Tag Archives: meeting our potential

How philosophy powers athletic achievement: a personal anecdote.

Earlier this summer I ran the HTC race in Oregon, a well-known, hundred-plus mile relay. I was part of an excellent and enthusiastic Reed College team. I was given the more . . . motivating, if you will, leg of the race. It consisted of a set of three stretches—legs 5, 17, and 24—totaling about 21 miles. The last stretch included an 850-ft hill. I engage with running as a form of expression, and not a form of propulsion. Nowhere does the contrast between expression and propulsion become more stark than when a single group of people—each and every person with their own metaphors, mental models, and training histories—run together up a hill in heat that closes in on the double digits.

As was the case on that particular hill.

Now, I’m not the fastest runner out there. And, I gotta say: should precedent and probability have the final say, I’ll never be. But over the years, I have developed my running to be quite effortless—and therefore, quite fast. I like to run without effort, and fully engaged, like a well-oiled machine where every tiny part is playing its part in exactly the right way, all the pistons moving in perfect synchrony, all of the forces which course through my body coursing through it in exactly the right vectors. This is a story about what effortlessness means, what it does for you, and what it feels like. But more importantly I share what are, in my opinion, the most basic ideas of how to replicate it it.

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On the topic of paradigm shifts

Transcending the paradigms under which the majority of us train, race, (and generally develop our athleticism) is the most effective way to generate results that wildly outmatch any of our previous expectations of our athletic potential.

Paradigms are our constructed realities: they are the rules by which we are governed. Our paradigms outline which questions are acceptable, and which ones are not. They tell us which sources of information are valid, and which are not, and how we should go about interpreting the information we collect.

Systems thinking scholars suggest that transcending a paradigm—creating a “paradigm shift”—is the most effective way to change the behavior of a system (such as the human body) because it challenges the most basic questions and assumptions on which it is predicated. Necessarily, a new way of viewing the world will lead to the use of new types of information, new strategies, and new outcomes of the behavior of the system, which could have not possibly been foreseen or predicted under the previous paradigm.

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