From Iron to Primal

a fitness rebirth, dispatch #5


It's crazy to be up this early on a Saturday. Yet here I am, wide awake as the clock strikes a quarter to five. Jet lag, I suppose, a gift from my trip to Croatia. A peaceful calmness fills the air outside, a soft grey light spreading across the sky. Even the rooks are quiet. A couple of them sit silently in the trees, as if respecting this tranquil hour.

I feel good today. Surprisingly, my body isn't sore at all, despite yesterday being my first run in over five years. Standing here, I'm reminded of why I stopped running—the old knee injury from that fateful day in London. The hesitancy to run again is a battle between my desire for endurance and the comfort of weightlifting, my preferred form of exercise.

But here I am, ready to embrace the challenge of running once more. Maybe it's the post-vacation reflection, the awareness of my body, or the memories of my army days, but something pulled me back to lacing up my running shoes. And so, as I stand here this morning, I'm determined to balance my passions—integrate running into my beloved weightlifting routine, and perhaps, just perhaps, revisit that lean, army shape I once possessed. Croatia, with its sun-drenched beaches, was a catalyst for this decision. I needed that time to think  and to redefine my goals.


Running has always been a mental challenge for me. Even in my army days, when running was essential, I'd sometimes struggle to get motivated to run. Back then, it was about discipline and the drive to push through the discomfort. Nowadays, with the freedom to choose, the internal debate often ends with me choosing to lift weights instead.

I've always loved the gym; it's my happy place. There's something therapeutic about lifting weights, seeing progress, and feeling the power in my body. My journey into bodybuilding started when I was just a teenager, influenced by icons like Arnold Schwarzenegger. I lived and breathed it, spending hours in the gym, sculpting my body, and chasing that satisfying pump.

I even entered a bodybuilding competition at sixteen, and came in second place in the teenage Mr Georgia competition. It was an incredible experience, validating all the early mornings and late nights of dedication. That was a pivotal moment for me, cementing my passion for weightlifting and bodybuilding.


Then, several years ago, came the knee injury, a sharp twist of fate that changed my relationship with running. It happened during a trip to London. I was jumping the broken turnstile of a pay toilet at the train station, heavy backpack and all, when I lost my balance and fell, twisting my knee. That injury took weeks to heal, leaving me wincing with every step.

The fear of re-injury and the slow recovery kept me away from running. During that time, weightlifting was my only sanctuary, a place where I felt strong and in control. I relished the feeling of lifting heavy weights. The gym was my comfort zone, a place of measurable progress and immediate gratification.

I enjoyed the ritual of it all—the squeeze of muscles, the pump of blood, and the burn of lactic acid. The sound of weights clinking together and the grunts of fellow lifters filled me with energy. It wasn't just about the physical changes; it was about the discipline, the routine, and the sense of community the gym offered.

So, when faced with the challenge of running again, I couldn't help but feel a tug-of-war within myself. On one hand, I craved the endurance and agility that running offered. On the other hand, the familiarity and power of weightlifting made it a tough habit to break. It was a comfortable routine, one that had shaped my identity for so long.

That internal struggle was something I often grappled with, especially during my time in the army. In basic training, running became an integral part of my routine, a necessity for building endurance. We ran for miles, our feet pounding the earth in unison. The army forged us into lean, mean fighting machines, capable of enduring any challenge.

The moment I left the army, I stopped running so much. I focused on lifting heavy, pushing the limits of what my body could achieve. It was in my element, embracing the iron with fervour.

For a while, running took a back seat. But then came the Microsoft Challenge, a gruelling multi-disciplinary race. It exposed the weaknesses in my fitness routine—my running endurance was lacking. I felt sluggish, struggling to keep up with the pace. While I excelled in strength and agility events, my running game was poor. 

After my poor performance in the Microsoft Challenge, I was determined to get fighting fit. It was a humbling experience, forcing me to confront my weaknesses and step out of my comfort zone.


The Kinabalu Challenge: A Turning Point

The desire to win the Kinabalu Challenge, an adventure race in Malaysia, drove me to narrow my focus to running and callisthenics. The year before, during the Microsoft Challenge, I'd felt the sting of being the weak link due to my lack of running endurance. So, I attacked my training with newfound vigour, dropping the iron to focus on agility and endurance. It was time to push beyond my limits.

Every day, I ran. I ran to build stamina, to sculpt my body lean, and to embrace the freedom of movement. The pavement became my playground—each step, a step towards redemption. I ran through neighbourhoods, parks, and trails, letting my mind wander as my body rediscovered the joy of motion. Running was no longer a chore; it was a mental challenge that unleashed a sense of playfulness within me.

Alongside the running, I incorporated callisthenics, drawing on my army days. Push-ups, pull-ups, and sit-ups became my weapons of choice, forging functional strength and muscular endurance. I harnessed my body weight to build power, complementing the miles I logged on the road. Every step, every rep, brought me closer to my goal.

The hard work paid off. When I arrived in Malaysia for the Kinabalu Challenge, I was a different man. The race unfolded across rugged terrain, pushing our team's endurance and agility to the limit. But this time, I wasn't the weak link—I was a force to be reckoned with. The miles I'd run and the sweat I'd poured pushed me through the course with fierce determination.

In that moment, as I tackled the challenges head-on, I felt invincible. My body was a well-oiled machine, my lungs expanding with each breath, powering my legs forward. The joy of the race, the camaraderie with my teammates, and the sense of achievement as we crossed the finish line—it all rushed through me, leaving me exhilarated. We came in first place out of twenty teams.

The Kinabalu Challenge reignited my passion for running. I'd proven to myself that I could do it, that I could overcome my fears and push beyond my self-imposed limits. I'd discovered a new harmony between running and weightlifting, realising they could coexist in my fitness routine. I felt balanced, both physically and mentally, knowing that this blend was the key to a healthier, fitter me.


Now, here I stand again at another crossroads. After my knee injury, I was content to stick with the gym and lifting heavy weights. I'd let my running slide for five-plus years, finding solace in the familiar clink of iron and the predictable burn of familiar routines. But my recent epiphany in Croatia, amidst the ancient ruins and sun-drenched beaches, has awakened a dormant yearning. 

There's a whisper in the back of my mind, a curiosity about what lies beyond the barbells and dumbbells. Could there be a more holistic way to approach fitness, one that taps into something deeper, something more primal? Perhaps it's time to explore a path that integrates the strength I've cultivated with the freedom of movement I once cherished. The familiar pull of the gym remains strong, but a new curiosity tugs at me, hinting at a different kind of adventure.


Recently, I’ve stumbled upon the paleo fitness concept, which felt like finding a missing piece of a puzzle. The idea of reverting to our ancestors' movement patterns and using the body for what it was defined for—running, jumping, climbing, throwing, swimming, pulling, pushing,  and crawling—intrigues me. It isn’t about working out; it’s about playful, instinctive movement and reconnecting with our primal selves.

Paleo fitness offers a shift from structured exercises to natural, restorative movements. It encourages you  to explore a broader spectrum of activities, pushing the body in new ways and embracing the freedom of functional movement. The concept of "PRIMALITY"—an acronym encapsulating practical, playful, restorative, instinctive, mindful, adaptive, life-enhancing, integrative, tactical, and youthful movement—resonates deeply.

The beauty of paleo fitness is its emphasis on variety. It fosters a mindset that embraces challenges and explores movement without boundaries. It's about discovering the child-like joy in physical activity, unleashing our primal instincts, and enhancing our overall well-being. This approach excites me because it aligns with my goal of achieving well-rounded fitness while rediscovering the joy of movement.

Paleo fitness also emphasises the integration of mind and body through mindful movement. It promotes awareness of thoughts, emotions, and the environment, fostering a deeper connection with oneself. This holistic perspective encourages curiosity, exploration, and a sense of presence in each moment.

As I soaked up the Mediterranean sun, I resolved to embrace this new path, to trade my heavy lifts for dynamic, playful movement. I want to climb trees, sprint up hills, and embrace the primal joy of movement. This realisation fills me with a sense of liberation from the shackles of my two dimensional physical regime.


As I reflect on this principle of PRIMALITY—practical/playful, restorative, instinctive, mindful, adaptive, life-enhancing, integrative, tactical, and youthful movement—I realise they embody the very essence of what I want my fitness journey to be. It's not just about physical transformation; it's about enhancing my overall quality of life, both mentally and physically. This framework sets me on a path of continuous discovery and growth, a journey I'm not only eager but also fully committed to embarking upon. I can feel a renewed sense of purpose and excitement as I envision the possibilities that lie ahead, the primal movements waiting to be rediscovered, and the personal transformation that will unfold as I embrace this new approach to fitness. 


The sun has fully risen now, casting long shadows across the garden, just as the shadows of my former fitness limitations have begun to fade. Dawn has broken, painting the world in hues of soft amber and ethereal blue—a canvas for the new movements and challenges that await. 

This new day feels like the beginning of a new era, a rebirth of my fitness journey. It's time to lace up those running shoes, embrace the primal call, and celebrate the sheer joy of being in motion. The rooks have awakened, their calls echoing through the morning air, a reminder that even the quietest creatures find their voice when the time is right. And so will I, as I run towards a fitter, more balanced, and more primal version of myself.