘yeah, whatever’.”
Abel: Oh my god.
She grabbed her kids, she ran down.
Literally, held the two kids, she ran down all these flights of stairs, everyone else is just kind of walking or going, “What do we do? Let’s wait for the emergency services.”
She’s like, “Heck no, I’m out.” She grabbed the kids.
She handed her kids over to the hotel staff outside, she ran back up the stairs and she dragged her husband out of the bed, literally pulled him to the entrance of the room. And the emergency services had arrived, and were ready to take him out.
And she was like, “I knew I was able to do this because of the sort of training we were doing. I had no doubt that I was able to do this.”
She went, “Before this, I would have waited, probably sitting there thinking, ‘Oh, what am I going to do now? My husband can’t help me, you know, I’m stuck.’”
And she was like, “No, my life potentially could be in danger. I’ve got to protect the kids, then I’m going to come back for hubby.”
And of course when she was running back in, everyone was like, “No, you’ve got to wait. Don’t. No, don’t be stupid.”
She was like, “No, I need to do this.”
And I was like, “Oh, that’s such an incredible story.”
Abel: It is.
And it was the fact that she just felt that she was able to do this.
And she said, “You don’t understand, when I’m dragging my husband, and he’s still, he was so out of it, he was just like, ‘No,’ you know.”
He wasn’t interested at all. He didn’t know what was happening.
Abel: Another reason not be too much on the sauce, like ever, let’s just say.
Yes, exactly. You never want to be… I mean, I don’t drink anymore. I don’t drink alcohol anymore.
But I have. I certainly have been that smashed.
Abel: Oh yeah. I have, too.
And yeah, if there was a real danger befalling you, what would you do?
Honing Your Fight or Flight Response
And oh, I mustn’t forget this. So, one of the things that I probably didn’t share back then, but I was actually a victim of the London bombings in 2005.
Abel: I was there in London at the same time.
So, Edgware Road tube station, metro station, was one of the stations that was bombed.
And I was basically adjacent, a carriage away from the explosion.
So it was basically, “I’m going to die now.”
It was that, that sort of moment of like, ” Oh my goodness, my life… My life’s over.”
And it was very difficult, very difficult to deal with. I spent the next nine months commuting to work on a bike, because I was like, “I can’t go in the Underground, I can’t go in any public transport.”
I was pretty much petrified to do so.
Seven years later there was a recurrence of the terror attacks happening.
So you know what happened in Paris, and then it was happening in London, of cars basically matting the pavements.
And so it was another, kind of, quite a scary, terrifying time.
And I started having flashbacks basically, of what happened back in 2005. Sort of like PTSD, basically.
And I was like, “I thought I’d dealt with that. I thought I was over it.”
But I wasn’t. But this is what happened to me.
I’m in South Kensington near the Natural History Museum, okay.
And all of a sudden there were lots of police, there was police helicopters, huge crowds forming.
And I was with my partner, I’m like, “I wonder what’s happening? Let’s go and have a look.”
We walked around the corner, and there were about 20 – 30 armed police in a single road telling everyone to run for their lives.
And they didn’t just say, “Run for your lives.” All the expletives you can imagine were used.
90% of people didn’t move.
One. As you know, we don’t really have armed police in London, armed police are rare, alright.
So, seeing that many armed police, that’s already like, “Okay, I need to get the heck out of here.”
Two, that they’re telling us there’s been an attack, a terror attack, “Get the heck outta here.”
90% of people just literally froze, or took their phones out to video what may have or may not have been happening.
My partner froze, she was like, “I don’t know what to do.”
And I was like, “Take your heels off. If I need to I’ll pick you up. We’re going, we’re gone, we’re sprinting, we’re getting out of here.”
So, we sprinted away.
The amount of people we told as we are running past them, not to go in that direction, people just like, “Oh, there’s a terror attack. Okay, well, that sounds interesting.”
It was just surreal, people just have no idea how to deal with life threatening situations like that. It was just incredible.
Abel: Isn’t it bizarre?
It’s… Listen, it was just horrendous. And we ran to the tube station.
So, I said to her, “Look, next we’re going to run to the tube station, and we’re just going to get out of here.”
So, we ran to the tube station and then they said, “Oh, there’s actually a bomb in the station.”
So, they were closing the station down.
And I was like, “Oh my goodness, is this happening again?”
But the good thing was I was so calculated about avoiding danger, about protecting my partner, about getting out of here, about trying to help others in that situation.
But most people were just wandering around aimlessly.
Fortunately, it was a false alarm, that basically an Uber driver had a heart attack at the wheel and mounted the pavements, and unfortunately, hit a few people.
And he was of Middle Eastern decent, so they assumed it was a terror attack.
Abel: Oh, jeez.
But it wasn’t a terror attack. But yeah, that…
What happened to me the first time in 2005 just got me into, “Okay, alright. What can we do to feel better about this?”
And certainly it wasn’t getting out my phone to put it on social media or to document.
Honestly, it was, you would have… It was so surreal.
Have you ever seen Westworld?
Okay, you know how they can turn the robots off so they all freeze and only the humans keep moving?
It was almost like that.
Everyone just froze, like, “Oh, let’s just film this, and let’s just decide what to do next.”
And we were just going crazy running and trying to get away. And it was like, “Really?”
Abel: Yeah, fight or flight is not the correct term for what happens there.
I’ve read a few books about it in the times of my life when stuff is really going down big time.
You expect that everyone will have it together and run in the correct direction.
But what actually happens is 70% to 90% of people, like you said, it’s not fight or flight, it’s just stand there and act like everything’s still okay or act like nothing’s happening, or just keep doing the dishes, like someone close to me got shot and the person kept doing the dishes.
Abel: It becomes your brain and your emotions, if you’re not ready just to snap into that mode like you did, most people are discombobulated, and they don’t know what to do.
So you need to somehow prepare for this.
Yes, exactly. And I think that’s the freeze, the third F is the freeze response.
So of course, sometimes freezing is appropriate, like for a rattlesnake or certain dangers, where if you move it’s game over, right?
So again, it’s the appropriateness of the response. Sometimes freezing is the best thing to do, but in that situation it certainly wasn’t.
You couldn’t fight in that situation, flight was the most appropriate.
Abel: In the correct direction.
And in the correct…
Abel: That’s another thing.
Yeah, so some people are flying—flight was towards the danger.
Like, “I just told you there’s a terror attack, you have no idea what is happening 50 meters away from where I am. There is mayhem.”
“That should tell you I’m not interested in what’s happening 50 meters away, I’m going in the opposite direction as fast as I can.”
But the good thing is, and of course, you never know what may happen to you in terms of preparedness for life, but I’m thankful that I was able to run, to keep running, to be able to initially sprint.
Abel: Help others who were freezing.
To think to myself, “I can help. Listen, those heels can go. If you need to throw those heels away so you can run barefoot.” Do you know what I mean?
We don’t need training shoes now, we don’t have time to warm up, we don’t have time to stretch, let’s just bolt, let’s go, let’s disappear.
And I was like, “Yeah, if I need to carry you, that’s what’s going to happen, doesn’t matter.”
As long as we’re moving away from here, as long as we’re not the slowest of the masses..
We’re improving our chances every second that we’re taking evasive action.
So, yeah, I think it’s really important for us to recognize why movement was a part of our heritage, and why it’s significantly important.
And why even though it isn’t always as sexy as some of the other interventions that we are attracted to. You know like say nutrition, right?
And I think part of the reason is because if you want to improve your nutrition, you can engage with a nutritionist, you could get a chef, you could get somebody to prepare the meals for you.
You could probably even pay someone to feed you.
If you had the ability, you could literally get somebody to give you the perfect nutritional plan and you only had to chew.
And even then you probably don’t have to chew, just get someone to blend it and have it as a smoothie.
Or have it intravenous, if you really don’t want to have any effort.
So you could literally have no effort and improve your nutritional regiment.
“I want to go to sleep, I want to improve my sleep.”
You can take supplements, you can get hypnotized, there’s things you can do to help.
With movement, the only thing you can do is do it yourself. You can’t outsource.
The effort, the physical effort required, you have to do that work. You get a PT, they can tell you what to do, but you have to do it.
And I think that’s why it’s difficult for humans to have a long-term love affair with exercise.
If you can’t motivate yourself, if you don’t set goals, if you feel that there’s always something more important to do. We struggle.
50% of people who sign up to gyms don’t actually attend one session.
Abel: It’s crazy.
Gym owners have done really well. The chains do really well. They sign you up for a year contract, they promise you the world, but you’ve got to attend.
So, I’m sure you’ve seen the meme: “I’m going to go to the gym next week and find out why this fitness program isn’t working.”
And it’s basically their first visit, right?
The complaining is, “The gym’s not working for me, I haven’t been there for nine months, but I need to find out why. Maybe I should actually go.”
Abel: Good illustration of that.
Where to Find Darryl Edwards
I can’t believe that we’re almost out of time, Darryl.
Before we go, can you please tell folks about your Animal Moves book, and your cards and all the other cool stuff you’re working on?
Yeah. Animal Moves really talks about how you can have a better relationship with movement. Moving like the animals we are.
The volume, the intensity, the frequency of movement, the type of movement patterns you should be engaging in.
And there’s a 28-day program for intermediate, beginners and advanced, that takes you through the moving patterns that make you perform better, feel better, and move better.
And then the Animal Moves decks, actually, I could show this. This is the office-based version.
I have one for children, for adults, an office version, and one for fitness professionals.
And it just takes that concept of the structure that comes from the book, into a way that randomizes your workouts, or as I term them, play outs.
So, it’s just a way to make it even more fun.
You’ve got a couple of moments free to have a movement snack or movement break. So, it just takes you away from tech, it’s like analog gaming, it’s something you can do socially.
So, this Animal Moves concept in the book has now sort of developed into more of a brand in relation to these additional products.
And in terms of my philosophy and approach around the Primal Play Method, primalplay.com has lots of research, has lots of activities, has lots of ideas that can help to motivate you.
If you’re thinking that you’re struggling with having a love affair, a long-term love affair that is beneficent and fruitful, that’s what the website has been developed for, to provide that sort of help and guidance.
And yes, probably the final thing I should mention is, I also do have a free e-book called, The Importance Of Play.
So, if you go to primalplay.com/ebook, then you can access that.
I mean most of us know why play is important, but if you do want to geek out in some of the science, if you do want some ideas of how you can enjoy, to be more playful and more engaging when it comes to movement, that’s what that ebook is about.
Abel: Right on, and we all need to play a little bit more.
Abel: Darryl, I appreciate your work so much. Thank you for getting out there and continuing to do such great stuff. We love you, man. Keep doing it.
Cheers, Abel. It’s been superb. Thanks very much for the time once again. Have a great day, mate.
Abel: You too.
Before You Go…
I wanted to share a note that came in that really touched my heart. This one’s from Brad and he says…
“Abel, I recently discovered your podcast. It is great! I love it. I plan to go back through and listen to all of them. Now as the entire world is in panic over this pandemic, it is great to have a resource like the Fat-Burning Man podcast.
I want to share some of my story. I grew up in Virginia, but I have been living in East Africa for almost 20 years because of my work. I direct a small Non-profit that does humanitarian and community projects in some conflict zones here.
About 7 years ago I lost my father to complications from type 2 diabetes which led to a slew of other lifestyle related health issues. My Dad was a great father and still my hero. Dad was great in so many areas, but not in the area of “self-care.” Watching him suffer unnecessarily and die at the young age of 72 put me on a journey to rediscover my own health.
As a father of 4 great children (ages 18-23) I want to be available and healthy to enjoy my time with them going forward for as many years as God may give me.
In 2018, as I approached 50 I decided to rally and battle for my health. I began intermittent fasting, I stopped eating processed food; I eliminated grains, and I stopped eating scavenger animals (like pork, shellfish, and farm raised fish), and began eating more green vegetables, eliminated a lot of foods that were causing gut and joint inflammation and changed my sleeping and exercise habits.
Having experienced a lot of sport-related injuries (including multiple concussions, dislocated shoulders, torn ligaments, fractured patella) I used to wake up with back and knee pain and experience headaches .
By eating real food, sleeping better and exercising better – I dropped 50 pounds in about 3 – 4 months leading up to my 50th birthday in 2018. No more joint pain or headaches. More energy and mental clarity.
Now as I discover your podcast I am excited to find another resource to help me stay on the right path of health.
I have shared with all my children, friends and family. Keep up the great work!”
Wow, Brad. I don’t remember reading a note from East Africa before, but there are so many things that you said here.
Firstly, thank you so much for writing in, sharing this with your family, and really putting this into action.
For those of you reading, listen to what he said here. I’m just going go back through it real quick here.
He says, “As I approached 50, I decided to rally and battle for my health.”
Number one, that’s what you have to do. You need to rally and be ready for a battle because you’re going to be attacked.
Our health is under attack, whether it’s just the people around you making fun of you for drinking a smoothie or eating vegetables in public or whatever, or literally the powers that be, who want us dependent on them, eating GMO nonsense, lab-grown, disgusting, profiteered, and completely manipulated shlop, Soylent Green.
“I began intermittent fasting.” That is something that’s so important, more than ever now, especially if you haven’t tried it before.
Try spending a few hours, especially in the morning, when you first wake up, push back your first meal a few hours. See how you feel after a few days.
Or, even, especially if finding enough food is tough, which it is for so many people now and I feel for you.
You know, taking one day out of the week to start building your fat-burning mechanisms once again by practicing intermittent fasting can be a very empowering thing to do.
Now, you can abuse fasting, obviously. There is a line there and you need to learn where it is, but there’s a lot of good stuff that can happen when you start experimenting with intermittent fasting.
Okay, so then he stopped eating processed food. Another monster step. If you do have processed food around your house right now, keep it for a rainy day, put it in the back of the closet in a bag or whatever, because it’ll keep for two years anyway.
Keep that shelf-stable stuff that’s highly caloric or high in sugar. It’s not good for you now, it’s not good for your health. And your immune system will take a hit if you abuse that food.
But if you put it away for a bit and you focus on eating as fresh as you can, real foods, nutrient-dense foods, that’s going to make a monster difference, a positive difference.
He eliminated grains. That kind of goes with processed foods to some degree, but that’s another big win because basically grains are a source of sugar.
Yes, they last on the shelf. They can stay a long time as a source of food, but it’s not optimal food and it’s not necessarily nutrient-dense, most of those grains.
So, kicking those out, big win.
And then, he stopped eating scavenger animals, like pork, shellfish, and farm-raised fish.
So, for a lot of people, that means kicking out farm-raised things from the industrial system, but that can be a big win, as well.
Kick out the meats, as well, that don’t work for you, the low-quality meats.
Then he began eating more green vegetables, eliminated a lot of foods that were causing gut and joint inflammation, and changed my sleeping and exercise habits.
Like, in that one paragraph, you covered everything you need to do. You have the answer, put it into action.
Once again, Brad, thank you so much for writing in. You shared some deep wisdom here.
And if you are looking for free resources as a listener, you can find over 300 episodes of this show, completely for free without outside sponsors.
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What did you think of this interview with Darryl Edwards? How do you keep fitness playful and fun? Drop a comment below!