Polemics and Pursuits in Performance

by Stuart Klassen December 17, 2015

Polemics and Pursuits in Performance

Polemics and Pursuits in Performance

Can it be that I have not lived as one ought?" suddenly came into his head. "But how not so, when I've done everything as it should be done?

Leo Tolstoy, The Death of Ivan Ilych 

As Ivan Illych lay on his deathbed he questioned aloud to his wife whether he had lived his entire life wrong. A short time ago, Ilych‘s words came to mind when I came to the similar cross roads when thinking about my training – maybe I was doing it wrong the whole time? It’s easy to be fooled by setting PRs and say you’re the best you’ve ever been. The question still remains: are you the best you could have been? 

In Illych’s words – arguably - there may be a familiar reverberating echo of much older dictum in Plato’s Apology: the unexamined life is not worth living.

Much the same: the unexamined approach to training is not worth pursuing.

Train on-purpose.

This has guided my training in the last 5 years. As I understand this particular approach today, it leads me down many different paths and to different styles and modes of training - all of which expand my training experience

That is the bitter-sweet beauty of exercise induced stress: the experience of the your complete response to it. It’s an experience that sometimes has no words. 

Why avoid skipping, plyometrics, agility training and different styles of weightlifting? I did this for a long time because, in my mind I thought: “I am an ‘X’. X’s do this. This is what I do.”

My approach to training - at times in the past - was extremely dogmatic. I stood steadfast to ‘old school’ training approaches and quietly (well, most times not-so-quietly) scoffed at anyone doing anything different. I just sat back and drank my raw egg whites and with my Mega Mass 5,000 shakes and laughed at their confused state of existence.

Everything  Stuart and I offer at White Lion Athletics was done through many (many) conversations, text messages, emails and brainstorming sessions. I would often joke with Stuart that we’d have 5,000 agility cones in stock and need to repurpose them to cover the outsides of buildings. 

From my experiences, I can say that safely incorporating something completely different into your training - that is still inline with its principled purpose and your current level of ability -  can only widen the scope in experiencing your potential as a human being.

I had the opportunity to work in a field that required I work in some sparsely populated places – a hamlet with a population of 75 for example. During this time I found myself skipping, doing box jumps, spending more time on mobility work and avidly reading anything and everything I could about performance.

During this time, I came to the conclusion that in the past, although I pushed myself to my limits – and past them – I was still safely couched in my comfort zone. I did exercises I was very strong at. I never looked for my weaknesses.

It’s ironic that, without an audience, I was comfortable trying everything and anything that would expose my weaknesses. In retrospect, though, the only audience that ever existed was most likely my ego and I avoided things that would expose my weaknesses. In The Art of War, Sun Tzu states: 

So in war, the way is to avoid what is strong and to strike at what is weak.

The biggest war I had – and have – is with my ego. The most fulfilling experiences come with its silence when I am comfortable in the face of my momentary inability to perform.

When we offer things at White Lion Athletics that seem to have absolutely no place in your training regime: those are the things you probably need the most. Don’t take yourself too seriously; however, take your training very seriously by looking for every weakness you have.


Stuart Klassen
Stuart Klassen


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