Blog #2 of 52 – There’s no substitute for practice, but there is a substitute for strength

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Knowing Your Opponent

I’ve always enjoyed training for, and running in, races. My favorites have always been ultra-marathons, for the unlikely reason that they require lots of mental engagement spread out over a long period of time. Race courses are there to challenge me; to see how I respond, physically and mentally. And, the likelihood of doing well in any given race is directly proportional to the amount of preparation I put into it; and rarely a result of how much leg strength I have. So, how can I do well in races without concentrating on strength-building or speedwork? I play to my “strengths” in other areas.

 One “strength” I’ve developed over the years is the ability to train in a race-specific way by knowing the course I’m going to be running and training specifically for those conditions. This means I carefully study the terrain changes, altitude changes, weather patterns, the frequency and location of aid stations, the number of participants, time of day… the list goes on. The better I want to do in a race, the greater amount of pre-study (and adaptive practices) of all of these items I need to do. The interesting thing I’ve learned about this approach is that it makes me a better runner and a better competitor, regardless of how strong my body is. And, the cool thing is that any skill learned while training for one event can be easily transferred to training for any other event that might offer similar challenges. In T’ai Chi this is called “knowing your opponent” so that you can respond accurately and effectively to anything they throw at you.

So, how does this work in life? It means we all have our own individual strengths, learned or unlearned. And, if we can recognize our strengths and practice applying them in challenging situations, we would all move through life with a little less struggle and a little more confidence. It means that if I want to succeed in any endeavor, I need to apply my current strengths and skills to what I’m approaching so that I can be better at meeting my circumstances. This works for everything from business planning to building a relationship, and it almost always opens doorways to learning new skills or re-appropriating old ones.

Prepare for your next race:

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