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Animal Moves by Darryl Edwards – Book Review

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For those of you new to Paleo you may think it’s simply about what you eat, but you couldn’t be farther from the truth. Paleo is a lifestyle – the idea being that you attempt to live like your hunter-gatherer ancestors would, as much as modern day society will allow of course. It’s about what you put into and onto your body, how you move, sleep, and minimise stress. To me, it’s the healthiest lifestyle I could possibly lead and I will never look back. It’s not about restriction, it’s about the enjoyment of your everyday life, which I think we can all admit is paramount. So, when I had the opportunity to review Darryl Edwards‘ new book Animal Moves I had to jump for it. Darryl has been a pillar of the natural movement community, and especially within the Paleo community. He’s all about getting fit for free, in an outdoor environment, moving how your body was naturally meant to move in order to increase and improve; strength, speed, stamina, mobility, and flexibility. Most of all though, he’s about having fun and getting fit through play. All you need is your body, 25 minutes of your day, and a small space to move within. Not so scary hey?

About Darryl Edwards

Before I review the book, I feel that it’s necessary for you to get to know Darryl a little better. Darryl spent almost 20 years working as a technologist in investment banking, and like most people in similar professions, he began to suffer from a chronic lifestyle disease. He began to adopt a more ancestral way of living and gradually transformed his heath.  Now, he’s in his 40s but you certainly wouldn’t think so by the way he moves  – or looks for that matter!

I first learned about Darryl in my early Paleo days when he was blogging under the alias The Fitness Explorer. I was really big on calisthenics (nothing new there) and I had received his Paleo Fitness book as a birthday present – I absolutely loved it! Since then it’s been really fun to watch Darryl’s mini-empire grow into something even bigger and better and develop his Primal Play methodology further.

Darryl’s work has been quite literally everywhere;  Men’s Health, Women’s Health, Elle Magazine, Men’s Fitness and he’s even been featured on both the BBC documentaries Eat to Live Forever and Doctor In The House. He’s also spoken at a number of impressive venues such as;  Harvard Medical School, University of the Arts London, Imperial College, Virgin Atlantic, Paleo FX, and the Ancestral Health Symposium. Darryl spends a lot of his time hosting Primal Play sessions worldwide, working with those who hate to get moving, teaching them how to play and get fit through primal functional movement.

Animal Moves Review

What’s it All About?

Darryl’s latest book Animal Moves has been designed to create a workout program for quite literally anyone – it doesn’t matter what level of fitness you’re currently at, or your age for that matter. There are 3 fitness levels within the book; beginner, intermediate, and advanced. At the start of the book, Darryl gives a great amount of guidance when picking what level you are – he looks at how often you exercise, if you’re currently ill or injured, if you get out of breath easily, and he even breaks down the kinds of exercises you can already do. If you hit 3-4 (or more) of the criteria points then that’s the plan you opt for. I opted for intermediate as I’m already fairly active but I’m also pretty darn lazy, nor am I an advanced athlete. He also breaks down the rate of perceived exertion, i.e. how hard you are supposed to move for each exercise circuit and how to recognise if you’re putting in the right amount of effort which I think is really useful, especially if you’re new to exercise.

The rather optimistic Darryl has set out a 28-day exercise regime. That’s right you have to move 7 days a week for 4 whole weeks. Even me, a little bit of an exercise junkie was rather repulsed at the idea, nonetheless, I sucked it up just for you guys and cracked on. Plus, Darryl’s writing style is rather persuasive – he’s a total realist, he gets why people don’t want to move, and furthermore, he understands how we get to where we are in life and just how easy it is to become sedentary.

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A few years back I trained for 2 half marathons. Like most people I did it because I wanted to prove to myself I could do it. Then I decided I would train for a full marathon. Yes, I am that stupid. I think I got up to 21 miles with my training programme before I just couldn’t be bothered to train anymore. Fast forward to race day and I had a whopping cold. I ran like the first 16 miles before I was literally bored out of my skull, so I started talking to the other runners around me and eating all of the treats I’d packed into my snack pouch. You all know how much I love my food right? But, to be honest, that last part of the marathon was the most fun part. I didn’t really find it physically hard, just mentally boring – my willpower definitely got the best of me and I ended up with a time of roughly 5 hours and 20 minutes – I didn’t even care how bad it was. After that race, I never ran again, I hated running even though it was something I had always loved. That was almost 2 years ago. I still haven’t run, although the passion is starting to come back, especially after taking part in Darryl’s book. It kind of had me thinking that I don’t have to go out there and be a serious runner, I can just go out there and do a quick 1-mile run.

I kind of went off on a tangent there but my point is that doing something repetitive day in and day out is a total recipe for disaster. Thankfully, Darryl recognises this and mixes up the regime so that it’s not tedious, it’s not something to put off or resent. It’s something to actually look forward to. There are 11 foundation animal poses within the book, with the following being the basis for the animal moves (exercises) themselves; Bear Pose, Crab Pose, Bunny Pose, Hunter-Gatherer Squat, Crocodile Pose, and Dragonfly Pose.  

There are 5 different circuits that incorporate these animal poses in various ways, plus a few added extras too:

  • Posture – these circuits improve isometric tension – i.e. holding your body in static positions, activating all of the muscles in your body but especially your core. It’s like the plank brought all his mates to the party. According to Darryl’s book exercises like this have been linked to losing fat around your middle and reducing blood pressure.
  • Movement – the movement circuits focus on balancing, crawling, and jumping. It’s all about paying attention to your technique and quality of movement. You get to take it slow but it is in no way an easy cop-out. At the same time, you get to speed things up when you want to and you can take rest when you need in a squat or standing position.
  • High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) – This is something you’re all probably familiar with HIIT, if not it’s where you exercise for a short burst of time as hard as you can then rest for a short period of time. As I was on the intermediate plan I did 15 seconds of work with 20 seconds of rest. Each exercise is repeated for 8 rounds. There are 4 different exercises and between each, you do get a 60 second walking period which is a short-lived welcome break.
  • Strength – Strength days focus on, well, strength. This means you’ll be building strength by either exercising tension under load (think press ups but primal style) or by adding additional weight as resistance in various carries such as farmers and waiters walks but also some really creative weighted koala carries and bear crawls.
  • Mobility – this works on improving your natural unrestricted range of motion when moving, so it sort of interlinks with flexibility but you’re not static, you’re incorporating movement and also working on coordination whilst doing so.
  • Fun – Fun days give you a break from the norm – and the program for that matter. These days are all about play and you can either follow Darryl’s recommendations or just do something active that you find fun. This can be playing with the kids, trying out a piece of gym equipment you’ve never touched before, or if you’re me a little bit of hula hooping or skipping to some amazing music. It’s all about injecting some fun into your day.
  • Breathing – If you’re familiar with yogic breathing then this should just come naturally to you but for those of you new to the concept of diaphragmatic breathing – basically inhaling and exhaling deeply at a controlled pace – you’ll find this useful. It helps to increase oxygen supply and push out toxins. It’s great for relaxation and managing stress but also helps you become more efficient whilst you’re exercising. The exercises that Darryl sets are easy to follow and really useful to use in the workouts too.
  • Warmup – Pretty self-explanatory but not what you’d expect. You can use the warmup exercises in the book as a cooldown and Darryl recommends doing a 5-minute warmup consisting of about 1 minute of each exercise such as pretending to walk on hot coals which were hilarious to do I have to say. You can also tuck jump or jump onto a sofa whilst trying to land as softly as you can. You can also virtual jump rope or throw, and practice throwing in slow motion too. Personally, I found doing the dead hang the easiest due to the amount of time I spend on a pull-up bar but it wasn’t as much fun as the others.

How the 28 Days Went

I was tempted to review this book halfway through the 28-day program but I didn’t feel like 14 days was good enough to give a good account of everything, so I decided to hold back and see if there were any noticeable results to share with you guys. When I first started out I was really dreading working out every single day. Usually, I do 4-5 days a week, so to add this on top of my normal exercise regime was pretty daunting. The first week felt quite literally like hell, I’m not gonna lie, even though I felt like I selected the right ability level for my workouts they were super tough. Some of these movements were so alien to me and some of them not so much. The Bear Press swiftly became my arch nemesis and the Scorpion Press was a lot harder than I expected it to be but it felt like a more familiar movement. On a good day, I can do 20 consecutive full press-ups so hopefully, that gives you an idea of how much this book makes you work.

I’m pretty lazy at heart, and it takes me a lot longer than 30 days to truly get into a habit – I force myself but rather begrudgingly. What made Darryl’s exercise plan so good was that it emphasised on playing, on using your imagination when executing a certain movement, but never lacking on your form. Weeks 1 and 2 were fun but I still felt as though I was working hard, and I hate working hard. Every time a HIIT day came around I winced at the thought of getting on with it, I really don’t like HIIT at all. Once I hit week 3 however that waned and the exercises became easier and more familiar, HIIT started to become fun for the first time in my life. I wasn’t having to flick back in the book and find a certain exercise to remind myself what to do either. At the start I did feel a little confused with the exercise instructions but eventually, I figured them out.

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Did I Hit My Goals? What Benefits Did I find?

At the start of the book, you’re given the opportunity to set yourself a goal. I decided that I wanted to increase my mobility and balance, develop a sense of grace with my movements, reignite my imagination, and decrease my time being sedentary within the next 4 weeks. I aimed to do this by undertaking daily sessions from Darryl’s book, continuing my resistance training, taking more daily walks and utilising my standing desk and taking more movement breaks on work days.

The 20-8-2 rule was also discussed, wherein the optimal mix of sitting, standing, and moving during any 30 minutes consisted of; 20 minutes sitting, 8 minutes standing, and 2 minutes of activity.

The book outlines really important information and scientific findings that are relative to modern day society, for instance, many studies found that there was a higher risk of early death for people who were inactive regardless of whether they were of an average weight, overweight, or obese. The 20-8-2 rule was also discussed, wherein the optimal mix of sitting, standing, and moving during any 30 minutes consisted of; 20 minutes sitting, 8 minutes standing, and 2 minutes of activity. These two facts really hit home and this is why I chose goals outside of the exercise plan that Darryl had mapped out. I spend quite a lot of time sitting at the computer writing, editing photos, and researching so I really wanted to improve this area of my life. Although I knew my standing desk was great I didn’t know what ratio of sitting, standing, and moving was optimal. So now I make sure that I don’t spend too long standing up and I don’t spend too long sitting either. I found leaving a light kettlebell and loop resistance band by my desk really handy for just taking a quick break and getting my heart rate up, as well as incorporating some of Darryl’s Animal Moves.

I managed to hit my goals – both my mobility and balance have greatly increased – I can now do a pistol squat again even though I haven’t been training them and I have used my standing desk often as well as taking frequent movement breaks throughout the day.  I did actually lose almost 3″ off both my waist and hips, was this solely down to Darryl’s program? In all honesty, it’s hard for me to say. I had started increasing my daily steps once Anya started school and I also was already training my weighted pull-ups – the increase in weight was starting to feel substantial so I think it was due to a few factors but the plan most definitely would have contributed greatly to this. One thing I’ve found is that I find walking easier and I feel like I could start running again – my mobility has certainly improved. I’ve always been really flexible but not so mobile, at least not since my last pregnancy. So to start feeling like I have more control over my body has been a really rewarding feeling.

The Verdict

I know what you’re thinking – were the exercises really that fun? Well, yes the exercises themselves were so interesting, at the start some of them felt natural and a few of them didn’t but by the end of it, they all did. Anya really loved joining in with my warmups and we would play throwing imaginary fireballs at each other and jumping on and off of the sofa. It was a total hoot and she even started to write up her own Animal Moves book so we started to practice a few moves that she’d made up herself. My 13-year-old daughter even joined in – usually by mocking me whilst watching YouTube but eventually, I’d find her laughing and kangaroo jumping beside me. It was a really nice way to bond with my girls and for that, I’m really grateful. I’ve always been active with them but just being reminded to loosen up, stop being so serious, and have some bloody childlike fun was great. Quite a few times I did find myself laughing hysterically, especially when doing the crocodile walk, which was a little distracting and I had to reign it in a bit to make sure I was doing things properly.

Anya really loved joining in with my warmups and we would play throwing imaginary fireballs at each other and jumping on and off of the sofa. It was a total hoot and she even started to write up her own Animal Moves book

Will I continue with Darryl’s program? Yes, most definitely. I’m about to start it again but this time at the advanced level and then I’m going to look to incorporate some of the movements into my daily activities. The great thing is you could also make the exercises even harder (not like they aren’t hard enough already) by using loop resistance bands. If I could sum up what the exercises are like – it’s sort of like combining yoga, calisthenics, gymnastics, and break dancing into one. I know that sounds odd but that’s the only way I can describe it in a relatable manner. If you like what Mark Sisson and Robb Wolf have to say and Ido Portal is your idol, or if you’re fed up of sitting on your arse all day but hate exercise then Darryl’s book is definitely for you. It’s a great way to put the fun and imagination back into movement whilst improving your health and mobility.

You can purchase Darryl’s new book Animal Moves directly from Amazon – £9.99 on Kindle and £14.99 paperback. For worldwide purchase options head on over to the Animal Moves book site. Not sure if primal movement is for you? Try Darryl’s free eBook – The Importance of Play – just click here and sign up for the newsletter to start the free download.

DISCLAIMER: Please note that this is NOT a sponsored post. I was sent this product by Darryl’s PR team for my own personal use and to write a review if I wished. All opinions are my own and 100% honest.  If you buy anything from the links contained within this review I will not be at any personal gain. If you’d like to know more, feel free to contact me.

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