On “False Performance.”

I believe that the only way to be as fast as I wish I am, is to think myself exactly as strong as I actually am. I constantly overreach, and even more often arrogate capabilities to myself that I don’t actually have.

Want to know how I get injured?

I blind myself to the interface between my body and the world, and I use willful ignorance to dedicatedly circumvent certain truths about the world—truths that accelerate at 9.8m/s² (32.1ft/s²), and, in my case, slam into my feet with around 450 lbs of force. Somehow, I have to bully myself into greater awareness, and greater humility about myself and the world. Somehow, I have to find a way to train healthy and safe.

And to that end, I use the term false performance. I invite you to use it as well.

I define false performance as:

‘’a state of athletic activity where the body appears to be working well, but is being challenged unevenly, and therefore headed towards a state of overtraining and eventually injury.”

False performance is when I think I’m running well, but if I do some practiced soul-searching, I’d know that my body is getting unevenly tired—that my heart is pumping too hard, that my tendons are getting shocked, and my fasciae are slowly disintegrating.

False performance is when I find myself at a crossroads: stop running because I feel just wrong, just too heavy, just exhausted, or plug into my iPod and drown out the bad juju, the churning stomach, and the knowledge that the shock of every new step I take rattles my body and my joints a little bit more.

False performance is when I have to pretend with myself that running feels great, and pretend—pretend so hard that I don’t realize I’m pretending—that I didn’t see the injury coming. And now, I’m stuck in a “gambler’s ruin” fallacy with my own ego: Sucking it up and admitting I was wrong, that I knew I was going to get hurt, is too much, too humiliating.

I don’t learn, and I do it again, and again, and then ten years will go by, and I’ll have forgotten that I was ever pretending. And by then, the gambler’s ruin, and injury, will be a way of life.

My incursion to running coincided with reading a book by Chogyam Trungpa Rimpoche, a Buddhist Meditation Master. This book is called Cutting Through Spiritual Materialism, and if I can illustrate what I took away from it with one single quote, it is this quote:

“With disappointment comes enlightenment.”

False Performance is how I apply this lesson to my athletic pursuits. Enlightenment, not only about my abilities, but about the next step that must be taken in my personal cultivation of speed, power, and endurance, comes with my deep acknowledgment of my biomechanic inefficiencies, of the cultural and social paradigms that I bring to training, and of my socio-athletic identites, that hinder my athletic cultivation instead of helping it.

My athletic and social identities always, always, grab ahold of some two-dimensional snapshot of myself, a moment in time—usually a victory—and insist: “This is you. No. You are in fact not a process, ever changing, ever influenced by changing circumstances.”

And my identities never acknowledge changing circumstance. They do not acknowledge that “being strong”—or whatever, leads to ignoring those voices that had been warning me all along, that injury was coming. They want to make of me some social abstraction. But blood doesn’t course through the veins of social abstractions. They don’t have livers, to become emptied of glycogen. They don’t have muscles, to become saturated with lactic acid.

Identity will only injure me.

Despite the kicks and screams of my ego, I’ll face it with that disappointment. In my book, arrogance, and willful ignorance, are not worth a busted knee.

Because I faced my ego with disappointment, I become, in turn, faced with a reality—I become enlightened. And because that which would have disappointed me is exactly that which was working wrong, it is also invariably the next step; it is invariably what I must train and develop to continue on my path of athletic cultivation.

That’s how the dealer of life works: if you bet it one disappointment, it’ll raise you one reality. And you gotta seize it, and milk it for all the information it’s worth. But if you withhold your bets, you still gotta pay the fee to sit at the table each hand: the blind. You’re gonna run out of money, eventually. And then you’re out. Off the table, off the race. No money, no health.

I’ve briefly discussed how contemplative mediation and systems thinking go together. They go together because they both deal with realities, realities which are there, just outside The Cave, just beyond the veil that society has placed over our eyes.

I urge you to contemplate disappointment, and enlightenment. They’ll be a great benefit to your life.

I urge you to contemplate false performance, and hold it in your mind, as a question, when you run. The realities that false performance unearths are not subtle: for a runner, they accelerate at 32.1ft/s2, and they slam into our feet at 450 lbs, give or take a few dozen. They will become apparent to you, and you will be disappointed that the heuristics of your body and of your mind do not match up with these realities.

But that’s okay. There’s only a few people out there that are doing any better. Remember:

“All models are wrong, and some are useful.”

Not some models are wrong. All models. But it is my experience that false performance, and my contemplation of the realities that face my body on the run, will do two things for my athletic development: First, it will ensure that I am running as safely as possible, to the maximum extent of my current abilities. And second, it will force me into a creative frenzy, where improvement is marked by how effectively and how surely I can shed heuristics that have been proven to no longer work.

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