Bumblebees and Race Horses
My experience as an athlete in adult-life started in the field of triathlons. I became enthralled by the “Iron-Man” and the idea of pushing one’s body to unconceivable limits in my early 30’s. My first official training/educational book came in the form of “The Triathlete’s Training Bible” written by coach-extraordinaire Joe Friel. While I’ve never met Coach Friel personally, I can tell you he is a class act. I was diagnosed with pericarditis in 2007(google it) as a result of a lake-born parasite I apparently swallowed during a training swim in a stagnant summer Texas lake. After being sick and unable to train for almost 4 months, I randomly emailed Coach Friel asking for advice since he had a similar experience a few years before. Although by all accounts he was/is a celebrity in the endurance sports world, he promptly returned my email with an encouraging shot in my arm. I eventually recovered from my illness and went on to have one of the best competitive years since I started multisport.
One story in his book stood out for me personally and I believe has guided my life as an athlete ever since. A few years ago, as the story goes, scientists at NASA developed an interest in the lowly bumblebee. The lab folks reckoned that the little insect held some secrets of flight that might provide answers to questions about operating in outer space. After all, how could such small wings provide efficient enough lift for a relatively large, rotund, and hairy torso???(sounds like mine) And how could a round body and flight position, that violated many principles of aerodynamics, move more effectively through the air than our best military helicopters???
So the scientists set about studying the bumblebee to discover its flying secrets. As scientists always do, they analyzed, hypothesized, scrutinized, examined, dissected, experimented, measured, timed, filmed, observed, compared, quantified, debated, published, thought about, and calculated. After weeks of intensive study, they came to one single conclusion… Bumblebees are not capable of flight… nope, no can do.
Fortunately nobody told the bumblebee. The silly little insects go right on believing flight is normal for them despite what the best minds in the physics world know as fact. We can learn a lot from the lowly bumblebee. The single most critical piece of the fitness/performance puzzle is believing in yourself and your capacity to succeed. Henry Ford once said “If you think you can, or think you can’t, you’re probably right.” The bumblebee THINKS it can fly. Actually, the thought of anything else never even crosses his little pea-brain. He just keeps on flying.
Then, there’s the racehorse. Have you ever been to the Kentucky Derby, Ruidoso Downs, or other big horse race? The physiology of the equine athlete is very similar to the human athlete’s, and they are trained in much the same manner… they do strength training, intervals, long endurance workouts, and short speed workouts… they even use Tabatas. They have work-days and rest-days… a periodized training calendar with major events timed appropriately, insuring that they peak at the right moment, and they follow a diet that will help fuel and support increased athletic performance.
Psychologically, race horses differ a great deal from multisport and CrossFit athletes. They(the horses) never question their training preparation. When it comes time for a workout designed by their trainer(coach), they do it without wondering “was it enough?”, “will it make me stronger/faster?”, “am I recovered enough to do the WOD?”. They don’t get up early the next morning and put in a few extra “junk-miles” or do double-wod-days for insurance. Their motivation doesn’t teeter on how well they did on the WOD compared to their competition. They don’t worry or fret after a poor performance… stable-life goes on as usual.
On race-day horses are nervous just like their human counterparts… hence the term having to “piss like a racehorse”… or like many ladies in my afternoon classes. They know what is about to happen but they don’t magnify the tension by comparing themselves to other horses… “look at the legs on that stud!” Instead they are purposeful in their approach to training and racing. There is but one reason for everyday existence… to get faster, stronger, leaner, etc. If the horse is healthy and physically strong, and the trainer is smart, this happens.
If you are to succeed in multisport(ie, CrossFit, trailrunning, adventure-racing, or life in general), the first thing you HAVE to do is believe in yourself just as the bumblebee does. Without this, all the science in the world will not do ANY good. Secondly, you must have purposeful, racehorse-trust in your training. Continually second-guessing your trainer or coach, cherry-picking workouts, doing “your own thing”, or changing your training direction after every race or WOD is a sure-fire way to fail.
I strongly believe in the coaches at CFV and their ability to provide us all with a training calendar that is mindful, purposeful, and broadly inclusive to help EVERYONE to become fitter, better, and keep us motivated no matter what your fitness goals or athletic pursuits. And while it’s impossible to cater to everyone’s goals as far as periodizing for a scheduled race in peak shape, the programming at CFV is sound… created by “fitness-professionals” who practice what they preach and have a lot of years of experience. Following the said programming WILL help you achieve all those things you might be thinking are unreachable. Some day you WILL get your muscleup, double-under, PR snatch, HSPU, etc. Stick to the plan, believe in your coaches… believe in yourself.
Think like a bumblebee… train like a horse. Hoods up, headphones on. 3…2…1…GO!!!