This week I’m testing out my paleo menu plan for Conservation Fitness Head Start (still not sure if I’ll keep the name or not). When most people think of Paleo, they think of simply eating like a caveman. Eating natural foods, unprocessed, whole foods. They think of eliminating grains, and sugar, and dairy. It’s all about eating healthy.

But living the Paleo lifestyle isn’t just about food. Think of WHY cavemen ate what they did. They ate a diet which fueled their lifestyle. Humans are a very athletic species. Maybe you think I’m crazy, or maybe you feel that is the most obvious statement in the history of mankind.

As a zookeeper with more than fifteen years experience working with animals like polar bears, sea lions, otters, birds, and elephants, I used to laugh at anyone who considered humans athletic. Compared to other animals? Yeah, right! We are piss poor runners, or so I thought. There aren’t many animals who can’t fly right past us in a race. I mean, maybe sloths. But we can’t compete with sloths in the climbing realm (or the cuteness realm).

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But while we don’t run as fast as most animals on earth, we have something they don’t have. That’s stamina and endurance. I know this is a shocker, but no other animal on the planet has the endurance humans possess. We may not be able to run faster than an antelope, but we can run longer than the antelope. This adaptation, our athletic prowess made us successful hunters.

And we have another athletic ability other animals don’t have. Humans may not be the best climbers, the best swimmers, or be the strongest lifters, but we are capable climbers, swimmers, and lifters. We are jacks-of-all-trades. Most other animals are set in their environment. Like sloths (I’m hung up on sloths today). Sloths are great climbers, but not fast runners, not heavy lifters, and not that great at swimming (although they CAN swim, and look like terrifying monsters when they do).

Our ancestors moved with great diversity. Their diet supported their movement. This is important to point out. Some people try Paleo, but don’t find success, and it has nothing to do with what they ate. It has to do with how they’ve used the food they ate.

Paleo advocates moving in natural ways. Functional fitness, so to speak. There are billions of fitness programs out there. I love ZooFit because it really focuses on natural movements. And I love working out outdoors. CrossFit is great, too, because like our ancestors, they integrate variety into their workouts. They implement gymnastics, weightlifting, and cardiovascular movements in different components.

Today, I celebrated natural movement at my own pace. I host the Sloth Army in my community. We do NOT run fast. We huff and puff VERY slowly down natural trails all over the south part of the island. But this fits well in ZooFit, Conservation Fitness, and even Paleo.

Not many people realize this, but when on the trail, calories are calculated over distance. You burn nearly the same amount of calories for two miles regardless if you walk or run. Most people think running burns more calories, but that is honestly just when you are calculating TIME spent doing an activity. If you walk for ten minutes, you burn less calories than if you run for ten minutes. Because you cover more distance.

I started Sloth Army because I wanted friends to hit the trails with me. Because I don’t run (it’s not even a fast versus slow, it’s just a simple fact I don’t run), I didn’t fit with the normal trail runners. Here’s the thing about trail running clubs. If I can’t keep up, then I’m not having a good time. I might as well run alone, right? Which I want to avoid. If I am not having fun, I’m not as likely to keep going.

ZooFit advocates slow and steady over fast and hard anytime. Why is that?

Because slow and steady builds healthy habits. Habits lead to longterm lifestyle changes. It’s distance over time. I’m not as concerned with how hard you are going, but whether or not you are coming BACK. Sloth Army does that for people. I am easy going and push JUST enough to encourage people to keep going, not to go faster or harder. It’s how I coach my classes. And how I trained my animals. Do what you can. Increase a little each time, push JUST a little more. But more important than pushing, is coming back.

I love my trail runs because what they do for me, and the planet. Can trail running, even slowly, help the environment? You bet! I call being outdoors Passive Conservation, or conservation through osmosis. It’s the same thing with zoos, parks, gardens (personal, veggie, patio, or botanical), and anywhere you are outdoors, experiencing nature. The more time you spend in the outdoors, the more you appreciate it. The more you appreciate something, the more you will fight to protect it.

Also, with my Sloth Army, I give a small appreciation for sloths, too. When my friends see something about sloths, they think of me, but it gets turned around on them as well. When I see opportunities to protect sloths, I share it with my recruits, and they are more likely to help. Because they are connected to them in a fun, fitness way.

I’ve also seen us help keep our trails clean and clear by participating in plogging. I don’t think most people even know they are doing it. Plogging is the recreational activity of picking up trash while jogging. When we pass a piece of trash on the trail, one of us inadvertently picks it up (well, not Chris, but he has a medical excuse now, so we’ll give him a pass). It has happened on every trail. I see someone picking up a piece of paper, a wrapper, or a bag.

Plogging – which combines the word jogging with the Swedish word “plocka,” to pick – has become increasingly popular as joggers, armed with rubbish bags, do good for themselves and the environment. Photo: Daniel Reinhardt/dpa

And in the spirit of Paleo, I enjoy trail running because if our ancestors were here, they would run on trails too. Trails mimic our natural movement better than concrete and asphalt. Cavemen ran on uneven terrain, twisting and turning around corners, over rocks, roots, and brush. This is another reason I am all about Sloth Army as well. If you aren’t careful, yes, trail running can trip you up. But I AM careful and I get the full enjoyment of being outdoors, in nature, moving in natural ways, with friends. It doesn’t get much better than that!

Today:

Breakfast: Paleo pancakes with almond flour (I’m trying pancakes with coconut flour tomorrow)
Lunch: Pumpkin Soup
Dinner: Maple Walnut Chicken with Brussels sprouts
Snacks: I have got to get a handle on my snacking. I had an apple, almond butter, and an Epic bar (and it’s only 2:00)

Workouts:
Sloth Army trail- 2 miles

Mood: I feel okay except for still having massive cravings for food. But I’m not craving junk food, just FOOD. All the food. I will say this about Keto, I don’t have cravings like this. I don’t think I had these kind of cravings on the Veggie diet, either. Maybe it isn’t Paleo related at all, but hormones and activity related. I haven’t been as active this week. Maybe I just need a nap.

Challenges: My Pilates time for Thursdays got switched so I couldn’t go today. Bummer.

My other big challenge is deciding if I want to push my challenge to five weeks instead of four, and add the Mediterranean Diet to the roster. I don’t know a whole lot about the Mediterranean Diet except what I’ve read on the internet. I do know the media calls it the #1 diet in America, and it’s BASED off food found in the Mediterranean area. It seems pretty straight forward, and like almost every other diet in my challenge, focuses on eating whole, unprocessed, clean foods.

My biggest challenge I will have if I include this diet and increase my program by one week will be how to connect it to a conservation fitness/eating green habit. I have Meatless Monday connected with vegetarian week. Keto is connected to meal prepping and how that helps combat deforestation. Paleo is about eating unprocessed foods and eliminating palm oil for environmental reasons. And next week is Locavore diet, which was going to focus on eliminating plastic packaging from our diet. But if I include Mediterranean, I could bump the palm oil discussion until that week. Paleo could be about plastic packaging, and Locavore week could focus on eating seasonally and cutting our carbon footprint by eating local.

And now I also have to adjust my menu and see what I can do to fit a Mediterranean week into the challenge. Lots of work to do! And miles to go before I sleep.