Antifragility: Running Until I Can’t Continue

I am an avid runner. Given the choice of any exercise, when I am already in shape, running is absolutely my activity of choice. I have a style of running that is pretty different than mainstream advice on how to become a great running, but I’ve found it works far better for me than the traditional way of doing things. This is usually the case for every discipline and it is no different for physical exertion.

The way I like to run is to run about as hard as I can while still maintaining the ability to run at least 2 miles. The difference between 2 miles and 10 is solely training your cardiovascular system, assuming you have your weight at the appropriate level. From there, I keep that pace every time I run but I add incremental distances. The amount I add is not a premeditated amount; I simply run until I literally cannot any more. 

I can generally gauge how long my runs will be each time, based on the prior run I had, so if the run seems a bit shorter than I need I just sprint all out at the end. If it is longer than I need, I do not slow down, I just run until I can’t. Walking home isn’t a bad thing, I just do not want to train myself at a sub-optimal pace, even if just for a half mile.

As for how this compares to other areas of exercise, I am pursuing a heavy lifting strategy, as opposed to circuit training. For cycling, I’d be far more concerned with my heart rate above a certain amount as opposed to my getting longer distances in. Swimming would be pushing myself to the point where I feel like I’ll drown because it’s so hard to breathe. You get the idea; I am not a multi-faceted exercise kind of guy (at least not yet), so I’m sure you can apply the same principles to your own routines.

So Why Not Take It Easy and Get The Hour/Day We Are Told To?

Jogging every day at a 10 minute pace for many miles sounds like a great way to burn fat, but it isn’t really stressing your body very much. You are demanding far less from yourself in terms of performance, and as a result, your ability to improve as a slow-paced runner into a faster-paced one is a far slower transition than mine will be from running hard at 2 miles up to 10. In fact, I bet I could get myself up from 2 miles today at my pace (roughly sub 8 minute miles) to 10 in less than half the time it would take someone jogging 10 minute miles to 8 minute miles for the same distance. You just aren’t stressing your systems enough.

Exasperation should be your goal, not weight loss. That’s how you become fit. Once you are fit, losing weight is incredibly easy. But getting to fit is the harder journey. Feeling like you might die from a run is something not many Americans are willing to even try. Even fewer would do so to get their training from 2 to 10 miles.

Don’t worry about the time spent exercising. Focus on exasperation, difficulty breathing, and sweat. Get all 3 of those every day, even if you do it for 10 minutes, and you’ll become an animal.


Nassim Taleb, one of the smartest thinkers and writers of economic theories, has since delved into other areas of thought that are removed from finance. He is an applied statistician and phD, but surprisingly, he is also a great practitioner (most of these types are academics with no hope of application to the real world). His latest book, called Antifragile: Things That Gain From Disorder, focuses on things that benefit from disorder and randomness.

In other words, something that is stressed and breaks, such as glass, is fragile. But the human body is the opposite of this; the more it is stressed with disorder, the stronger it becomes, so long as you do not break it in the process.
This applies to everything anatomically.
  • Want to improve your sexual performance capabilities? Read up on edging and kegel exercises. They certainly fall into the extreme category.
  • Want to improve your ability to think? Our minds are no different than muscles, so the more different types of problems we throw at them and struggle to learn, the better we think.
  • As it applies to investing, you’re best off taking significant risks or none whatsoever. So perhaps keeping 75% of your money in cash and putting the other 25% with your favorite 23-year old wellness blog writer to start a business with (hint hint) might be something he could get behind. This flies in the face of investment theory, and is indeed an oversimplification, but this post is about exercise, not investments.
  • As it applies to exercise, I’ve already described my views on running and other forms of exercise. This fits perfectly into Taleb’s framework. He explains the barbell approach, which is not doing anything that is luke-warm, medium, and right in the middle, as it doesn’t produce any benefits compared to the extremes.
So, what are you to do? Push yourself to your limits with exercise. Don’t injure yourself, but perhaps become a bit worried that you’re close doing so. And keep it randomized. Just as Taleb encourages barbell extremism, he equally encourages keeping your body guessing.