This is a post about time. Specifically, how to be alive within time—something you will under appreciate unless you read this article from start to finish. Word for word.
Training is an interesting ritual. In order to move your body around and lift heavy things, you have take out your watch, dissect an area in between two symbols, and serve it up to the Grand Kai as a humble sacrifice.
Time isn’t money, nor can time be had with money; there’s no buying time. The time of yesterday is gone, which means that every second you train is a second that could be spent elsewhere.
Sacrificing time is an essential part of training (that is, until physical abilities become easily uploadable biotech software programs). It’s understood. The question, then, isn’t about spending time. Spending time is a given. The question is how to make the best use of your time—how to hack time.
And that what this post is about—a handful of strategies that, without a doubt, deliver better results with no time investment.
Seems impossible, right?
Dead time vs. alive time
Since man began counting hours, there has been dead time. You might know a little about dead time. You might know that watching Dragon Ball Z for the fifth time is dead time. (Not the first time, of course.) For the most part though, watching TV is dead time, just as playing Candy Crush is dead time, just as mowing the lawn to upkeep a social image is dead time.
But dead time seeps into the seams of our day unknowingly, too.
When we travel anywhere, we create dead time. Maybe we listen to music on the way to where we go. Maybe we even—gasp—listen to the radio. Maybe we do the unforgivable: listen to the news. Either way, time dies.
There’s even dead time in the middle of productive time. Resting in between sets of snatch grip deadlifts? It’s dead time. Walking around the park to encourage a little fat loss? Dead time.
We have to be careful though. Sometimes, apparent dead time is actually alive time. Very alive time. Walking along the coast, listening to the waves crash, smelling the salt water. This might seem like dead time, but I can assure you that time is oh-so alive in these moments.
And so it’s not always about eliminating dead time; that’s impossible. It’s about hacking time. Turning dead time into alive time.
How to hack time
For those that enjoy physical challenges, training, for the most part, is full of alive time. There are some parts and some types of training, however, that are dead time (of which we will get to soon).
For a long time, I failed to see the dead time. That all changed one day when, upon resting on my bench in between sets, I saw a plastic canister of three tennis balls on a shelf in my garage.
The three tennis balls taunted me. You’ve never been able to juggle more than two of us, ha, you’re pathetic.
Hmmm. Why not juggle in between sets? I thought to myself.
In a few days, with zero extra time investment—time I would otherwise spend lazing about the bench—I was boosting my hand-eye coordination.
Not long after that, I saw a mini-soccer ball in the corner.
Hmmm. Why not dribble and go all Pele in between sets? I thought to myself.
I’m sure you can see where I’m going with this, because not long after juggling and dribbling, I started doing kip-ups, macaccos, rolls, and other kinesthetically challenging acrobatic-tricking maneuvers in between sets.
And so we come to this idea — an idea of making better use of time that normally dies without thought — of making time alive. An idea of hacking time.
Below are just a few suggestions. You don’t have to use all of them. But if I were you, I’d definitely use the fifth.
Time hack # 1 – Inject movement or skill into your rest periods
Instead of being lazy in between sets, think about what you can do that won’t interfere with your main training session, that will also provide extra (otherwise not had) benefits.
These days, I superset many exercises (including acrobatics), so I make great use of time. For others, this might be doing the same. Or it might be juggling, dribbling, basic martial arts kicking, or doing any minimally fatiguing skill work for sport or fun.
You have my permission to hacky sack.
There's no reason not to boost your hand eye coordination (even kinesthetic awareness) in the middle of strength training, so start doing it today.
Time hack # 2 – Do plyometricks, not plyometrics
I used to be enamored with explosiveness, strength, power, and the physique that usually accompanies these adaptations. And so I used to do coolio plyometrics so that I could be explosive. That is, until I realized that tricking it itself was rather plyometric and there was little need to do much else on top of it.
For most people that want general movement explosiveness and power (those that aren’t training for a sport), you should probably
- make sure you move well, absorb force well, and make sure you know basic mechanics (like not letting the knees cave in),
- trick or play some kind of sport for fun.
Doing depth jumps is nice and all, but if you plan on just attacking depth jumps with the sole aim of continually tacking on another inch to your max, what’s the point?
Apply it to something. Better yet, develop your explosiveness in conjunction with something that delivers other benefits (kinesthetic awareness, spatial-temporal awareness, etc.).
Time hack # 3 – Learn while you train
Most of the days I train, I listen to good music. You know: Mercenary, In Flames, Disarmonia Mundi, Trivium. Good music. That was, until I started listening to lectures and podcasts, saving the good stuff for the sets that mattered most.
You’d be surprised at how much more powerful music is when you abstain from it for the majority of your training session.
As a bonus, this also keeps your emotions low, which saves face for recovery. (Mentioned this a bit in my Stoic Single article.) Better put: you maintain more of a parasympathetic tone.
I love music, and I'd never fully give it up when training, but the opportunity to learn amazing things is only a click away these days. And the fact that you can learn these amazing things without setting aside extra time in your day is even more amazing.
Time hack # 4 – Don’t “cardio” without…
I’m not a huge fan of “cardio,” (partially because I hate the term, how most people use it, and how it holds little meaning), but I do understand people want run around—for whatever reason.
Instead of the high tech HIIT and anally calculating work-to-rest intervals, you're better off taking a soccer ball, a light kettlebell, or any other kind of implement to an empty field and finding a way to move at various speeds while having extra fun.
Just want to walk? Dribble a soccer ball while you do it. You’d be surprised at how much more encouraged to move you are. You might even want to move a bit faster.
Just want to jog? Kick the soccer ball, jog to the ball. Throw the bell, jog to the bell. Throw the ball, jog to the ball.
Be a vanguard. Do a handstand every time you hit a certain point in the track. A cartwheel when you hit another. Juggle as you walk.
By doing this, you’re getting more results (by also working on coordination) with no extra time investment.
Time hack # 5 – Create rapture
In a rage to resurrect dead time, we often forget about how dead time is often the most alive time you can ever experience . . . if you enable yourself to feel awe in the most seemingly mundane moments. The fact that you have a body that encases one of the most powerful structures in the world in the mind should put you in awe.
And it is with both the mind and body that we hack time. We turn dead time into alive time.
Even if you're at your peak of laziness, truly immersed in dead time (maybe that's right now), if you allow yourself to be in awe of even the tiniest slice of your abilities, you've hacked time.
Wiggle your toes.
Isn't it amazing? Doesn't it make you smile? How can you not appreciate the brain shuttling an electrical impulse through synapses and myelinated neural pathways to produce a modicum of movement faster than you have the ability to think about how the process works?
You owe it to yourself to hack time. You owe it to yourself to explore movement cavities that force you to reconfigure your mental schema. The best part is you can often do this without sacrificing your performance or body composition goals, so long as you hack time.
I often say doing a backflip changed my life because it’s true. And it’s a truth I want you to flirt with. Everything I learn is somehow related to tricking. I can’t really explain it; you have to experience it for yourself.
Often times, we get so hung up on exercising and burning calories that we hampsterize ourselves. We forget to marvel at the mind and body and what they're capable of. We forget that being able to lift anything, no matter how heavy, is a gift. We forget that there's more to movement than squatting and deadlifting. We forget that progress isn't the end, but rather an artifact of appreciating your abilities enough to enjoy practicing often.
The moment movement becomes all about tacking on an extra five pounds to the bar, holding a position for another five seconds, or burning another five calories, you’ve lost. Your time, although seemingly alive and effective, is actually dead.
Appreciate every second that you're able to move — no matter how tall or how small the order is.This is the joy of having a body, and it's a joy we often take for granted. Not everyone is as lucky as some of us are. Not everyone has the potential some of us have.
You can take your abilities for granted. You can kill time. You can complain about genetics.
Or you can hack time. You can realize that if you have four mobile limbs and access to the internet, you're probably better off than a lot of people in this world.
You can revel in the abilities your body and mind give you.
It's your choice.
A present for time hackers
This is an article about time. More specifically, it’s about being alive within time — how to hack time. Getting more results without giving extra time.
I do this by combining barbell training, bodyweight training, and tricking. That's what makes my time alive. That's what stimulates my mind and body as one. Doing solely barbell training, getting overly wrapped up in aesthetics, or focusing on the wrong wonders of the mind and body kills my time.
If you feel the same, or if you want to hack time with tricking — if you want to make time alive by challenging the body in a new, unique way — I have a present for you in the coming weeks. Chances are you'll get it faster if you're signed up for this. But it will come in time for all. Hopefully, you'll be ready to make use of it when it comes.
Hopefully, you'll be more alive.