“Oh, look at her run… she’s a natural.”
Have you ever had that thought? Not necessarily with running but with any activity. Rationalizing that someone (other than yourself) is good at something from the get go, as if they were born to excel at a given sport or activity.
I know I have.
But is it true?
What makes some of us athletic and some of us praying that we won’t trip and fall over our own feet each day?
That’s the reason I picked up The Sports Gene by David Epstein (highly recommend it).
Being a biologist at heart, I love discovering the science behind how/why we do the things we do.
And so does Epstein.
Have you ever hear of the 100,000 hour rule?
The 100,000 Hour Rule…
This idea, put together by Malcolm Gladwell says that in order to be an expert at anything (from golf to basketball to chess), it takes 100,000 hours of practice.
Basically, Gladwell says that if you put in the time, you’ll reap the rewards.
100,000 Hours… that’s 4,167 full days of focused practice… or 11.4 years dedicated to your sport, driven to be the best.
Well, crap… I’ve only been running for 2 years so I’ve got a heck of a long way to go if I want to be the best runner I can be, huh?
But is that all?
Is It Really All About Practice?
According to Gladwell, if I dedicated myself for the next 9 years, then I could be a big name in the athletic world.
But is that true?
If Dan decided to take on all of our business ventures/responsibilities (not going to happen) and allowed me to do nothing but train, would I ever be a big name? Would I be on a Runner’s World magazine cover, or better yet, on Sports Illustrated for winning some huge race?
I guess I’ll never really know, but I think it’s safe to say the answer is no… no professional athletic genes here.
Breaking The Rule
I’m not saying that practice isn’t important, it is. Vitally! But there has to be more to it than that.
I believe that some people no matter how hard they try, just won’t be as good as others. Some people have it, some people don’t.
Me, a professional athlete? Yum, no. Dan tells me all the time how unathletic I am. Thanks hubs.
Are There Athletic Genes?
According to Epstein and his in-depth studies, there are.
I don’t think it’s a secret that if you’re a guy that is on the brink of 7’ tall, you’ll have a better chance at excelling in basketball than the 6’1 guy.
But that’s not it…
Here are some awesome discoveries I learned from The Sports Gene:
- A large majority of professional baseball players have better than 20/20 vision.
- A high percentage of basketball players have an uneven ratio of height to arm span (their arms are abnormally long helping with their reach).
- Swimmers have abnormally long torsos but short legs.
- Jamaican sprinters have abnormally short torsos but long legs. They may be several inches shorter than a swimmer, but their legs are the same length!
A Combination Of Both
Sure, you can be naturally talented at something. You can have all the right “genes” to be the best ______ you want to be. But if you don’t put in the time, then it’s a waste.
You won’t live up to your full potential.
Take it from my friend the Crazy Cotter… Lindsay’s husband is a professional Triathlete who works his tush off (they both do) to help him excel. Never giving up to improve his craft!
That’s the take away I learned.
I also learned, my body is just “normal” I’ve got no super human mutations (that I know of) that are going to help me become a professional ballerina or a 15 minute 5Ker.
But even so, that won’t stop me from being the best that I can possibly be…
Should You Give Up?
No! If it’s something you’re passionate about, then why even consider giving up?
I’ll continue to practice my speed workouts, I’ll continue to practice my writing (it’s a skill like any athletic sport), and I’ll continue to compete only against myself and not those around.
Who cares if after 11 years of training, you don’t make it to the Olympics? The activities that you do are for yourself, the training you put in reflects your drive and love.
I wouldn’t trade that for anything! Even if I never win a local 5K or out lift the girl next to me at the gym,
I’m satisfied knowing I gave my all.
What about you…
Are you a “natural” at anything?
It’s okay… you’re allowed to be proud of your abilities!
If you could be a professional athlete, what sport would you do?
I don’t think I’m a natural at anything. If I had to come up with something, I would say I am a natural competitor. My competitive drive is really strong and sometimes helps me to push through discomfort that I would normally have been stopped by.
If I could, I would be a professional spring board diver.
The Barefoot Transition
I wanted to give a quick update. A few weeks ago I purchased my first pair of barefoot trail running shoes (New Balance Minimus).
Following the advice of several running friends, I made sure to slowly transition into them.
Running a mile here, 2 miles there… last night I worked up to 4 miles!
They felt great at the time but I woke up with achilles pain (which is normal considering the change of pressure it puts on the achilles compared to my “normal” Mizunos).
But I realized I was being stupid… I’ve got 4 races over the next 5 weeks.
And I really hate that I had to cancel speed training because I could tell my legs needed the break.
Now is not the time for this… come November, I’ll be able to make training sacrifices and cut back on miles. But not now.
I’ve got to get those 100,000 hours in after all!