Saturday, July 16, 2016

Don't Do Time, Do The Distance

Every now and again I take this blog off-road with a reminder that there is more to life than work. This is one of those times.

My friends all know that I enjoy exercising - everyday. The reason I enjoy it is that I do the distance, not the time. So my big tip for anyone wanting to enjoy fitness and mental health is to do the distance, not the time.

There is a subtle distinction between time and distance. Doing the time, is exercising for a preset time, whereas doing the distance is completing a preset distance (or task). You might end up getting the same exercise, but the difference in enjoyment and satisfaction is huge.

By doing the distance, you are thinking about achieving something. Whereas doing the time, you just wait for the time to pass and it drags on. Just as the least enjoyable jobs are where you follow the clock, exercise by time is a drag. The most enjoyable jobs and exercises are ones where you achieve something, semi-regardless of the time.

Also, while you are working to achieve the distance, you will tend to run/swim/peddle/skip etc. more efficiently. This comes naturally as you aim to get to the finish with the least effort. You will try out different techniques and learn a more efficient styles. All the while, getting there in a more graceful way each day. This is a positive feedback loop where you get the benefit of getting faster and stronger by finishing with less effort.

Arthur Lydiard understood this all those years ago when he had his Olympic running hopefuls repeatedly run over a preset course in the Auckland hills. In my seaside village there are hundreds of swimmers who take to a 1.2km ocean course every day. They love it, and a big part of it is that they are achieving their goal every day. As each day passes, they find it easier and more graceful than the day before. Even if your preference is going to the gym, try setting the activities and reps in advance, rather than staying there for x minutes.

So, get out there and do the distance by walking home, to the next station, or to your favourite café. Each day you will get healthier and stronger with a sense of grace and achievement.

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