The Tortoise & The Hare: I’ll Take The HARE

There are varying accounts of the story about the Tortoise and the Hare with some suggesting that it represents “the more haste, the worse speed” or “the race is not to the swift”. Some accounts even suggest ingenuity and trickery can triumph over a stronger opponent. So in what context am I using it here? And why would I choose The HARE (an obvious acronym here)?


Slow & Steady The Tortoise represents cardiovascular exercise of the same name. The HARE represents Highly Active ‘Robic Exercise (or HIIT—High Intensity Interval Training). I thought of this today as I was out for a “run” around the Back Bay of Portland. I run because it’s easy, convenient and can be done anywhere and I like how I feel afterwards. However, I rarely go for a run in the context that many do, due to a number of reasons, not least of which is attention span. The Back Bay is a great route with a beautiful view and for “runs” like those, I like to do bouts of higher speed running and then mix in times of walking briskly and even other exercises (i.e. push-ups, lunge walking, squats) with a higher intensity.

There was a man running whom I used as a great guide for my timing. He would run slow and steady and I would let him get about 1/4 to a 1/3 of a mile ahead of me and then I would run with a nice high kick until I was near him and then slow down to a brisk walk. I did this for the entire route and we “finished” at the same time. While he got a lot out of his run and it is great to see people out doing anything, research has clearly shown that to burn more calories, fat and jack up your metabolism, HARE is better on almost all counts.

Discredit The Tortoise completely? No way. There is a place for a winner like that. However, I got a chuckle reading a review of Lord Dunsany’s view of Aesop’s story in his "The True History of the Tortoise and the Hare" (1915). There the hare realizes the stupidity of the challenge and refuses to proceed any further. The obstinate tortoise continues to the finishing line and is proclaimed the swiftest by his backers. But the reason that this version of the race is not widely known is that very few of those that witnessed it survived the great forest-fire that happened shortly after. It came up over the weald by night with a great wind. The Hare and the Tortoise and a very few of the beasts saw it far off and they hurriedly called a meeting to decide what messenger they should send to warn the beasts in the forest.

They sent the Tortoise…..

What does (over)extension produce....

"Finding Balance" (from Training & Conditioning magazine, March 2014)