Minimum effective dose is a concept popular in athletics. The first time I heard about it was through Joe Friel. I think Joe defined it as, “the minimum dose of the most specific training to achieve the goal”
Contrast this with my (historical) default strategy of “a little more than the maximum dose that my life can possibly withstand.” At the time Joe shared his observation, I was trying to train about five-hours per day!
Last winter, Monica started doing mini-walks when the kids were napping. We live on a hill and she’d powerwalk a quarter mile up, then a quarter mile down.
For a guy that used to aim for five hours of exercise a day, a half mile walk is a “why bother” level of activity. I’d sit at my desk, watch her leave and ask myself, “what the heck is she doing?!” At the time, she was knocking out 45 miles a week on our treadmill.
I was in a depressive funk and, perhaps, the mini-walks were her way of showing me the value of something rather than nothing.
Well, it worked. I started my mini-walks and they turned into some of the most pleasant time of my day. I moved through my funk.
The medical literature that I read is mixed on the value of exercise beyond about an hour a day. However, the value of movement (across a day) gets universal praise.
You can expand this concept beyond walking.
- My relationship with my kids
- Getting more efficient with my spending
- Moderating my consumption of chocolate, beer or wine
- Creating an ability to give a nice “no thanks”
- Building a key relationship
A self-directed life comes from a habit of incremental change (but I have to constantly remind myself that the little things are worth it).