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“The ultimate is not to win, but to reach within the depths of your capabilities and to compete against yourself to the greatest extent possible. When you have that, you have dignity. You have the pride. You can walk about with character and pride no matter in what place you happen to finish. - Billy Mills, 1964 10k Olympic Gold Medalist   Two Races No one predicted that William Mervin Mills would win the gold medal in the 10,000 meter run of the 1964 Olympics in Tokyo. A member of the Oglala Lakota (Sioux Tribe) from South Dakota, Billy was a United States Marine who attended the University of Kansas on an athletic scholarship for his considerable running abilities. Billy faced poverty as a youth, was orphaned at age twelve, and experienced repeated racial prejudice that led to suicidal thoughts. On top of it all, Billy had hypoglycemia, which affected his performance on the track. No one predicted Billy would win in Tokyo — no one, that is, but Billy.Given the internal trauma Billy was dealing with due to racism and other life challenges, he later described the 1964 Olympic 10k as two distinct races: “The first was to heal the broken soul. And in the process, I won an Olympic gold medal.” Let this sink in: Mills won the 10k in Tokyo by beating his previous personal best by nearly 50 seconds. In so doing, he set an Olympic record and became the only American to win gold in this discipline, a feat that holds true nearly 60 years later. Mills’ achievement is difficult to comprehend for anyone who has participated in long-distance running. Improving on personal bests by five or ten seconds after many years of high-level competition is a tremendous accomplishment; bettering one’s personal record over 6.2 miles by almost 50 seconds...

Most people who start out in barbell lifting are familiar with conventional deadlifts. It’s typically the style of deadlifting we learn in traditional weightlifting gym setting, P.E., group fitness classes, and even rehabilitation settings to retrain hip hinge patterns. When it comes to sumo deadlifting, it is most commonly seen in the world of powerlifting. The question often gets asked, “should I pull sumo or conventional?” But to simplify this piece, we are actually not going to address that question here. What we want to cover in this piece, are considerations for new lifters to sumo, who have already decided they want to give sumo deadlifting a chance and are experimenting with sumo deadlift technique.To kick off the discussion, the first thing to consider when switching from conventional deadlifts to sumo deadlifts is understanding that there is more to it than just widening your stance and trying to pull. Most people familiar with powerlifting already have this general idea, but a lot of people new to barbell lifting and sumo deadlifting tend to fall into this poor movement pattern, resulting in using the exact same mechanics and strategies to perform the lift as if they were pulling conventional… just with their feet a little wider.Let us paint a picture; the most common technique fault we see with lifters going from conventional to sumo is bringing stance out wide (mostly hip abduction) without giving much thought to foot, knee, and hip angle, and bringing their grip really narrow. This position tends to lead to more upper back flexion requiring more effort to overcome that spinal rounding at the top of the lock out, which also ends up making hip extension difficult. As loads get heavier with this technique fault described, we see people struggling before lock out in an overly flexed,...

It had never been done before. El Capitan — the famous 3,000-foot granite face in Yosemite — once seemed impossible to climb at all, let alone solo and without ropes. But on June 3, 2017, Alex Honnold posed for a National Geographic photo — climbing shoes in hands, wide grin on face — atop the mammoth monolith after 3 hours and 56 minutes of flawless execution that crisp morning. His many years of meticulously detailed practice and planning had culminated in the realization of a dream that, three years after the fact, remains unthinkable to the lion’s share of humanity.Why did he do it? How did he do it? Journalists around the world covered the incredible, death-defying feat, and the Free Solo documentary has netted almost $30M as of this writing. Nathaniel Rich of The Atlantic claimed that what we envy in Honnold is not so much his climbing ability, but rather “his ability to forget about death.”It may seem over-the-top to compare the exploits of competitive lifters to Honnold’s awe-inspiring solo climbs; after all, what percentage of iron game participants transition to Valhalla after a one-rep max attempt? But make no mistake about it: loading more weight than your body has ever handled onto a squat bar and entering that special gauntlet — solo — requires serious commitment and extensive preparation, the lack of which has resulted in countless injuries (or worse). The PrecipiceWhile cliffs, crags, and escarpments lie squarely within the climber’s world, there is a very real precipice that lifters face as part of their iron journey. The fact that this dizzying overhang is more psychological than physical in no way diminishes its power.EliteFTS founder Dave Tate calls this precipice The Void, or what occurs deep inside the lifter during “the moment between the chalk box and the...

Unconscious. The flow state. In the zone.These terms describe how we comprehend incredible performances — in athletics, the creative arts, and elsewhere — during which the protagonist transcends the mundane to momentarily enter another dimension.Witnessing the zone in others is powerful; experiencing it ourselves can be literally breathtaking.We have all seen the phenomenon in the sports world: swimmer Michael Phelps winning eight gold medals in one Olympics; runner Joan Benoit Samuelson besting the field to become the first women’s Olympic marathon champion; sprinter Usain Bolt annihilating the competition in both the 100m and 200m at three consecutive Olympics. While these are inspiring examples, the zone or flow state is not limited to the Olympic Games, winning medals, or even the wide world of sports. Instead, one can “flow” in a seemingly unlimited number of realms and disciplines, to include one’s profession as well as one’s passion (which may or may not overlap). The Flow State and the “Best Self” ConceptMihaly Csikszentmihalyi, the psychologist who first identified the flow principle, described it as follows:“The best moments in our lives are not the passive, receptive, relaxing times… The best moments usually occur if a person’s body or mind is stretched to its limits in a voluntary effort to accomplish something difficult and worthwhile.”Years ago, a friend pursuing an MBA at Harvard University asked me (in the context of a class assignment, the Reflected Best Self exercise) to identify times when his “best self” had emerged. I do not recall the examples I conveyed to him at the time, but this “best self” concept has stuck with me over the years. Specifically, it has caused me to repeatedly reflect upon my own “best self” moments and what I believe has led to them.Only recently did I make the connection between this “best self”...