You have limits…what will you do when you reach them?

Steve Prefontaine was an obscure distance runner made famous by Jared Leto…

Even this surprises Jared Leto.

Actually “Pre” was a record-setting distance runner that is cemented is mythology by tragically dying in a car crash. “Pre” believed that there was no such thing as talent: it was a myth and he was merely willing to suffer more than anybody else. He was great at suffering but as it turns out he was very talented. His VO2 max was 84.4 ml/kg/min, which to put in perspective is higher than Lance Armstrong’s VO2 max. To further put in perspective VO2 max, you can very nearly maximize whatever your lot is in ~ 6 weeks of very dedicated VO2 max training. And Pre smoking weed on his couch for 6 weeks would likely still have a higher VO2 max (I don’t know if he in fact did smoke marijuana but I’m using it to make a point about the lack of train-ability of something like VO2 max).

While there are a host of things that can be trained and substantially improved, and you have to go out and really try to find them in order to see what the limits are, the fact remains that we have limits. When you reach that limit, how will your training change over the course of your life as a result?

The 21 Convention


As previously mentioned, I’ll be speaking at the 21 convention next Thursday. The topic of my talk is “Great Expectations: Training over a Lifetime.” I’m going to mostly be doing a live version of my “manifesto” regarding training, defining your own goals, being smart, science of achievement, talent, and limits. People don’t like talking about inbuilt limits; hell there has been a slew of books recently about talent being a overrated (even the aptly titled “Talent Is  Overrated“). Especially in our cozy puritanical society, it is comforting to believe that with just a little hard work anybody can be the best at anything. This is in fact false and I’m going to discuss much of this at the conference, not to dishearten people, but to put control in perspective (some of which I discussed in my “Trichotomy of Control” post). Make no mistake hard work is required but no amount of hard work is going to push you passed the ceiling of your talent; some people win with more practice because they’ve realized their potential versus a person who, while having a high potential, has not worked hard enough to realize their potential. You can work 20,000 hours and still lose to someone with a higher talent who has worked just as hard.

The rest of the talk is going to be about clients I have over the course of their training careers, basically finding new challenges that they don’t have control of (age) and some that they do (picking new activities/sports to work toward personal bests in). It’s going to be personal experience meets standing on the shoulders of giants; I cannot wait.


5 thoughts on “You have limits…what will you do when you reach them?

  1. Great post. I always enjoy reading about your thoughts on topics, as they always hit the nail on the head. This post reminds me of a video I saw of Doug Miller, who is practically considered the world’s best natural champion bodybuilder. To quote, “people think I became a world champion bodybuilder because of my genetics, and no offence mum/dad, that’s definitely not the case”. Bullshit. I appreciate he works very hard to attain the physique he has, but his genetic foundation has strongly supported his work ethic and enabled him to produce the results he has. It seems to me the majority of individuals with such talent do not like admitting the beyond fortunate genetic card they have been given, like the example you gave above. Work as hard as you can, and see where that takes you, but realize you have your own genetic ceiling. Anyway enough of my ranting, I hope the wrist improves!

    Cheers Skyler.

    1. Thanks Callum. Looking at Doug Miller, I can only say that if you win your pro card on your second show, you’ve got a stacked deck. No doubt there is hard work but as the saying goes “All men are created equal, just some are more equal than others.”

  2. Good luck at the 21 convention. The subject of your talk is very important and something I’ve been struggling with for a long time. My recent weight gain experiment was a reminder for me of my abilities (or lack thereof). No use in crying about it-just make the best of it. And don’t waste time doing more than is necessary.

    1. Clarence Bass is a big fan of finding new things to challenge you or perhaps turning an eye toward things you had not paid attention to as a “talent.” I know for me that I can jump high without much training and, with just a little training, jump quite high. There are guys who will never be able to jump like I do no matter how hard they train. This is why I gravitated toward basketball (I was pre-selected, so to speak); another that I found joy and early success in was Rock Climbing/Bouldering. In the gym I quickly advanced to climbing most V4’s and a couple V6’s in one month’s time. For perspective, bouldering problems are graded on a V0 – V15(ish, there is a debate at the moment) scale. One of the best boulderers currently was able to advance to a V10 in 1 year’s time when he first started. I wasn’t a prodigy but it seemed to fit my physical gifts.

      Perhaps we should remind ourselves that there are other satisfying physical activities other than making weight go up and down. We are, after all, quarter horses in a Clydesdale world. 😉

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