Combine 20 minutes of movement with mind-expanding discourse and an increased heart rate.
Do you, like me, find physical exercise extremely boring? Would you rather immerse yourself in the life of the mind?
Here’s an opportunity to get in some self-isolation exercise whilst thinking and raising your heart rate at the same time.
I’m always interested to hear from Yuval Noah Harari so I was excited to come across the article below. But, knowing it could be a challenging read, I devised a plan for managing the anxiety it might induce. Please note: no disrespect intended!
Disclaimer: I’ve tried this workout. It was good for me but may not be good for you. I take no responsibility for your state of mind or body.
The Financial Times recently published The World after Coronavirus by Yuval Noah Harari. It’s free to read. He writes:
“In this time of crisis, we face two particularly important choices. The first is between totalitarian surveillance and citizen empowerment. The second is between nationalist isolation and global solidarity.”
Does that paragraph make your heart beat faster with anxiety? Good. Let’s harness it to 20 minutes of fairly intense home exercise. Here’s how:
- Put on some loose clothing.
- Clear a space in the room. Enough to spread your arms and legs with a radius wide enough to swing around a bit.
- Go to the FT website and find the audio version of the article. Note that it lasts 19 minutes 28 seconds. That will be the length of your workout.
- Press Play.
- The first cue is “Humankind is now facing a global crisis”. This is the signal to begin a gentle warm up — slow knee bends, waist twisting, reaching high, bending low. Don’t allow yourself to breathe too fast at this stage.
- “Many short-term emergency measures will become a fixture of life.” Speed up and reach further. Jogging on the spot. Swinging your arms around your body and back again. Perhaps a little jumping (only advised if you are on the ground floor of your building.)
- Under-the-skin surveillance A significant new paragraph heading. Time to really get in the groove. As you listen to the many ways that this global emergency opens doors to government surveillance and manipulation, your heart will pump faster and your face might scrunch up. Keep going!
- “Hitherto, when your finger touched the screen of your smartphone…” Now your blood is really pumping! Panic is rising fast. If you want to howl (and you’re sure it won’t frighten the neighbours) — go ahead! So exhilarating!
- Work your whole body. Don’t stop as we speed through a series of terrifying future scenarios. Apps. Tracking. You’re panting now, maybe sweating, but don’t worry, slow down is coming soon. Compulsory biometric bracelets. Monitoring. CONSPIRACIES! We know you’ve had about as much as you can take. Then… suddenly… ahhhh! Here we go… entering cool down…
- “The coronavirus epidemic is thus a major test of citizenship.” Slow down. Gradually reduce your speed but keep moving. There may be hope after all. Your blood pulses more gently now. Your face is red and sweaty but your optimism is starting to return.
- “We need a global plan.” This is it. We’re coming to the solution part. Slower… slower… stop. Stand still. Be thoughtful. Feel the space around your body. Sense your aura. Raise your arms up high and stretch — imagine your fingers are touching a blue sky of promise . Reach up! Reach!
- But wait. A cloud is spreading as a few paragraphs on US foreign policy threaten to break the mood. Don’t let it drag you down. Take some deep breaths. This is a test of your resilience. Stand tall. Be solid. Clench your muscles tight for the duration of this section of the article and then relax. Breathe out. It has passed. The problems of the US are behind you now and we’re on to the closing section…
- “Humanity needs to make a choice.” Pause for a few seconds, then sway your body a little forward and a little back, then side to side. Feel the stream of words flow through your nerves and up to your brain until they tickle your amygdala. Wiggle your toes. Can you feel them? Disunity or global solidarity? Choose. Move your head to the right, then to the left, then back to face the front. Global catastrophe or global victory? Choose. Reach down. Reach up. Come back to the centre.
- Audio ends.
- Drink a large glass of water and rest quietly for 15 minutes. Repeat every day for the foreseeable future. Warning: do not switch on the TV for at least one hour after doing this practice.
This routine should work with any suitable audio where the length fits your exercise requirements and the intensity matches your reading needs.
If you enjoyed this article, check out my book ‘Nature and Wellbeing in the Digital Age’ for 50 ways to feel better without logging off. It’s not funny though.
First published on Medium. All claps gratefully received.
*Thanks to amber thomas for her editorial input.*