Intake, compression, power, exhaust — these are the four elements of an internal combustion engine’s process of generating power. Each of these elements must be optimized in order for an engine to run well, and none can be ignored. Interestingly, the same cycle applies to nearly any power producing system (yes, even electrical and turbine motors share these elements). I would venture then that anyone could learn a thing or two about power and energy from studying this cycle.
The paradox is that for many people who are running and gunning throughout their lives, we focus so much on the “combustion” part of the equation. We focus on the big moments, the performances, visible achievements and tangible results of all of our work. We forget about the fact that for combustion to take place, the right ingredients must be exhausted out of the chamber for good combustion to occur.
The moral of the story is that energy requires exhaust. In other words, to perform, we need rest, and recovery, and just like engines, the type of exhaust, rest, and recovery matters a great deal.
Research has shown that there are good and bad ways to rest and recover. The least effective ways involve staring at our phones, ruminating over future tasks, and basically anything that does not involve physical movement, or actual fun. We are much better off taking a three hour chunk of our day out having fun rather than wasting the same amount of time distributed throughout the day scrolling through social media or checking emails.
Returning to the topic of engines, the bigger the exhaust, the more efficiently an engine can run. In fact, the biggest exhilaration in motor sports is hearing a well tuned engine’s exhaust note when it’s running at full throttle. What’s important to remember is that the sound itself is based on the engine’s ability to clear out the expended fuel — in many ways we are hearing an engine’s ability to relax and reenergize.
Take the time to rest well, have fun, and stay moving; your engine will run better and longer.