Lessons from the Olympics 4 - Grit and Determination
by AndyB Sep 12th 2012
In the last of my series of lessons from the Olympics I'd like to look back to an interview that took place between Phil Jones, the BBC track side interviewer, and Mo Farah after winning the 5000m, his second gold medal of the Olympics. In response to the statement from Phil Jones that he was obviously a talented man Mo replied saying it was more about 'grit and determination'.
It's very easy to think that genetics have not favoured our development and that we are at a disadvantage compared to other people due to factors essentially outside of our control however, to hear Mo attribute his performances to the hard work he has to put in highlights something we can all learn from.
Whilst genetics most likely has a part to play in setting the boundaries of our abilities, I believe in many cases our boundaries are further away from us than we know and often remain untested and untouched. There have been many books written about the 'myth' of talent that we are 'born with' and what we are actually able to achieve with a great many hours deliberate practice (a good example is the book 'Bounce' by Matthew Syed - see link below). Mainly these books will argue that the ability to focus properly, apply ourselves and put in the 'grit and determination' when necessary will certainly improve our chances of success to a far greater extent than just our genetics.
So how can we learn from this and have it benefit our own performance? It's more than just going out and hitting every session as hard as possible (in previous posts I've written about the importance of consistency (3 C's for success) within endurance sports; this means knowing when your body is capable of pushing hard and when it needs an easy day or two but is a slightly different topic area). It means pushing outside our comfort zone, accepting that things get tough at times and that training doesn't always go to plan knowing that sessions can be hard. It means keeping training when the weather is poor, pushing through the last hard rep in a session and heading out of the door after work when sometimes our heads try to persuade us to stay in on the sofa. This grit and determination to stick with it, to master the hard times and to stay positive and keep on going in training and racing allows us to ride the wave of the good times; it is what will allow us to develop beyond our expectations to push our boundaries and to, somewhere in our distant futures, test the limits of our genetics. But for most of us there is a long way to go before we reach this point and to get there we need that grit and determination.
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