Pure Performance


In his book “Unlocked”, psychologist and elite performance coach George Mumford writes about the concept of Pure Performance, contrasting it with Peak Performance. According to Mumford “peak performance is stationary, like a mountain summit” while “pure performance is flow, carrying us along ceaselessly and constantly revealing new heights, new possibilities and new potential”. His concept has incredible merit. Peak performance is the destination, while pure performance can last however long we want it to.

I have been in the competition game a long time. 25 years ago I came to triathlon after a competitive swimming career. When I am asked how many triathlons I have completed, I honestly don’t know. I also don’t neatly recall my best times, that’s because I don’t chase those things.

If I was still chasing times I would be living 20 years in the past. I have never tried to “get back to”, rather it’s been “what is possible?”. That is what lights me up. The windshield is bigger than the rearview mirror, as the saying goes. We can’t do anything about the past, it’s gone, while the future holds so much promise.

When I read about the concepts of peak performance versus pure performance I can literally feel that difference. A finish line versus the long and winding road that never quite ends. That’s the beauty of this whole lifestyle I have lived for so long. Triathlon isn’t like gymnastics, where you eventually age out of it. Triathlon (and this applies to many many other sports also) is a journey that you can step into, step out of, and traverse throughout your entire life.

Appreciate the past, and create the future, no matter what age.

Yes things change as we age and evolve through life. It’s so interesting to see how we can change the way we prepare both physically and mentally to enhance our own personal level of performance. The easy road to take is to lament your aching body and your old knees. The harder but far more interesting road is the one of curiosity. So the knees might ache, maybe we can’t maintain the weekly volume we did in our 20’s. How can we adapt, what can we do to keep ourselves health fit and fresh? You would be surprised at what a dose of curiosity and beginner’s mind can do for you.

Mumford teaches that one of the methods for achieving pure performance, is meditation. It’s what his students who include Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant embraced. In a world where people think mindfulness causes athletes to lose their edge, these athletes demonstrated it helped them to gain their edge. The beauty of meditation is that you don’t need to be sitting in a studio on a cushion with a fancy app to guide you. You can literally be anywhere at anytime. You can do it for 30 seconds or 3 hours. The key to meditation is having insight. Mumford describes insight as “Information, it’s your discerning intellect working in accord with your intuition and your direct experience in the moment. Insight needs to be balanced with trust. Trust in yourself. Trust in the team. Trust in the game plan. Trust leads to faith, and faith is what you need in order to make the right effort, which will lead you to a good result”. Insight. Instead of resistance. Think about it.

Your training program might be filled with FTP, V Dot, paces, heart rate zones, fueling plans, sleep tracking, but remember… “the longest distance you are ever going to have to travel is the distance from ear to ear”. Some days that distance is noisy. If you step back though, it can be quiet. It can be beautiful. And it can be the defining factor between your peak performance and your pure performance.

I am amused by how many people chuckle at this concept. I know firsthand how powerful it is.

Peak performance. Pure performance. Allowing yourself to tap into it through meditation by developing insight.

Nah, you say, just give you the paces? Had Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant stuck to that plan, I bet they would have hit a self imposed ceiling. See if you can at least be curious about it. What if? Could this be the key to creating the future and appreciating the past?

I can’t think of one reason not to give it a shot. As Wayne Gretzky said, “The only shots you miss, are the ones you don’t take”. What have you got to lose?

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