Monday, March 22, 2010

The inequality of time and speed

As in velocity.

Yesterday Milan held an event called "StraMilano" it's a half marathon, with the option open of doing a 5k or a 10k if you are not up to doing the whole lot. I did the 10 k. (oops! that little snippet of information just happened to get through - not that I would want to boast about having completed my FIRST marathon !!!! When I told Melitta my eldest that I ran a race she said "Did you win?" Incase you, like my daughter were wondering, NO I did not.)

Anyway....when it comes to running there seems to be a discrepancy between out-put of effort and the concept of time. Let me explain (for the yogis of you who are not interested in running - stay with me, this is for you too)....If I go at a relatively comfortable pace I complete my 5k in X amount of time. If I really push myself to my physical maximum the amount of time I presume I will have earnt is NOT the expected 5 minutes, but a mere and disappointing 10 seconds or so less than it would be under normal conditions. This came as a shock to me. How is it possible that my concept of time under stress or duress can be so completely over-estimated? And am I alone? I fear not.

Is our concept of time completely out of sync with reality when one is going about normal everyday activities? Is the amount of effort one puts into doing something quickly, matching up with the time saved? Personally I find I rush around at my maximum believing that this way I will earn an extra 5,10,30 (?) minutes of extra time. But is this too a fallacy exactly as it is when I have my running shoes on?

Today I decided to experiment. I leave the house at 6.45 in the morning. I have to rush back to be at home for 08.00 so I can help Valerio get the girls ready and feed them breakfast. I arrive puffing and panting, my heart beat elevated and my stress levels high. I weave around my children like a cyclist in heavy traffic and try to get them out of the door by 08.30. Today instead of rushing home I went at a reasonable yet comfortable pace and I arrived my feathers smooth rather than ruffled. I arrived ONLY 3 minutes later than I would usually despite the fact I was going at a "human" pace. Suprised, I felt calm. I continued to be attentive and productive and slower as I made my way through hair-brushing, tea-making and snack-preparing. The girls got out the door just as they usually do - five minutes later than they should - so no change there.

I continually hear people say "the fast pace of life is too stressful" but few tend to complete the syllogism; that slowing down reduces stress! Simple, no? And think - it costs us nothing.

Considering that going at our maximum pace earns us comparatively little in matters of time (if you don't believe me do as I did today and TRY. ) but a lot when it comes to stress levels, perhaps we could entertain the idea of creating a stress free day NOT by having a massage, listening to classical music, having a glass of wine, taking the day off work or going for a swim, but by simply MOVING MORE SLOWLY.

But not if you are doing the marathon :-)

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