Intensity. Brevity.

A friend of mine recently asked me to explain the “how-to” of this paleo lifestyle that I’m trying to lead. While explaining that exercise should be kept brief and intense rather than drawn-out and strained, I stumbled upon a point that I hadn’t really thought about before, but that rang true.

Intensity and brevity describe very well most if not all of the things we humans do naturally. Think of little kids and how they play. Remember back to when you were little. What games did you enjoy?

Tag, hide-and-seek, red rover, hockey, basketball, baseball… What do all these games have in common? They all are based around sudden bursts of energy, followed by extended periods of rest or slow movement. No group of six year olds is going to go out for recess and decide to jog at 70% of their max heart rate for 15 minutes.

I think kids set wonderful examples for adults to follow. No goals. Just move and have fun. But we modern-day adults are stuffed into rigid daily routines. We’re made to perform the same task for eight hours a day, day in and day out. We’re made to eat mostly the same things at the same times. I’m sure those of you with children know that if their minds and bodies are occupied, they’ll eat when they’re good and ready.

But we adults aren’t beyond saving. We, too, exhibit brevity and intensity in the things we are naturally inclined to do. When we find something funny, we don’t chuckle all day long. When we argue, we do so in concentrated bursts (that may or may not span a couple days). When we have sex, it is brief but passionate. Conversations ebb and flow; we can have nice, leisurely chats that last for hours while hitting on something truly interesting and stimulating just a few times within that period. Despite what we’re supposed to be doing at the office, our work patterns are similar. Work for a bit, goof off for a bit. If you look at natural human behaviour, I’m sure you’ll find this pattern everywhere. It’s when we force ourselves to keep going and going that the stress really builds up.

That’s one of the reasons why I shake my head at the notion of running on a treadmill or pedaling a bike at a steady pace for an hour or more. Sure, I did run two half-marathons, but there’s a good reason I never plan on running one again.

I think we are happiest and most relaxed when we follow patterns of brief, intense activity followed by extended periods of rest, play, and light activity.

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One Response to “Intensity. Brevity.”

  1. Nina (Nina on Everything) Says:

    It’s nice to feel vindicated for the fact that I burst into sudden crazy jumping dance moves for a few minutes while walking through my house then stop!

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