Philosophy of Phitness
Updated: Jan 14, 2020
It’s that time of the year once again. The nights are getting shorter and the time I spend sitting on the bike, dottling on trail, and staring at the black line are getting longer. It is base time for myself and many others - putting in the long hours so I can hopefully be a little faster this year (kind of an odd concept to try to spend as little time as possible at an event I spent so much money to attend). I am not the biggest fan of headphones, so I spend a great deal of time with my own thoughts. In this article you will get to learn about what I think about most during these workouts, My Philosophy of Phitness.
I am definitely not a student of Philosophy, but I find it quite interesting. That said, I approach sport from three different Hellenistic schools of thought; Epicureanism, Stoicism, and Platonism.
I believe that I have an Epicurean approach toward my coaching. Epicureanism, as I see it, states that happiness comes from a lack of fear and a lack of pain. As a person, I am naturally nervous and unsure of myself. I was terrified when I started coaching. There is a lot of pressure to make some a better athlete (which is a whole philosophical can of worms in itself). So I did, and still do, what the Epicureans did to relieve myself of fear. I sought knowledge. The Epicureans believe that fear and pain come from a lack of knowledge. We fear what we do not understand. I will not write a workout without understanding why I am writing that workout. I spend a tremendous amount of time reading papers and going over data so I can be up to date on coaching techniques and theory.
As anyone who as been taught fitting by me knows, when it comes to technique I am a big fan of Platonism. One of the major tenants to Platonism is the “Theory of Form" which, in a nutshell, states that there are transcendental archetypes and things in everyday life that are imperfect copies. To that end, I approach fitting / run analysis with the idea that everyone has their own perfect and my job is to help achieve that form.
As an athlete, I am a Stoic. Stoicism gets thrown around a lot with a variety of definitions. My personal interpretation of Stoicism is to appreciate the moment for what it is, so a lack of want. Last year during IM Boulder I cramped harder than I had ever cramped before at the start of the run. The only thing that got me through the first three or so miles was Stoicism. It hurt very badly, but instead of wishing for the cramp to go away, I accepted that I was cramping. Accepting the moment for what it was allowed my to find a little bit of peace, which allowed me to make it through the cramping and finish the race. The main point I keep in mind when I am racing is that things do not have to be good or bad, they can just be. Being able to accept and appreciate the low point in race/workout/etc as much as the high point allows us to experience the entirety of the event.
Some might find is strange that I consider myself a Stoic and Epicurean (being that one came to be as a rejection of the other), as well as a Platonist. But the whole point of Philosophy is figuring out the point of life. I find joy in all three of these ways of thinking, which is the same reason I got into so many different sports.
Do yourself a favor during a long workout and think about WHY you enjoy racing.