As a child I was always fascinated by extremes. It was usually a huge inspriration to me.
The biggest, the fastest, the strongest etc. It was and is always amazeballs, especially when it came to human performance and “best” in the world for athletic accomplishments are simply phenomenal…
Take the marathon. The current world record is 2:03:38. That’s just over 2 hours of running faster than most people can sprint. You NEED to understand exactly how fast this is so here is an experiment for you to try…
Go to a gym and jump on a treadmill. Set the speed to the highest possible setting. For most commercial treadmills this speed will be limited to 20 kmph or 12 mph (the actual speed should be 20.47 kmph or 12.72 mph). Now try running at this pace for more than a few minutes. For the overwhelming majority this is very very difficult. Patrick Macau of Kenya managed to do it non stop for 2 hours, 3 minutes and 38 seconds.
The pace is ridiculous for even an experienced runner and the sports science community thinks that at some point in the next 10 years somebody, somewhere (most likely a Kenyan gentleman!) will crack the 2 hour mark.
Amazing feats are not just modern. Some of the ancient records are ridiculous to imagine. For example at The Archaeological Museum of Olympia, in Athens, Greece there is a big sandstone lump on display. It has a small section at the bottom cut out like a handle. It looks like a Fred Flintstone upside down suitcase.
Some would argue it is probably the worlds first ketllebell. I don’t know about that but the facts are that it weighs 143.5kg or 316lbs.
That’s a spicy meatball!
The inscription on it says: “Bybon, son of Phola, has lifted me over his head with one hand.”
Bybon was a famous Greek weightlifter from 6BC, well over 2600 years ago.
To put this into context the current World Strongest Man (WSM) competition often has an event where the strongmen have to lift a massive dumbell overhead with one hand for max reps. The heaviest weight they use is 115kgs or 255lbs. They don’t do more than a few reps in a minute or so. Modern WSM competitors have all the whey protein they can get their hands on and many train as full time professional athletes. You can bet that Bybon didn’t get sponsorship from a cash rich nutritional company!
Granted the writing on the rock could be a comedy piece of ancient graffiti, the equivalent of photoshopping a picture of yourself holding up the Eifel Tower with one hand but someone went to a lot of trouble to carve the writing on that stone and I like to give the Ancient Greeks a break. They have a beautiful country afterall.
The problem with being the best at one thing is that you become highly focussed on a very specific task, which by definition means that you have to sacrifice other, unnecessary elements to that task. A good example of this is Olympic Weightlifing. At the highest end of the sport the World’s best can lift massive weights overhead that most of us can only dream of simply deadlifting. Sometimes asking a weightlifter to do a task that requires the simplest form of endurance yields interesting but not surprising results .
A good example of this is when I saw a friend of mine who is an accomplished weightlifter and coach, try to do a Tabata protocol on a rowing machine. 8 rounds of 20 seconds of max effort rowing for KCals, with a 10 second rest between each round. 4 mins of work. No more, no less. Simples! We agreed that the final “score” on this would be the lowest KCal reading in any of the 8 rounds.
His scores were as follows:
Round 1 = 14
Round 2 = 13
Round 3 = 11
Round 4 = 7
Round 5 = 5
Round 6 = 3
Round 7 = 3
Round 8 = 2
Final score 2.
If you’ve ever done a Tabata row you’ll know what a score of 14 means and what a score of 2 means.
Put simply he had MASSIVE power output for his first round. In fact the first 3 rounds were really good but he simply couldn’t keep up the same output for more than a minute when he fell off the proverbial cart and rolled down the hill landing in a shaking mess. It was partly his own fault for going too hard at the start but it is also reflective of what he did as an athlete. Most of his training was limited to heavy working sets of up to 5 or 7 reps at most. How long does it take to do 7 heavy reps? Probably less than a minute.
Another friend I know, who had ran 35 marathons and 10 ultra marathons, could not fully backsquat any more than half of his bodyweight when I started working with him. He weighed about the same as a first class stamp! Weak as hell but he’d outrun you in a distance race every time. So being a specialist isn’t always a good thing.
The CrossFit Games take place this week. The most exciting event to watch on the CrossFit calendar and I can’t wait!
This is a chance to see what the extreme of being an all rounder is!
Being a specialist at everything is what it’s all about.
You could argue that this is how humanity has evolved and developed over the past 3 million years. By being good at a diverse range of things you make yourself better suited to not only survive but thrive and the gene pool gets stronger.
Watching these men and women do multiple, ever changing events in person is cool. Not only does it excite you it makes you feel a bit smug because you’re part of this unique exciting CrossFit club. You can do these very same workouts or scaled versions of them at your own CrossFit gym. Once you do try them you’ll realise just how good these athletes are and maybe it will inspire you to be a better athlete…