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!
About the Author
Mark Sisson is the founder of Mark’s Daily Apple, godfather to the Primal food and lifestyle movement, and the New York Times bestselling author of The Keto Reset Diet. His latest book is Keto for Life, where he discusses how he combines the keto diet with a Primal lifestyle for optimal health and longevity. Mark is the author of numerous other books as well, including The Primal Blueprint, which was credited with turbocharging the growth of the primal/paleo movement back in 2009. After spending three decades researching and educating folks on why food is the key component to achieving and maintaining optimal wellness, Mark launched Primal Kitchen, a real-food company that creates Primal/paleo, keto, and Whole30-friendly kitchen staples.