It’s not all about hard work
The world of professional sports has recently been very kind to the media industry, in that there seems to be plenty of scandal to write about. Specifically, the question of doping and performance enhancement.
There has been the ongoing saga of Justin Gatlin’s ‘moral’ eligibility to compete after serving two drug bans, exacerbated by his dominance this season.
Then there are the still-to-be-resolved question marks over Mo Farah’s coach and the implications for his achievements.
Most recently and most prominently you practically have to remind yourself there is actually a cycling race going on in this year’s Tour de France, such is the fixation with the media on what Chris Froome is doing off his bike in order to perform so well on it.
For the latter two, Froome and Farah, there is as yet no evidence to imply they’re doping, apart from their eyebrow raising performances. In Gatlin’s case, there’s nothing to say he’s doping now despite the fact that he’s much older now and hitting the times he used to get when he was doping and much younger.
I’m not going to say to the contrary, because you can’t definitely say they are taking something. Not unless they test positive, or you’re in the room when they do the drugs, or you’re the one administering.
But with a bit of knowledge of the history of pro sports, plus experience of training yourself you can very validly say that their performances are at the very least, suspicious.
Try telling that to their legions of ardent fans.
In life, and especially in fitness and sports a huge emphasis is placed on the merits of hard work.
Hard work gets you places. Hard work beats talent. Hard work is all it takes.
It’s true. Without hard work you won’t get anywhere. But even hard work has its limits. Hard work won’t get you anywhere you want to go.
If you don’t believe that then look at the lifestyle differences between the developed and developing world. Despite what lawyers and bankers will tell you about the extremes of their back-breaking work schedule, there are plenty of people in less well-off countries who do a lot more than 100 hour working weeks, often with actual back-breaking labour.
Are any of these super hard working people ever going to earn a 6 figure salary, have the lifestyle or all the things they want?
The unfortunate reality is that people are hindered by their circumstances, background and even geography of where they were born. They’re limited, no matter how hard they work, or how much they want it.
In other words, you can work just as hard, or harder than someone else and not achieve the same results.
In sports, the mantra of ‘hard work’ is routinely trotted out by both athletes and their supporters who will not, under any circumstances, even entertain the possibility their hero’s are doing “extras” to win.
“I out-work everyone”
“They just want it more than the others”
“How dare you suggest they’re doping, they just work harder than everyone else!”
There’s no doubt you have to have a bloody-minded obsession with pushing yourself if you want to be at the top of pro sports, doubly so if there is a lot of money and prestige at stake.
But can a clean athlete “out-work” and beat someone who dopes?
At the sharp end of elite sports, where everyone is genetically gifted, the short answer is: NO.
You can’t work harder and do more to overcome genetically defined outer limits. It’s like trying to keep adding water to a 1 litre container. At some point the container is full and won’t hold any more. No amount of adding is going to increase the capacity of that container, no matter how much you want it to.
If you’re flogging yourself in training, there comes a point where you need to rest and recover. Doing more at this point is counterproductive.
What if you want to do more? What if you want to keep working? You have to increase the capacity of the container. You do this by taking chemicals or substances that alter your physiology to allow this.
If you think about it, this is no different from drinking caffeine to keep yourself awake and focused to keep working during an all-nighter. Without the caffeine maybe you could power through (to a point) but your performance definitely won’t be as good.
With this in mind, is it likely or possible that one talented and genetically gifted athlete can beat another similarly talented and gifted athlete through ‘hard work’ if the other one is doping?
Logically, that’s impossible. Yet this is exactly what Paula Radcliffe fans are saying, except in this case we’re talking about smashing her rivals (who have tested positive) by the equivalent of a golfer beating someone by 18 shots in one round. (Her 2:15 marathon record is more than 3 minutes faster than her closest, convicted doper, challenger).
Hard work is essential. But it is far from the defining factor in what you’ll achieve. If someone tells you otherwise, in fitness marketing or in general, they’re lying.
Maybe they really believe it. More likely they’re trying to sell you something.
You never know what’s going on behind the scenes. You don’t know what someone is doing, or taking, to get their results.
I am not trying to discourage anyone from putting in 100% effort into their training or anything else in life. It’s just important to realise that you shouldn’t be worrying about anyone else’s results or trying to emulate another person, because you have no idea what they’re doing to get there.
They’ll tell you it’s all hard work, and that if you want it too you should be working harder.
It’s a nice ideal, but it’s not realistic. Tell that to the guy doing 20 hours a day putting together Apple iPhones for a pittance.