Interval Living: Applying gym principles and techniques to life

Much has been said about interval workouts over the past few years… frankly the past few decades.  The truth is, like most things, when done properly, they work, so they stay in the news.  What’s funny about interval workouts, however, is that their application in every other aspect of life can be more impactful than when in the gym.

When I speak or train, there is a foundational element to my work that I talk about before any other: Interval Living.  The idea is simple – push yourself beyond your capacity, then take a purposeful break to recover.  Sounds familiar if we’re still talking about the gym, right?  But in life?

Intervals are all around us: the sun rises and sets, our heart beats in and out, we breathe in and out, we wake up and sleep, and so on.  It’s natural.  Our beings have evolved this way, yet there’s much of the world that implies that it should be the other way around – no sleep, working at all hours of the day, with little time to rest.

Take for example a 9-5 desk job.  Say you have a big meeting coming up tomorrow, and you want your presentation done today.  You spend quality time working hard to get it done… and then what?  Do you simply move to the next thing, or do you give yourself a mental break so that when you come back to do that next thing, you are equipped to do it with the same energy, and ideally more?

Or how about this… you know that you have to have a conversation with your significant other about your relationship.  Nothing too difficult, but something that will take thought and care.  You spend time doing what you need to do – thinking about how to be empathetic and keeping their feelings in mind, making sure that you are both seen as equals in the conversation… and then it happens, and it goes OK.  Do you take an emotional break to let the conversation settle, or do you simply move on, again, to the next thing?

Without the proper rest, already stressed muscles don’t have the time to recuperate.  We’ve seen, heard, and learned that for years now.  But what is talked about so much less is that the same principle applies for emotional, mental, and purposeful efforts in which we engage.

Reasons to consider living within intervals:

  1. Breaks allow you to come back stronger during your ‘peak’ time, allowing maximum energy output.
  2. Your break periods are times to explore what calms you best, and learning methods and techniques to stay calm can be critical for times of high stress.
  3. Much like exercising with interval training in mind, you are consistently stressing yourself and allowing for recovery with interval living on the emotional, mental, and spiritual sides as well. In this way, you become stronger over time in those areas with no limit on the strength you can build.

Some tips to help you incorporate interval living into your daily routine:

  1. Schedule breaks. Put them on your calendar, and hold to them like a standing meeting time with someone.
  2. Start small. Changing anything like this takes time, so bite off small chunks now to make an immediate and measurable impact.
  3. Know yourself, but stretch yourself. Be honest with yourself – for example, don’t say you’re going to take hour-long breaks away from your day if you’re working two jobs – but also pick something, just 1 thing, that stretches you out of your comfort zone.  When you realize you can accomplish that, it becomes easier to accomplish more down the road.

Life is full of ups and downs – that’s just how it is.  But by allowing focused recovery into your life, you become more purposeful with the ups and downs, helping you down your own path to greatness.

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