In popular culture and media, when we hear the term ‘high performance’ we readily picture something like fast athletes or fast cars. That impression comes easily because getting to a destination most quickly is highly prized in our society.

Photo by Paul Jespers on Unsplash

But we know that getting somewhere quickly is definitely not the only thing or even the main thing many of us value most, despite what they say.

The term ‘high performance’ for you needs to be defined by what you value most. If your highest value is reaching a podium, beating your younger self, or gaining bragging rights against a friend or opponent then high performance can be defined by that. But if your highest value is living a long, healthy and meaningful life, then high performance needs to be defined and measured in terms of those values. It needs to be pursued through processes that aim for those outcomes. You need to know what you are doing in training is contributing to the ‘long’ value, the ‘healthy’ value, and the ‘meaningful’ value and not taking you away from those.

Being healthy, for example, does require physical growth (in order to counter decay), and some aspects of growth may likely be measured in terms of strength and speed and endurance – especially for those who are particularly weak compared to where they should be for those values. Being healthy also requires avoiding (serious) injury while sustaining activity year after year, decade after decade. This means avoiding doing too much of a good thing, as much as doing too little. It also involves keeping proper balance (or tension, we might say) between exercise/sport with other necessary aspects of a good life, like mental development, relationships, and work or meaningful contribution to society. 

I make this point because the media and the athletic programs out there are trying to sell us ‘high performance’ of the faster-and-furious kind and if we view the dominate advertisements we quickly get the impression that this is the kind of performance that everyone should be seeking. But I suspect that they are all clambering for the attention of a very, very small % of the interested population. In fact, the vast majority of people out there – you and I included – are actually in the market for a kind of high performance that has a lot more to do with being a healthier person, with being a better person than with getting to a podium or gaining bragging point against other athletes (or against the coach-potatoes in our social media networks). Higher performance of their kind is more about ‘get my reward now’, while the high performance that most of us really want is about ‘a reward that extends and lasts the rest of my life’. (I also acknowledge that fast-and-furious is more photogenic – it is harder to advocate for the alternative value because there is not a lot of flashy things to show for it on social media, compared to showing off one’s latest Garmin data, or photo of the race finish or vein-streaked bicep).

Yoga and meditation classes aren’t the only places we can go to find ‘high performance’ of the peaceful or harmonious or healthful kind. It can be found in the athletic movement arts as well. But those of us aligned with these values need to make it better known that you can find support with us for high performance in health, in longevity, and in harmony with other important faces of life. Those of us seeking support from a coach or training program need to dig a little deeper to make sure these providers are really sharing our same values and not just giving lip service while continuing to follow ideas about training that belong more to the fast-and-furious crowd.

It could be a helpful exercise for you to take a moment and write down what you really value, what you really want to get out of your athletic activity, now and later in life. Then give more scrutiny to the training products, the programs and the processes you are using or you might consider using. Rather than be impressed with the flashy video clips and photos of the advertisement, consider what actual evidence is there that these are truly aligned with your values and that they will guide you to an outcome you seek. If you haven’t already, hopefully you’ll find your tribe of people all seeking the same kind of performance, then get involved and contribute to the collective growth of that community. They’ll be glad to have you.

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