x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 16 January 2018

Take a turn for the better with primal fitness

We sent Nadia El Dasher to try out Haddins' 28-day Advanced Primal Transformation. Did it work?

The 28-day Advanced Primal Transformation course at Haddins Gym in Zayed Sports City. Delores Johnson / The National
The 28-day Advanced Primal Transformation course at Haddins Gym in Zayed Sports City. Delores Johnson / The National
Nadia El Dasher reports on her experience during Haddins' 28-day Advanced Primal Transformation.

The workout

The routine - one hour, five times a week (at either 6am or 8pm) - recreates daily conditions faced by your average caveman. These include carrying tyres (to represent a hunted buffalo taken home for dinner), running uphill with a partner pulling you back (as though you were being chased by a predator) and bear crawls (as you would do clambering through dense forests). Simple should not be mistaken for easy. My first attempts at most of the workouts were a complete failure.

The food

Compared to the gym's five past Primal editions, this version includes a Paleo-based nutrition regimen. For the first four days, we were on a strict detox regimen of three vegetable protein shakes, one green juice and as much broccoli, spinach and cucumber as we wanted. For the rest of the month we stuck to a strict, modified Paleo diet.

The easiest way to explain the diet is this: if it doesn't have a heartbeat or grow in the ground, you can't eat it. In terms of diets, this was one of the healthiest and most doable ones I've ever tried. Eating whole foods and staying clear of processed, artificially flavoured or coloured products not only made a huge difference to my shape, it made me energetic and productive.

The Paleo plan was modified to exclude most sugars, which meant no fruit for the month. We were also introduced to intermittent fasting, where we only eat for eight consecutive hours in the day. The fasting, again, emulates conditions our primal ancestors would've gone through - if the cavemen couldn't catch enough for several meals, they would fast until the next hunt.

The personal challenge

To really benefit from the transformation aspect of the Primal I decided to go for the 6am sessions. I've always wanted to be the kind of person that worked out in the morning, had a productive day and got home in time to make a hearty home-cooked dinner, without the rush - something I tried and failed to achieve on my own in the past.

Before Primal, my routine was going to bed at midnight, waking up at 9am and getting to work by 10am. Now I had to be asleep by 8pm and up at 5am. The first week was especially tough as I was struggling to sleep early. However, six days on and my body clock had adjusted - so much so that meeting friends on the weekend usually meant I was practically asleep at the table by 10pm.

The team effort

One of the things that kept me going when I was really struggling was the upbeat spirit of my fellow "primates". From the Facebook group where we posted words of encouragement when one of us was feeling low, to cheering each other on as we wheezed through yet another sprint - the camaraderie made a huge impact.

The dedication

Out of the 20 one-hour workout sessions, I missed three; two on the first week when I was battling with sleep deprivation and one purely because I was stuck at work, which leaves my attendance at 85 per cent. As for the diet, I was rigorous about the fasting and the removal of processed food; however I did have the occasional fruit.

The results

In the four weeks I lost three kilograms (although on week three I was down four kilograms) and dropped three centimetres off my waist.

The biggest aesthetic improvement was in my clothes - dresses were flowier, trousers looser and heels more bearable.

As for the fitness aspect, I went from 38 squats on my first assessment to 47 on the final, 9 lay down stand ups to 11, 22 metres of bear crawling to 35, and 9 to 12 burpees, all in a space of 60 seconds.

As for the mixed terrain run, I managed to cut down almost two minutes from my original time.

The transformation

The most significant transformation for me was rising early and seizing the day. I always thought the reason why I felt tired all the time was because I needed more sleep, but no matter how much I slept it was never enough. Now I know that it was the quality of sleep that was lacking - something that improved quickly with better eating habits, constant workouts and going to bed at a reasonable hour.

When it comes to post-Primal food, any attempt at refined carbohydrates makes me nauseous and I find myself craving fresh greens and lean meat more than anything else. In addition, my battle with running is coming to an end. I finally enjoy the feeling of blood pumping at full force and am addicted to the endorphin kick afterward.

Would I do it again? Yes, but not any time soon. The change in my lifestyle from just one month is enough to keep me going for a long time. From now on it's early mornings, five hours of exercise a week and clean eating.

Haddins Ramadan Primal starts on Sunday and runs until August 8. Sessions are at 10.30pm. Contact Haddins Fitness at 02 403 4233, www.haddins.com and www.facebook.com/haddins


twitter Follow us @LifeNationalUAE

Follow us on Facebook for discussions, entertainment, reviews, wellness and news.