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Fitness Means the Ability to Adapt + Relax and Win

November 1, 2017


Interesting Thought: Fitness Means A Strong Core and the Ability to Adapt


An undeniable lesson of history is that change is constant. This is true whether you're considering the last decade, century, millennia, or eon; whether you're considering an individual person, an organization, or an entire species. Your ecosystem—however broadly you want to define that term—is wildly complex and continuously in flux. The only way to survive as you are is to be who you are and also be willing (and able) to adapt. This is what fitness is all about. 

Being who you are means having a strong core; knowing what you stand for: what values, traits, and habits are integral to you being you. Being willing and able to adapt means understanding that as certain circumstances arise, you're going to have change, at least at the periphery and perhaps even more. 

This is the mechanism of evolution. Ecological evolution. Industrial evolution. Personal evolution. 

Without adhering to a strong core, when change occurs you become something else entirely. Without being willing and able to adapt, when change occurs you get selected out. In both cases, "you" cease to exist; you become extinct.

Whether you're leading a team, organization, or simply trying to lead yourself, this is an important lesson to understand. So much internal tension is created if you don't know who you are and what you stand for, and if you don't live in alignment with it. However, an equal amount of internal tension is created if you're unwilling or unable to adapt. Too many people, teams, and organizations prioritize only one part of the equation, but both are integral. 

I once had a yoga instructor who said: "Strength without flexibility is rigidity, and flexibility without strength is instability." While this definitely has an application on the yoga mat, it has an equally powerful one off of it. 

Take a moment to reflect on the following two questions: 


  • Do you (or your team, organization, etc.) know what you really stand for? What lies at the heart of who you are, what makes you you? 

  • At the same time, are you also cultivating the capacity to be flexible, to adapt when necessary?


Surviving, let alone thriving, over the long-haul requires both.


Coaching Corner: Relax and Win


The person whom I consider the greatest sprint coach of all time, Tom Tellez, liked pointing out to me that almost all distance runners have the wrong idea about how to run fast. He wasn't just being the typical hard-ass sprint coach disparaging the perceived lunacy that is running for a really long time; instead, he was making a very valid point: Most runners believe that to run faster, you need to work harder. To Tellez, this couldn't be more wrong. To run fast, you need to stop forcing it.

Tellez's observation is a simple one: When his athletes really started to dig, they became tense, fighting themselves for tiny portions of extra speed. Their bodies started to work against themselves. On the other hand, when Tellez's runners learned how to stay smooth and make simple adjustments to alter their speed, they ran faster with less effort.

In explaining this concept to me he said, "Steve, when you are running 400-meter repeats, there's not much difference between running a 62 and a 60. You might apply a fraction of more force into the push off, your stride rate might increase by 2 strides per minute, and maybe you lengthen each step by a fraction of an inch. But, in your mind, to go from 62 to 60 is a big task. So instead of making slight adjustments, you bear down, grit your teeth, and try to go. It's like you are trying to go from 62 to 52. That's the mistake most distance runners make."

This observation holds true both on and off the track. Whether it's in running, business, or school our natural inclination is to bear down; to pull all-nighters and force our way through to improvement. Yet whenever we feel ourself forcing our way towards success, the reality is we are just like the runner attempting to work hard to run faster. More often than not, we end up tightening up and producing sub-par work all in the name of "hard work."

This isn't to say we shouldn't work hard. We should. Putting in effort leads to gains that compound over time. But we should also be cognizant of when we go from working hard to forcing it. When we realize this happening, we'd be wise to heed the advice of another famous track coach, Bud Winter: 
"Relax and Win."


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