Marks Daily Apple
Serving up health and fitness insights (daily, of course) with a side of irreverence.
20 Jul

5 More Ways to Playfully Mimic a Persistence Hunt

Some of you understood what I was trying to convey with last week’s persistence hunting post – a fun, playful exercise using an unwitting (if they’re witting you’re not doing it right) participant as a reference point for fueling your fractal movement patterns. Others got the wrong idea, and that’s probably my fault. I can see how language like “stalking,” “hunting,” and “following” (all part of the visualization aspect of the exercise) might raise a few eyebrows. The reality is that we live in a world where suspicion is the rule, not the exception, and anyone can agree that a weird dude in jeans and a hooded sweatshirt (where did people get this image exactly?) lurking behind trees in a near-vacant park at dusk and stealing sneaky glances at a solo female jogger would be pretty creepy.

Of course, that’s not what I’m suggesting at all. Few of us will ever participate in an actual persistence hunt, so I wrote last week’s post to encourage people to start thinking about movement in a different (but wholly ancient) way. Framing a workout in this manner will shape your journey, and it’s the journey that I’m most interested in – the actual nuts-and-bolts of varying speeds, changing gaits, fractal pacing.

I’ve noticed something in the way people, even folks in the Primal community, think about fitness. It’s all about the goal, that end point, the PR, the progression to a higher weight/faster time/longer run. You can’t undo a lifetime of fitness platitudes in an instant, after all. I think that’s part of being human – the drive to improve oneself. It’s not everything, though. Humans are also explorers. The journey compels us, sometimes for no other reason than the journey – the sights, sounds, and random incidents along the way – itself.

Why limit yourself to one or the other? Fitness should be about both the journey and the end result. It should be about the achievement of a goal (thirty consecutive pull-ups, a single pull-up, climbing Mt. Everest, climbing out of bed pain-free, whatever you choose) and the process of getting there. That’s why I think the persistence hunting model is so useful. It forces you to put aside the end result (because there isn’t actually a kudu at the end of the trail, and you aren’t actually going to invade the personal space of an innocent jogger) and focus on the journey. Live in the moment from time to time. It’s good for you.

Here, then, are five ways to emulate the persistence hunt without actually hunting anyone.

1. Pick an arbitrary spot, rather than a jogger.

Pick a spot, any spot. Maybe a landmark up ahead, like that knotted old tree just before the bridge. Run, jog, walk, sprint, leap, roll, and crawl your way to it. Keep things random and fractal. You won’t have the visual cue of an actual jogger this time, so imagination is paramount. It’s likely that your sanity will still be questioned by those around you, but at least your intentions won’t be. Let’s just hope trees aren’t actually sentient enough to get creeped out by a stalker.

Best part? You can wear jeans and a sweatshirt, and the tree will still love you.

2. Pick Spot, rather than a jogger.

Remember my post on the fractal exercise habits of dogs? Grab your dog, or borrow one from a friend, and take him or her on a run. Since most leashed dogs will simply run at the pace of the person holding the leash, you’ll need an off-leash, dog-friendly area for the full effect. It’s also important to convey the right state of mind. Dogs, as we know, have a weird, almost preternatural ability to feed off the energy of their owners. You feel down, it’s likely your dog will notice. When you’re excited and jumping around, your dog follows suit. Use this to your advantage and get yourself amped up. If your dog is the type to follow you dutifully without ranging too far ahead, you may have to psyche yourself up before your dog gets the idea. Leap around, jump, slap the ground, growl, grab your dog by the neck and shake him a bit, grab the scruff of the neck (every dog owner knows how to get their dog amped up) – just help your dog unlock the wild, individual, lupine spirit within, then let it loose.

Once your dog is off, sniffing things, rummaging through brush, and curious about everything, follow behind. Run when he runs, stop when he stops, climb where he climbs (lifting your leg where he lifts his leg and squatting where he squats isn’t necessary, however). Every once in awhile, take off sprinting so your dog gives chase. Switch things up to keep the energy level high.

3. Go free running.

This takes real imagination and whimsy, but it’s also potentially the most rewarding way to “hunt”. Kids can do this with their eyes closed (until they’re reprimanded by the cold hand of societal expectation), and we adults are really just big, grown-up kids, so there are no excuses. Just pick a suitable running surface – something that you’re willing to run, jump, and even roll around on – and start running. Open spaces, as opposed to designated trails or paths, are better, because an important part of free running is the freedom part. Or maybe you’re a contrarian; if so, choose a path and willfully stray from it.

If you can’t seem to get yourself going without some target or reference point, initiate the run with the following schematic: jog, walk, sprint, crawl, jog, walk, sprint…. At this point, you’ll find your imagination unencumbered and ready to create new movement patterns.

4. Use your Chronic Cardio buddy.

A few people in the comment section mentioned taking advantage of that one friend who simply will not listen to your anti-Chronic Cardio overtures, and I love the idea. Grab a friend who loves monotonous movement and use him or her as your stalking buddy. Tell them to run normally so you can proceed as outlined in last week’s post.

Better yet, plan your persistence hunting around your friend’s exercise schedule. If you know when he or she takes their daily jog, show up and stalk them, unannounced. You’ll get the benefits of hunting an unwitting participant without the potential negatives of stalking a total stranger.

5. Play catch with yourself.

This one sounds weird, I know, but bear with me. Go to a beach, a grassy field, or any open space with enough room to run for a minute or so in all directions. Grab a ball (tennis, rubber, etc) and throw it as high as you can and a bit in front of you, so that you have to run or jog to catch it. Catch the ball, then throw it again, this time a bit farther. Run a bit faster to catch it. Keep this up, making it a fluid, smooth thing – you catch it on the run and toss it back up and catch it again, always in motion. Mix things up and do somersaults and jumps (over sandcastles or kelp piles, perhaps). Chase the ball like your life depended on it. Dive if you have to. Do not let it touch the ground.

I find it works best on a long stretch of beach, right along the water, so that the sand is firm but forgiving and perfect for quick sprints, light jogging, diving, falling, and tumbling. Vary your speed by changing the trajectory of the ball. Test yourself for stretches by really throwing it far, then slow things down to a walking pace with high, short throws.

I hope I’ve avoided anything too controversial with this one (the showing up unannounced bit might draw a few comments!), but I’m sure you guys will let me know. Try these out and let me know how it works. Also, include any other persistence hunting/fractal running exercise ideas I might have missed. Grok on!

You want comments? We got comments:

Imagine you’re George Clooney. Take a moment to admire your grooming and wit. Okay, now imagine someone walks up to you and asks, “What’s your name?” You say, “I’m George Clooney.” Or maybe you say, “I’m the Clooninator!” You don’t say “I’m George of George Clooney Sells Movies Blog” and you certainly don’t say, “I’m Clooney Weight Loss Plan”. So while spam is technically meat, it ain’t anywhere near Primal. Please nickname yourself something your friends would call you.

  1. I don’t know about all of this, Mark. As an arbitrary spot, I don’t think I would feel safe seeing a bunch of humans sneaking up on me. Especially since I can’t move….

    Arbitrary Spot wrote on July 20th, 2010
    • Arbitrary spots are people too, Mark!

      Vince wrote on July 20th, 2010
      • It’s funny, because arbitrary spots aren’t really people! Just like women!

        Melissa wrote on August 4th, 2010
        • Really, Melissa? Seriously?

          ...disturbed wrote on April 9th, 2013
  2. A few years ago I actually tried the “persistence hunt” with my dog, though I didn’t know that’s what it was at the time. I was a chronic cardio girl, running many miles at a time about 4 days a week. I was bored with it and noticed that my dog seemed to be having a lot more fun than me. So I decided to just do whatever she did. She ran, I ran; she walked, I walked; she sprinted, I sprinted. It turned out to be the best and most fun workout I’ve ever had. The funny part was, it really irritated the dog. She finally started giving me that look that said “What do you think you’re doing?”

    I live out in the middle of nowhere, so I have ample open trails and she didn’t have to be on a leash. I’d highly recommend trying it if you are able.

    Tami C. wrote on July 20th, 2010
    • That’s a great idea. (off to get a dog)

      JohnC wrote on July 20th, 2010
      • Awesome idea, getting a dog. Please, please, PLEASE — get a rescue or a shelter dog, if you’re serious (and I hope you are). Rescues foster dogs, so there is usually someone who can tell you about them over the long term, and make sure you get the right fit.

        Hanging out with animals is just the coolest thing. I was lucky enough at one point to essentially live in the middle of a horse pasture of 13 acres, and literally spent days with them, and sometimes nights (it’s hot in Texas, easier to sleep in the day with no AC), just moving with the herd and interacting with them. If it’s something you can do, with animals you know who know you, DO it!

        Esther wrote on July 20th, 2010
  3. Ben was first.

    mike wrote on July 20th, 2010
    • It’s true. That was me.

      Ben wrote on July 20th, 2010
  4. Mark,

    I’m curious if you actually do this yourself?

    Steve wrote on July 20th, 2010
    • Yep. Tested ’em all. It’s nice to mix things up once in a while with playful workouts like this.

      Mark Sisson wrote on July 20th, 2010
  5. LOL! Love this! Welcome, Abitrary Spot!

    Debra wrote on July 20th, 2010
  6. For “Playing Catch With Yourself” I would also suggest Frisbee. Toss it at a high arc and race for it. This was one of my favorite games when I was growing up an only child on days when no one else was around to play.

    Incidentally, I recently told my girlfriend about this and now she thinks I had the saddest, loneliest childhood one could imagine.

    Anyway, thanks for the reminder – I forgot how much fun it is, and I’m going to do this again soon.

    Adam Scavone wrote on July 20th, 2010
    • Or play Freestyle Frisbee with your dog! You can run erratically, throw, crawl and roll on the ground, all sorts of crazy things and it’s all in the name of playing with your dog. You may get some strange looks, but most people love to watch.

      Page wrote on July 20th, 2010
    • Adam: I suggested this very game in the previous discussion. Back in the 70’s we called it MTA (Maximum Time Aloft) and this was an actual event at competitions. so, tell the GF that!

      Peggy wrote on July 20th, 2010
    • Get a good boomerang. It’s the ultimate solo persistence hunt tool. I love mine. I got it from a guy in Seattle who made it by hand. It stays aloft for 20-30 seconds, and you have to anticipate where it’s going. You wind up with a very fractal running pattern. I’m still looking for a production model as good as the handmade one I got, though.

      Jim Stone wrote on July 20th, 2010
  7. Nothing controversial! Excpept maybe that I can’t play anything on the beach since I live in good ol upstate NY!

    Susan wrote on July 20th, 2010
    • Hey, I live in Upstate NY too! Syracuse area, actually. I would love to have a primal girl-buddy to email or something. PS I have the perfect dog for this, takes off on me on a regular basis and lives to be chased! LOL

      Michele wrote on July 20th, 2010
  8. The Game of Antelope

    This game is inspired from persistence hunting seen by the Kalahari bushmen.

    To play, a group of runners is broken into two groups: Hunters and Antelope.

    The Hunter has only one rule, to catch the Antelope. This is done through a foot chase, as done by the bushmen.

    The Antelope must behave and think as one. That being said, it should only run when it feels threatened. It may not attempt to outsmart the Hunters, as this only occurs by accident during an actual hunt.

    The most functional breakdown occurs with more than 3 total runners. 2 Hunters and 1 Antelope. In larger groups the number of Hunters should increase until they reach around 4 or 5. In a group of 8 runners it would stand to have 6 Hunters and 2 Antelope.

    If a larger group is formed then a “herd” of Antelope should begin to develop with a hunting party of no more than 6 Hunters.

    Happy Hunting

    Norm wrote on July 20th, 2010
  9. I can totally see playing with my boys at the local hiking trail like this – kind of like Tag on steroids 😀

    I’m not loving the idea of doing it in 100 degree heat, tho :(

    Mikki wrote on July 20th, 2010
  10. I have been trying to get a few buddies to come with me to my favorite state park not too far away that is usually quite vacant with great woods (on and off trail). My idea was that we get flags like in flag football, get a map and decide some borders, then take off on opposite sides for thirty seconds to a minute, and then we all start turning inwards and let our instincts find each other!! Last man with a pair of flags still attached wins! Then of course you must lather, rinse, and repeat the whole proccess!! 😉 Great post Mark, personally I thought the original was good but in Small Town USA there’s no good jogging places that aren’t circles so no fun for me. boo. btw, really liked the first arbitrary spot comments!

    Mlkrone wrote on July 20th, 2010
    • Suppose I should have mentioned a workout I did a lot last summer that the tennis ball reminds me of. Replace tennis ball with a stone (5 to 25 lbs, depending on what your’e in the mood for) I would basically just do different types of throws as far as I could and sprint after the stone, then crawl back to my starting spot pushing the stone, always having 3 limbs touching ground. Not hunting related so much, but a very good workout I just wanted to share!!

      Mlkrone wrote on July 20th, 2010
  11. For me, squirrel hunting comes close to persistence hunting. Squirrels out in the woods that aren’t used to people act much differently than neighborhood squirrels. Whenever I come across one it usually takes off as fast and as high as possible. That leaves me going from a walk, to a jog, to a full out sprint chasing him, trying to get a better shot.

    My friends and I use shotguns when we go squirrel hunting which usually gets some sarcastic remark from non-hunters about there being nothing left, but if you use a light enough bird shot (7 & 1/2 or 8)it forces you to get close to shoot and doesn’t damage the meat.

    It’s quite a challenge having to run full speed through the woods, jumping over fallen trees and creeks, ducking under branches, without the use of your hands, and keeping your focus on a small critter that’s 50 feet up or higher.

    jus wrote on July 20th, 2010
  12. Ecce Homo! From ruler of forest and field, savanna and swamp, from Great Hunter of prey to a timid chaser of “arbitrary spots”. Oh, Man, how low you have sunk!

    Bob Mass wrote on July 20th, 2010
  13. We lived right next to a county park when I was a kid that had a good mix of wooded and open areas and steep hills down to the river (STRICTLY off-limits of course ). We all basically treated it as our backyard and spent a huge amount of time there. My favorite game when I was playing alone was to see if I could make it all the way across the park and back without anyone else seeing me (as far as I could tell, anyway). This meant skulking, running, freezing, climbing, etc. What you are talking about seems to just be a grown-up version of that and just as much fun as it was then.

    JCB wrote on July 20th, 2010
  14. I plan on hiking for the first time this summer on Saturday. I will be doing all sorts of crazy things. People may look at me weird but I could careless.

    #3 Free Running seems to intrigue me the most. I shall do this while hiking this weekend!

    Primal Toad wrote on July 20th, 2010
  15. I second the dog. We used to have a bichone Frise that would escape out the front door at the slightest opportunity. Once he was out, the chase was on! Trying to catch a small dog who doesn’t want to be caught is a great workout! It’s amazing how they can be totally still, then bolt once you get within 18 inches of them!

    Dave, RN wrote on July 20th, 2010
  16. Oooh! I have one!


    It’s like trying to bounce a soccer ball off of your extremities (no hands), but instead, you are using a small bean-bag.

    It may seem hard at first, but keep practicing. See how stinkin’ sore you are after just 20 minutes of ‘practicing’!

    Then, when you become ‘skilled’, you can find some kids in the park and ‘wow’ them with your new ‘craft’ ;-P

    SassaFrass88 wrote on July 20th, 2010
  17. Gah I hate people who get offended so easily. Mark, we all know you were not saying to go out and stalk people for real! It is a lot more fun to run after something moving. Just dont go too close to them, or chase after dogs at a dog park, just watch where u step!

    Athena wrote on July 20th, 2010
  18. play catch with yourself… haha!

    JP wrote on July 20th, 2010
  19. Yes, people over analyse things, and get offended

    frank wrote on July 20th, 2010
  20. Building off some of the suggestions posted so far, here is a variant I’d like to try:

    Go to a park area with a buddy or spouse and take turns being hunter and antelope. The hunter makes a “kill” by pegging the antelope with something relatively soft (tennis ball or koosh ball or something). Antelope gets 30 seconds head start.

    Here’s the kicker though. To ensure that the game eventually ends (even if the antelope is in far better shape than the hunter), the antelope is only allowed to move above anaerobic threshold(they must be either standing still or running hard). The hunter is free to move however they choose. This gives the antelope an interval workout and speeds up the game so that several rounds can be played in the same afternoon. It is also likely mimics the true behavior of large game. Once a “kill” is made, switch roles and go again!

    This should also work with larger groups of people as well. I would suggest keeping the ratio of hunters to antelope around 3.

    Kirk A wrote on July 20th, 2010
    • Nice idea, Kirk A. I like it. I wonder if the hunter is restricted from all out sprints…

      Mark Sisson wrote on July 20th, 2010
      • The fewer the rules the better. I can imagine the hunter initially jogging a lot, forcing the antelope into HIIT mode. Then, once the antelope is sufficiently fatigued, springing into a final sprint to seal the deal. That would probably be my hunting strategy at least. It would be interesting to see what methods of energy usage/conservation bring about the most energy-efficient “kills”.

        Kirk A wrote on July 20th, 2010
  21. I did this with a twist. Everytime I saw a bird, rabbit or squirrel, I would take off as fast as I could run to try to catch it. Then just walk until the next animal jumped out in front of me and I had a blast. I plan to do this every week.

    Kerry wrote on July 20th, 2010
    • Agree. I chase deer. Haven’t caught one yet because they tend to jump fences, but there are so many of ’em around me, I just chase ’em.

      jeff wrote on July 20th, 2010
      • Careful guys! Just after Mark has quelled the Feminists, you want to insight the PETA people?!

        Bob Mass wrote on July 20th, 2010
        • Ooops! I meant “incite”! Hope my humor is not lost in my misspelling.

          Bob Mass wrote on July 20th, 2010
  22. You have a dog named Arbitrary Spot?

    GreaseFed wrote on July 20th, 2010
    • good one! See Arbitrary Spot run.

      shannon wrote on July 20th, 2010
      • Best post I’ve seen in a long time! LOL!!

        Bob Mass wrote on July 20th, 2010
  23. I like this game better, needless to say.

    Yesterday I was Running With Wolves…um, dogs…and trying to mimic their movements. With the two younger ones, it would have been really hard. They would bolt across the creek, scramble up the bank, tear through the woods…

    I had to run with the old dog, who stayed on one side of the creek. At least I was able to out-run one dog! Albeit an ancient one.

    shannon wrote on July 20th, 2010
  24. Great to have more primal and playful ideas that encourage running.

    I actually got a 5k PB of 16mins 40 in a London City Race the other day and hadn’t run any monotonous 5k tredmill sessions in training like the previous year but instead had exercised more spontaneously and off-beat like your post suggests!

    Luke M-Davies wrote on July 20th, 2010
    • That is fast! are you a consistent runner? I just ran around one of our reservoirs (3 miles) yesterday for a time of 27 minutes. I was wearing my Vibrams of course and it was a pea gravel path. Those are my 2 excuses….lol. No, I don’t compete with myself real hard, I run for enjoyment. I vary my speeds from slow and steady to all out sprints to barely moving (recovering from sprints).

      Aaron Curl wrote on July 21st, 2010
  25. Had a great workout with my son the other day. We went to an empty soccer field and just kicked and chased the ball around, no nets and no scoring. We weren’t kicking it back and forth either. It was basically keep away with two people and the ball had to remain moving.

    Mike wrote on July 20th, 2010
  26. Um, I chase bubbles. I have the big and the small bubble wands, and blow the bubbles, and chase the bubbles and try to catch them on the wand. Every kid in the place wants to try. Probably not nearly as efficient or primal, other than that it’s movement and chase with joy. You can also take turns with one person blowing and everyone chasing.

    Esther wrote on July 20th, 2010
  27. Free running is a good idea, but not as hardcore as this:

    Ned Kock wrote on July 20th, 2010
  28. I’d love to play manhunt, kick the can, or ringy (sometimes called ringolevio) as an adult. Lots of sprinting, resting, slow moving, cramming into awkward hiding places. Any one who’s interested in the rules should let me know and I’ll see how many I can recall.

    Allbeef Patty wrote on July 20th, 2010
    • And if you’re in Atlanta, definitely let me know if you’re interested.

      Allbeef Patty wrote on July 20th, 2010
  29. Google: Fartlek (yes it is spelled that way)

    Squash wrote on July 20th, 2010
  30. Great one Mark! I continue to love all of your posts.

    Angelina wrote on July 20th, 2010
  31. I like to take my kids to the park and play freeze tag! This is much like a hunt and we all have a great time doing it! It keeps me in shape and develops great relationships with my kids and their friends.

    Phil wrote on July 20th, 2010
  32. I think these are all great ideas. Thanks.

    Merry wrote on July 20th, 2010
  33. well i don’t have anything against the real thing, chasing animals that taste good. fly fishing (mostly catch and release) for trout this summer in the high mountains, jumping from rock to rock, climbing over downed timber, jogging down trails to get to the next hole…and i’ll be stalking mountain quail and grouse along with chanterelle mushrooms this fall. in some circles hunting and fishing may be not OK, but I’m not hurting the resources with how, where and what i harvest. stalking for real is fun and exciting…and a good workout

    DThalman wrote on July 20th, 2010
  34. Get an Aussies rules/rugby/american football and take it down the park for a kick around. The shape guarantee’s you won’t travel in a straight line too many times.

    Stuart Atkinson wrote on July 20th, 2010
  35. Just did and awesome hike today, and sprinted after some inanimate objects to catch up to them (trees, bushes).
    I actually did see some deer but they were too beautiful to “hunt” and scare off. Got some great pics.

    Lars1000 wrote on July 20th, 2010
  36. I love this post. I’m not much of a fan of running, and I’ve found imagination is the key to breaking the monotony. Especially if I’m running down a street where there’s lots of construction going on, I picture myself in a battle-field type setting. Any dug-up holes are trenches, the cars are tanks, etc. So ducking and diving becomes more fun than just running.

    coco wrote on July 21st, 2010
  37. Great post and comments. Running seems to be the main movement people gravitate towards, but you also mention crawling. I think that’s important too – crawling and stalking on all fours, ducking under low branches, even crawling on your belly. These are all natural movements that our hunter-gatherer ancestors would have been skilled at.

    Greg wrote on July 21st, 2010
  38. I have another idea: Follow a color. Go to the park and follow someone wearing, say, anything blue og red or green. That may be a walker or a jogger or a dog, for that matter. Then, when you meet someone else wearing that same color, change to the new ‘prey’ – it’s likely to be a change of pace, too. And so forth. Be discreet about it, obviously. It will probably keep any individual from feeling stalked.
    I just bought the book, by the way. Thought I could do without it because of the blog, but no … from August 1 I will really go primal.

    Ulla Lauridsen wrote on July 21st, 2010
  39. I will Run, jog, walk, sprint even occasionally leap ’cause you’re telling me to but I will not roll and crawl. Too self conscious!

    sangita wrote on July 21st, 2010

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