Prompted: An Approach for Anything
How the best in the world approach high performance in any discipline.
Those that know me know I like to run.
Being out on the road with nothing but your thoughts is meditative and often therapeutic, and it still amazes me how much running parallels careers, relationships, and life in general. There’s no shortage of lessons we can learn from running, so let’s jump in and dig deeper.
And as always, thanks for reading!
Building Volume: An Approach for Anything
Discipline is not a one-time event. Self-discipline is like building your muscle. It’s like going to the gym. You cannot go to the gym today and build your muscle. You should get a program and go slowly by slowly—that’s the way to build your muscle. And that’s the way you can cultivate your self-discipline.
Eliud Kipchoge (Marathon World Record Holder, 2:01:09 or ~4:37 minute/mile)
Most people look at a 5-mile run and wince. Some people train for a half marathon and deem double that distance an impossibility. Most marathon finishers never run a road race again, and 99.7% of Americans will never participate in an Ultramarathon (anything above 31 miles).
This paints a picture of a small group of elite athletes with strong willpower and a touch of crazy, but everyone in the .03% of ultra runners started at a place where 5 miles seemed unattainable.
It wasn’t willpower or magic that moved these folks from sedentary to running 5 miles, then 13, then 26, and beyond, but a calculated approach to building capacity and confidence by building volume.
No one can go out and run 26 miles without training. We need to build up to that point. As we build up, our body gets used to the stress of running and adapts to handle it better over time. The more running we do and the more time that goes by, the better we get at handling the stress and the longer we can run.
This process takes a VERY long time. Ultra runners are an average of 42 years old. This is because their bodies have had enough time to build volume and adapt to stress to be ready to run 30, 50, 100, or even 240 miles.
Luckily or unluckily, most worthwhile pursuits operate the same way.
The upper levels of performance in anything seem unattainable from our view as novices, but building volume and adapting to the stresses over a long time horizon provide a linear path to high performance. The day-to-day and week-to-week efforts will feel effortless on some days and brutal on others, but only the consistent building of volume over time is what matters.
There is no way to get better at anything without doing it regularly. We always have to start small with something new, but over time we can develop a capacity that we never thought possible.
How can I “build volume” or slowly increase the frequency or intensity of something important to me?
What is something that seems insurmountable to me today? How did the people at the top of this field or activity start?
What kind of results could I achieve if I slowly built up my efforts over the next 6, 12, or 18 months?
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Not too long ago, I couldn’t run more than 2 miles. In November, I’ll be running a 50-mile race. Check out the first part of my journey here.
A mason builds a wall brick by brick…
Thanks for reading! I’ll see you next Sunday.