Sunday, November 19, 2006

"Body & Mind" -> Success (Part II)

KA Ericcson published a paper that caused us all to redefine the Nature vs Nurture assumptions in 1993. The paper was called "The Role of Deliberate Practice in he Acquisition of Expert Performance." In a nutshell, it said that people have simply overestimated the idea of talent, and, in fact, the main correlative factor with talent (or expert performance) is the willingness to practice.

There will be two things that determine your talent: Your Brain and You Body.

If you are a great piano player, most of this is inside of your brain not inside of you fingers. In fact, some instruments like the violin are REALLY inside of your brain, as it takes exceptional motor skills to land the fingers so that they are within the 64th of an inch that can make a note out of tune. The limiting factor in moving your fingers, unless you have lost a finger or have arthritis, is the software in your brain, not the hardware of your fingers.

To the opposite effect, to be a great runner the limiting factor is in your body, not in your brain.

So there are two things that you can train: your mind and your body.

The body has a tendency to "blow up" faster than the brain, so let's see how much of the body we can keep. Therefore, we'll be looking at the body first.

How much can you train your body?

The main measurement that exercise physiologist look at is a measurement call V02Max. It is not important for this post what this is, however, I would like to give the ranges for V02Max.

Here is a table for V02Max. Let's look at a couple of figures. If you are "high" as a 20-29 year old this means that you are a really good runner. This is the guy that you think as an athlete in the office. He runs. He is trim. He finishes high in local running races. If you look on the table, you will see that his V02max will be around 59.

He can run six miles in 40 minutes.

Now pretend that you are 65 years old. If you are "average" your V02max will be around 30.

This means that you can run 6 miles in about 60 minutes.

So how can you increase your V02max? One answer: Practice.

Here is a table on how practicing helps you V02Max. If you can run roughly 75 miles/week, you can raise you V02Max by 15 points. This is pretty amazing. By simply working out a little over an hour per day you can go from an average 20 year old to an athletic 20 year, just one catagory under and Olympic athlete.

However, as you age, you can also use this training effect. Let's go back to the idea we just said a moment ago, that you are a 65 year old male. By running a lot you can take you V02Max to 45. This will now give you a 6 mile run time of 49 minutes. You can roll back the years of time off of your frame.

Your V02Max will go from "average" to high.

The thing about many 65 years old is that they have too much weight on them. The interesting thing about V02Max is that it goes up as you lose weight. Let's say that you are 22 lbs overweight. By losing that 22 lbs, you can raise your V02max to 51.

Now your running time is 45 minutes. This means that you, as a 65 year old "average" guy--who practiced real hard--can probably beat over 50% of the men that are half your age in a running race. Even better, when you run against that "real stud" of a young 20 year old, you finish only 5 minutes behind him. Yes, you aren't going to race him, but you are just a little bit slow. You are not an old man that can't get out of his chair.

Let's review what we just found out:

If you are 65 years old, you can raise your V02Max an unbelievable amount.

If you are average:

You can gain 15 V02Max points by running 75 miles per week.
You can gain 6 additional points by losing 20 pounds.

Now perhaps you can't run 75 (150KM) miles per week. If you can run 60 miles per week, you still can gain 13-14 points on your V02Max. If you can't do this, 30 miles per week can raise your V02Max by 8-9 points. Quite frankly, I like around 30 miles per week since studies show that more mileage that this leads to injury.

So, by the numbers, keeping trim and doing 6 hours of running per week will cause you to have a 6 mile run time of around 50 minutes, just 10 minutes slower than that young stud.

Now, here is the rub. People will look at you and they will say "wow, isn't that guy lucky to be blessed with such good genes, he has so much talent. As a matter of fact, he can keep up with guys half his age."

The issue is that you weren't blessed at all. You gained all of this via God allowing you to train. It was practice that cause this "miracle" to happen.

By training of a consistent basis and keeping trim, you are redefining what it means to be 65 years old.

Your biggest skill? The willingness to work hard.

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