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  • Writer's pictureKen Lubin

Artificial Limits

By Whit Oliver Co-Founder- Device Origin ​

If you’re reading this, you probably use some form of technology to provide data and feedback for your training… maybe it’s a Fitbit, Garmin, HR monitor, power meter, or some combination thereof. Maybe you have had the very unpleasant experience of measuring your VO2 max. There are countless tools at our disposal to record and interpret training data so we can adjust workouts, get the rest we need, and reach peak performance on race day or whatever it is we’re preparing for.

But there’s a flipside to the argument that all of this data is to our benefit…

We all know how amazing Kenyan runners are. Freaks of nature, right? No doubt they are incredible athletes and pretty much win everything! There are many variables at work here, but their domination of long-distance running is typically explained away by the fact that they live and train at altitude, giving them a physiological advantage. There may be some truth to this, but all professional athletes these days either live at altitude or replicate altitude training at sea level.

​Physiology alone cannot explain this phenomenon. So if not physiology, then what...

Ever heard of The Gold Mine Effect? This is a book written by Rasmus Ankersen. In it, he addresses this very question. More broadly, his research focused on why clusters of world-class athletes emerged from small and unassuming places all over the world. One of those places was a small village in Kenya called Iten. When he went, he discovered something very eye opening and very unexpected. All of these athletes work very hard. No surprise. But there was something else.

None of them used technology in their training!!! Hard to believe, but it’s true…

In fact, he said he never even saw a heart rate monitor or ran across an athlete who knew, or cared, about his or her VO2 max. The only heart rate strap he saw was being used as a makeshift clothesline to dry running kit. So there you go. The world’s best runners are not using heart rate monitors and could care less what their theoretical physiological limits are. Effectively, they don’t have any limits because they simply don’t know what they are supposed to be. Based on the history of where they are from, they simply know that they are destined to be world-class athletes. This blew my mind when I first heard an interview with Rasmus Ankersen a couple of years ago. Of course there are limits to performance at some point, but knowing and relying on this data can impose an artificial ceiling and a mental block that limits our ability to reach new levels. When the Kenyans are racing, they have no idea if or when they have reached their max heart rate.

For them, it’s WIN or BLOW UP trying…

o, the broader question is, how often do we artificially impose limits on ourselves in business and other areas of our lives? I suppose, when translated, it’s really a question of not being afraid to BLOW UP (i.e., FAIL). The Kenyans are not afraid. In fact, they don’t even think in those terms. They believe they are destined to win. They train intensely to do it, but they run on desire and self-belief.

I’m not advocating that we all trash our training tools tomorrow, but maybe paying a little less attention to the “glass ceiling” they impose is a good place to start. The parallel is clear. Prepare intensely, but fight for the win.

​Here’s to BLOWING UP trying!

​By Whit Oliver Co-Founder- Device Origin ​

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