Let me introduce myself. My name is Mark Sisson. I’m 63 years young. I live and work in Malibu, California. In a past life I was a professional marathoner and triathlete. Now my life goal is to help 100 million people get healthy. I started this blog in 2006 to empower people to take full responsibility for their own health and enjoyment of life by investigating, discussing, and critically rethinking everything we’ve assumed to be true about health and wellness...Tell Me More
UPDATE: Wow! Quite the response to this post! I had a good chuckle at many of the comments at first, but things have spiraled out of control a bit. First, let’s please keep things nice and civil in the comment boards. Heated arguments are one thing. Nasty ad hominem attacks are another, and they’ll be removed. Second, the reality is that if you never get within 40 yards of your target they’ll never be aware of your existence. I thought it went without saying, but don’t invade anyone’s personal space and don’t do anything else that common sense tells you not to do. I took out the line “Hide behind a tree for a second or two.” just so no one gets the wrong idea.
In most locales, summer is upon us. The sun acts as powerful beacon, a call to action for even the habitually sedentary to venture out and frolic in its rays. Hopeful mothers and fathers nudge chubby kids with creaky Xbox fingers, barely able to grasp the brand new football with which they’ve been tasked, out the door to partake in a mysterious, archaic activity known as “play.” Running shoes are finally removed from shoeboxes and attached to feet. Excuses to avoid going outside grow exceedingly pathetic and totally unconvincing, even to the skilled self-deceivers, who can no longer deny the basic awesomeness of a summer day. Squinting into this wonderful, terrible new light, they all gather in public areas – parks, hiking trails, outdoor malls, beaches – each in turn making personal pledges (or fulfilling imposed ones) that this will be the summer they finally take advantage of the great outdoors.
They are also weak and defenseless and, especially as they try to right the metabolic ship with outdoor Chronic Cardio through the park/sidewalk/trail/track, thrown into a state of confusion by all the sights, smells, and fresh air accosting them. Stale air-conditioning this is not. They are unprepared for what awaits them.
You, however, have been preparing for this moment for months, if not years. You’ve been eating meat, vegetables, roots, and fruit, molding your body and stoking your furnace with healthy fat, appropriate amounts of glucose, and measured bouts of intense lifting, sprinting, and steady movement. Even if you’re just beginning your Primal journey, even if you’re still adjusting – you’re still way ahead of the rest of ‘em.
It is a good time to be a persistence hunter.
Next time your stomach rumbles for a little physical exertion, venture out to the local park or track. Any spot where people will be jogging will work. You could even hit up a trail, as long as you’re sure there’ll be joggers. (I did this once in the back of a 10k race). Strap on your shoes (or don’t), wear something comfortable (or wear as little as possible), and survey the area. It’s now sacred hunting ground. You are the hunter; you can have your pick of the lot.
Regard your prey. Pick a jogger, any jogger, and let him or her gain some distance on you. A few dozen yards, perhaps. Now, walk after your target.
Keep your eye on the target, but let it gain ground on you. This isn’t a race, remember. It’s a battle of wits, of picking and choosing your spots.
When your target is a few hundred yards ahead, start to jog. Don’t let it range too far ahead, but don’t over exert yourself. Kiss the ground with a soft stride, making as little noise as possible. If you’re not barefoot, run like you are. You wouldn’t want to tire early and come home empty-handed; you can only subsist on foraged bitter nuts for so long.
Keep that pace for a couple minutes. Now speed up a bit. If you begin to gain ground, stop before you catch up completely.
Now sprint! Sprint for thirty seconds, and really push it – you might even be licking at their heels, but do not pass your prey. You’re not ready to finish just yet.
Stop. Let them continue on. Once they’ve turned a corner, passed behind a bend, or otherwise disappeared from sight, continue on. Jog, but jog in fractals. Start, stop, and run in spurts. For this portion, you aren’t breaking up the hunt into jog/sprint/walk sections; you’re melding them all together on the fly. Sprint for two seconds, stop for three, then jog for ten. Leap over branches, vault over bushes. You can even drop to all fours and crawl along the trail for a bit. Get creative.
(By now, it’s obvious that you’re a bit of a nut. You’re going to look a little strange. Are you okay with that? You should be used to it by now.)
Once you catch sight of your target, catch up by any and all means. Sprint if you have to. Just pass them up (no actual hunting, of course) and take a breather. You’ll probably need it. Flop down on the ground, stretch out, because you deserve it. Keep your wits about you, though, for there’s more prey afoot.
Even as you rest up, start the process of selecting your next target. After all, it’s open season and your tribe is hungry.
If there are multiple joggers zigzagging all over the place in all directions, you might try switching to a new target every time a new one passes in the other direction. Follow one for a couple minutes, then switch to another going the opposite way. Sprint after that one, then jog/crawl back in the other direction. How close can you get and for how many times without any of them knowing you’re there? The possibilities are endless.
Why the mind games?
The success of a workout. Whether you actually motivate yourself enough to begin and complete it, your performance throughout, and your intensity hinges largely on your state of mind. Persistence hunting in the park (yeah, I know, I thought about calling it “stalking” in the park, but somehow that sounded wrong) is a fantastic way to visualize and compel you to workout without “working out.” You’re in the moment, but that moment doesn’t occur on a treadmill while zoning out to the TV; you stay engaged in the act of movement itself. You’re aware of your muscles contracting and extending. You feel each footfall, every tiny pebble, every expansion of your lungs. You can’t ignore your physicality, nor should you want to, because we are physical creatures whose physicality must be nurtured and stimulated for us to be whole and healthy.
Give persistence hunting a try and report back with your experience. Grok on!