Minimum Effective Dose

Originally Posted on April 14, 2013 by 

If you’ve ever done a marathon, you know (hopefully) what it’s like to wake up Saturday morning and head out for a 3-hour run.  If you’ve ever trained for a triathlon, you know what it’s like to spend nearly half your day running, biking, and swimming.  As pursuers of healthy living we look forward to and enjoy these breaks from reality, but if you’re like me, you don’t realize how much of your day is spent exercising.

As I drove to the gym last year I noticed a problem.  I had just spent 20 minutes at home getting my workout clothes on, was now driving 20 minutes to the gym, was planning to work out for 60 minutes, and was going to spend 20 minutes driving home.  The whole process took 2 hours and I wasn’t even that happy with my workout.  At that point in time my gym membership was about to expire after 13 years, and I was feeling pressure from my profession and my partner to reprioritize my time, basically, I was working out too much.  I hate the idea of exercising less but I also knew it was taking priority over other areas of my life that it shouldn’t.  I decided to do something about it.  I let my gym membership expire, I purchased a set of 20 pound dumbbells, and I relocated our kitchen timer to our office (my new gym).

I started by setting my timer for 20 minutes and not letting myself work out any longer, that was the max.  If I was in between reps I would force myself to stop.  I was starting to look at my workouts differently, instead of increasing duration, I increased intensity and efficiency. I began doing timed sprints behind my house instead of driving to the track.  It may be an American thing to do, breaking things down and trying to micromanage your time, but for me I’ve found I can get great workouts and not spend huge amounts of my day doing them.  I still enjoy my longer workouts, don’t get me wrong, but by interchanging routines that focus on getting the minimum effective dose of exercise, I’ve found I have more time for other priorities in my life.

Editor’s Note:
David Hurford is my brother and an awesome athlete.  He wrote this article for my previous blog and I am reprinting it here.

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