In a search to be more in the “present” I’ve been experimenting with my running schedule. Yesterday, I ran through the length of skid row with an iPod as part of my run. I felt aware and constantly on guard. Unconsciously I increased my pace multiple times. When I finished, I was physically and mentally more tired than I am on runs of comparable distance. I was sweatier too.
There are two transhumanist architects who believed that people die of old age because they become too comfortable. In response, they built confusing, complicated houses that kept people active, confused and constantly disoriented. They had almost no places to sit down and the floor was made up of rocky, uneven material that looked like a children’s playground. The couple believed that you could permanently postpone death by living in one of these houses. Now that sounds like bullshit shit to me, however, I have noticed then when I go on unfamiliar runs, I am more “present” and alert. I feel better and more invigorated after I finish.
In human evolution, there would have been two types of running. The first would be for travel. The Greeks had messengers who would quickly run long distances to deliver a message. The other would been survival-mode – short sprints to avoid a fight or predator or a fire. I feel like most exercise we do is in the style of the first kind, for instance, on a treadmill. It’s not nearly as stimulative as the second kind, which requires critical decision making and alertness. Also, there is a greater incentive to be good at the latter because it is a life or death issue.
I would guess that exercise in unfamiliar or confusing terrain is better for you than running at the gym or on a regular, nightly course. I wonder if adding a sense of urgency, like someone chasing you or a dangerous neighborhood, is better mentally as well as physically because you don’t ever get in ‘the zone’. If you’re practicing being in the present, the transhumanist logic may have some merit.
(Seth Robert’s “My Theory of Human Evolution” always make me think)