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

runnerSome 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 love the dog idea! My golden is NUTS – he should give me a great workout while he’s zooming through the pasture, snapping at the tall grass and chasing critters. I’m sure all I will be catching is ticks though ;-)

    De wrote on July 21st, 2010
  2. useing a FOOTBALL

    Jogging with a friend, toss a football back and forth. Short pass/laterals good for reaction time and hand work, or sprint ahead for a hail Mary. Also the ball will inevitably be dropped and the shape of a football give it some pretty spastic movements as it rolls which could emphasize agility work.

    C. Rauth wrote on July 21st, 2010
  3. I think we have the “Unibomber” to thank for the hooded sweatshirt and jeans get-up! =)

    Kelly wrote on July 21st, 2010
  4. LOL..Much better…maybe now I wont have to destroy some creep playing “catch”…
    Kids are a natural workout..my girls are (just turned) 8 and 6, and boy, when we let ‘em loose, they go wild! Chase, Tag, Ball (of any sort) sprints and Beach fun! My Doggie, unfortunately, does not participate..a 10 yr old English Bulldog does not do well in the heat/humidity…
    Summer is short here in New England, and we try to make the most of it with outdoor fun every day. Winter suggestions would be appreciated as I do not enjoy being cold/wet. Daddy usually takes over the fun department in the wintertime!
    Great posts, as always, Mark!

    Julie Aguiar wrote on July 21st, 2010
  5. Something I used to do as a warm up exercise with my students in my P.E. class was to line them up in groups of 5-10, assign one as leader and they would snake all over the field with everyone in the group having to mimic what ever the leader was doing.

    When the leader ran out of movement ideas the next one in line would take over.

    This seems like something one could do as a family or even with a group on a trail.

    I remember seeing a piece about profesional football players who were each assigned to mimic the movements of a child in a nursery school while they played. Wore the football players out in no time. If you have a 2 or 3 year old in your house, try it.

    Sharon wrote on July 21st, 2010
  6. We set up games like Hunter Antelope in our Cub Scout Pack. The boys love it..and not too structured, but a lot of fun and great for them, but don’t tell em that !

    For one.. I am anticipating the fall when I grab the bow and a quiver and head to the woods.
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g9oW0Nk7Dm4

    Doug wrote on July 21st, 2010
  7. Try stalking a cyclist!

    jaime wrote on July 21st, 2010
  8. When in college, we liked to go out in the woods where we used star trek style fake guns that shot little round plastic wafers. We would all split up and try to ‘kill’ each other by sneaking up on each other, hiding, ambushing etc. The winner was the last one ‘alive.’ You would have to run hard if you were caught in an unfavorable open position! Sometimes you would climb up in trees, hide behind rocks, scramble on difficult trails, etc. And you had to be careful because wafer supply was limited. Always make sure the guns are not realistic looking so other people do not freak out! In fact, you could probably just do this with water balloons.

    Eva wrote on July 21st, 2010
    • Wafer guns were so fun! I used to have wafer gun fights in college, too. We usually had them in the dorm, but occasionally expanded the war across campus. Never occurred to us to go to a park.

      Our wafer wars started because I found a big electronic wafer gun, which looked like a spaceship, at a garage sale. My friends were jealous, and tired of getting shot at. As a result, they bought smaller manual versions, a lot of ammo, and retaliated. Madness ensued for a couple of years. Thanks for the memory.

      Anonymous wrote on July 29th, 2010
      • These days we college-age folks often have nerf-war clubs where we get together and play various games with stalking, evading, and sprinting after each other while firing orange foam darts. It can be a great workout, and I and several other community members play despite not being actual students. Strategizing is also important in the games, as it would have been to Grok on the hunt!

        A friend of mine goes to another college where they play “zombies vs. humans” which incorporates nerf weapons as well but is played 24/7 anywhere on campus… keeps you on your toes. Unfortunately the University Police where I live disallow it due to safety concerns but at my friend’s school they occasionally participate themselves.

        I should go visit.

        On another note: caution when chasing unfamiliar animals. I stalked a woodchuck yesterday until I finally made my presence known, from about 4 feet away. The woodchuck must have known as well as I did that it wasn’t fast enough to escape at that distance. However, it did not know that I had no interest in eating it, and it assumed an agressive posture and bared its teeth. I backed off, and once I was about 20 feet away it scampered.

        So be careful. If an animal doesn’t feel like it can escape, it may attempt to fight for its life, whether you actually mean to threaten its life or not.

        Erik wrote on August 5th, 2010
  9. Get on some railroad tracks or highline with a friend. One person starts out a half mile ahead then you try to catch up. Have a end point normally 5+ miles so your not just running the whole time. The pace is varied because you can normally see each other with the open field of view.

    Tai Menz wrote on July 22nd, 2010
  10. I chase the deer off my property and through the woods for as long as I can keep up.

    Christa wrote on July 22nd, 2010
  11. I do the dog thing all the time when there is a dog available. I don’t have dogs anymore, but mine really didn’t like to be caught so it was great exercise.

    Jacks wrote on July 23rd, 2010
  12. Why would anyone opt for the treadmill when they could be doing this for cardio? I like your style, Mark :D

    Charli wrote on July 24th, 2010
  13. Bushwacking it what I call it. I’ve been doing it for years and it all started with my dad. We’d pick a spot on a topo map and then with compass in hand find our way there using deer trails, old logging grades, or just plain bushwacking. Bushwacking is hard work! It seems to produce twice the sweat of walking on a trail. Over and under logs, through creeks, what a work-out.

    Living on the west coast of BC (Vancouver Island) the bush is pretty dense here. I still do this all the time. My wife hates it, mostly because she like the destination. I like the trip. So I pack my bag with primal treats to molifiy her at the beautiful spots we find in the middle of nowhere.

    michael wrote on July 25th, 2010
  14. Try chasing a chicken around and catching it. If it’s not your own obviously get the owner’s permission. It’s great for agility, change of pace, etc and as I play rugby, it’s great for chasing that dam egg-shaped ball around.

    Adam wrote on July 26th, 2010
  15. I’m inspired by this post to try and get my husband to play hide and seek with me. That was my favorite game when I was a kid, as it usually turned into tag once I was found.

    Too bad I can’t convince other competent and willing adults to play hide and seek.

    knstrick wrote on July 30th, 2010
  16. I like geocaching, and it often results in stomping through the woods, and it’s a type of hunt.

    Some of my friends really like parkour, but I am so short that I have trouble with it. I think it’s much easier for taller people.

    IndigoBanshee wrote on June 29th, 2011
  17. This is a fanstastic idea. I’m going to grab a friend and my 3 yr old twin boys and get a game of Hunter/Prey going! I think to keep the kiddos engaged they’ll need to stay ‘hunters’ and we’ll need to keep hunters from ‘all out running’ or the adults won’t be able to keep with the kids, even so…fantastic!

    Joel wrote on August 25th, 2011
  18. For the same type of fractal running you can just play! I prefer full court basketball or my second favorite would be speed frisbee/disc golf where you run sprints to each shot you just took. You can jump downed trees make tight cuts on trails, crawl under bushes/downed trees, etc. at a pretty fast pace. You get fractal running, and get to play golf.. Whats better! Here is a great one! Night time glow in the dark ultimate frisbee played with a lit up frisbee(electronically lights up and flashes) and each player has glow sticks wrapped around their wrists to identify teams. The darkness always has you guessing and staying sharp. Its great cause you are constantly on your toes! Hope that gives you guys some non stalker ways to get the same benefits of fractal running! Take care, Joe

    Joe wrote on November 7th, 2012
  19. The best play I’ve found is Belegarth. Athletic and fast, it’s “Paintball with Sticks”. Whats not to love about running around hitting friends with stick? There is a natual ebb and flow to the pacing which fits right into PF style movements.

    Nate wrote on November 7th, 2012
  20. I love the Idea with the dog. i did sprints with my Great dane this morning. after a slow and leashed 1/4 mile jog we raced about 50 yards 5X leash off. sometimes he wine, sometimes i won. we crashed once, falling and rolling on the ground “fighting” and had a ball. When he stopped, I stopped. then we casually walked home to cool down. He sniffed, i talked to him about what he was finding. he loves carrying his own leash on the way home. Great post Mark! Funny thing was I chose this as my high intensity cardio today before i read your post Keep it up Mark

    Eric James wrote on November 8th, 2012
  21. I love this website I recently discovered and how it offers me truly good advice I can implement in my lifestyle change for a healthier me. Thank you Mark!
    I have been slowly finding my way to a low carb/paleo eating plan over the past year and already seen drastic results such as going down to an average normal weight from being obese, being able to quit a ton of daily medications and improvement in all my health problems. Now that I found this website, it’s great to know that the “paleo” thing is not just what you put in your mouth, but a whole healthy sleep and exercise schedule, etc too. Now I’m also working to incorporate a sunset to sunrise plus napping sleep cycle as well as regular outdoor movement.
    I wanted to mention that although uncommon, cats can also be walked on a leash. I have trained my two 1.5 yrs old cats as kittens to wear a harness and walk with a leash. Even though they were trained young, cats (mine anyway) have a distinct way of walking on the leash. They mostly expect you to follow them, as opposed to dogs who will follow you. So even though they’re on the leash, they stop to sniff, run, walk, climb and every once in a while sprint. If you don’t want to lose the leash you have to follow their speed and their likelihood of preferring to climb rocky terrains and to crawl under bushes instead of easier strolls. We’re in the SW of USA and walk alongside a canyon in our backyard and the edge of the cliff is rocky and attracts the cats’ attention due to the birds and chipmunks who live on the steep cliff. It is actually really fun to be your cat’s “dog” so to speak. Since they are so little, even though I have a dropped foot due to spinal&neural damage following an accident 8 yrs ago, I can manage chasing them when they run for a short while. Since they frequently stop to sniff, I also get a chance to frequently rest my foot, to avoid increased pain. I also mix walking on natural terrain with leather socks (not meant for outside) and with shoes (in which case I have to wear a medical brace)to ease into barefooting. I started biking exclusively in the leather socks which I feel helps to increase the range of motion in my dropped foot (which has limited ankle rotation range).
    Thank you Mark for all your encouraging and inspiring posts. My morning bike and/or hike with the cats routine inspired by your posts feels great-not to mention the sunshine and fresh mountain air me and my cats are getting.

    sarah wrote on March 6th, 2013
  22. I took my 4 year old daughter to the playground at the local park the other day. She was playing on the slides and so on when we noticed that they had been digging up a large area of the park and had dumped all the dirt in a huge long pile in one area behind the playground. I suggested we go climb up it and run along it and she was totally game for that. Cue 45 minutes (we had to leave to go make dinner!) spent running up and down and all over the hillocks of dirt (picture a hilly BMX track).

    Man, that girl has good balance! She invented games for us, she’d leave a rock on top of one hillock and then run back to another one and time me going back to get the rock and bring it to her, if I didn’t get it done in time I lost! I do find that taking kids with you and just doing what they do (she also loves climbing trees, as did I when younger. Ok, I still do) makes for a great Primal workout. Just remind me to change her out of her school shoes first next time, what a muddy mess!

    Vanessa wrote on October 18th, 2013
  23. Really surprised you don’t mention climbing anywhere in here, Mark! Jog, walk, crawl, sprint, leap are all mentioned but no climbing! Lose sight of your target? Climb a tree and use the height advantage to find them again! I’m sure that’s something Grok might have done. And on top of that, it turns out that climbing trees isn’t just fun when you’re a kid, it’s still kinda fun as an adult too. Just be prepared for some more weird looks from strangers lol.

    Mark wrote on October 18th, 2013

Leave a Reply

If you'd like to add an avatar to all of your comments click here!

© 2014 Mark's Daily Apple

Subscribe to the Newsletter and Get a Free Copy
of Mark Sisson's Fitness eBook and more!