The Power of Persistence: An Unbeatable Formula when Paired with Learning

Posted On March 15, 2024

The Power of Persistence: An Unbeatable Formula when Paired with Learning

One of my favorite quotes that I believe applies to many things in life is:

Nothing in the world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not: nothing is more common than unsuccessful people with talent. Genius will not: unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not: the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent. – Herbert Hoover

As someone who has been working out regularly since 1955, I am a poster boy for persistence.

However, I believe there is another critical element in the equation: learning what works and does NOT work!


Persistence without learning is merely OCD

Over the course of several decades, I have encountered many people who persisted in following practices or programs that led to burn out, dead ends and/or injury.

The common theme in all these cases was that the person doing the persistent work never bothered to see if the approach they were following was producing the results they wanted.

In some of the more extreme cases, I have seen people do workout programs that led them to serious injuries or disabilities.

Workouts without feedback and learning have limited value particularly in the long term.


Classic road to ultimate failure: more is always better

When I was doing foot racing I never competed at a distance beyond half-marathon. Mostly I did shorter races in the 5-10K range.

I always ignored the people who kept telling me that the marathon was the only true distance race or that it was something of the ultimate test.

Over two and a half decades of foot racing I noticed that most people who ran the marathon had very short careers. Usually, they would manage to develop an overuse injury or suffer from a more dramatic injury that would end their careers.

I have never seen any data on how long people can run marathons and avoid career ending events. My strong suspicion based on casual observation and knowing several people who were heavily involved in running marathons is that very few people manage to last more than a few races.

However, some marathon runners kept doing the race for decades.

The marathon, much like powerlifting, can be pursued for many years IF the person doing event uses their mind to develop a deep understanding of what training works for them and what will lead them to injury or burn-out.


Persistence and feedback (can) = Learning

The fitness business seems to be awash in a constant din of claims for the relative merits of one new program or another.

As I have noted in these newsletters before, there is very little in the fitness business that is actually new.

Perhaps the most recent innovation is interval training that was devised for track athletes in 1936.

Today this practice is marketed as HITT with the implication that it is new.

Compared to weightlifting (Greek Olympics) or kettlebells (1708), interval training is new.

IMHO what is most important in consistently building your skills and capabilities is to be both persistent in your training, but also learn from your experience.


Learning the right thing

Simply going through a workout in a gym without consciously working to improve your lifting technique or some other specific objective is simply a brain-dead rote performance.

It is much like trying to improve your piano playing by banging on the keyboard with your fists.

No matter how much you work, or how aggressively you pound the keys, your ability will stay locked in at a very low level.

To consistently improve or stay at the top of your game, it is essential to focus on the skills you need to practice and manage your workload. By doing this it becomes possible to continue to do the physical and mental work needed to produce the best outcome.

Each of us has a unique formula for what we must do in order to perform at our best. It is essential to use feedback from training to learn what works and does not workfor us.

Lift Big,


Written by Richard

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