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World Record Breakers
...and the Limits of the Human Body

Will you break YOUR record?
Will you break YOUR record?

What are the limits of the human body? Over the last 100 years, every record imaginable of speed, strength and stamina have been broken, and then broken again. In 1900 the fastest runners alive finished a mile run in about 4 minutes and 20 seconds. "Experts" at the time thought anything under 4 minutes was impossible.

There was speculation about how training to achieve something like that would harm a persons health. The repercussions of all that exercise, the cost of the specialized coaching and how the actual attempt might put someone's life at risk. As recently as the 1930s doctors were recommending against exercising with weights because they were concerned about what it could do to your heart.

Then came the professional athletes. Up until the last century, most people simply couldn't afford to dedicate their life to a sport. They were too busy trying to scrape out a living.

What changed, was that sports were wrapped up in a package and sold to the public like a bar of soap. More people got involved. More money got involved. As popularity grew, a professional athlete class emerged and with their singular focus, they started to do things better than ever before.

Coaches and trainers figured out ideal rest and recovery schedules. What to eat and drink, how to train for peak growth and how to make small movement changes for dramatically better outcomes. Here are a couple of records and when they were set.

  • The fastest mile was 3:43.16 set by Hicham El Guerrouj in July 1999. That's over 16 seconds faster than what experts used to think was possible.

  • In 2008 Haile Gebrselassie set a new Marathon record of 2h03:59.

So why are these world records important? Because by charting the extremes, it gives coaches and trainers a better idea of just what the average person is truly capable of. Improvement doesn't happen without pushing beyond, but too often we're afraid to push too hard. When we know the outer limits of abilities, it gives us a range we can use to make things more challenging for the average person, without being so difficult they cause injury.

One way we've used that knowledge is to improve cardio exercise. For decades, the preferred method of cardio training was a method called "steady state." You were supposed to run at a steady pace, for a long period of time, often an hour or more. From professional athletes and the studies they inspired, we now know the most effective form of cardio training is something called Heart Rate Based Intervals. It can be done in half the time of traditional cardio while also giving superior results.

That insight from professional athletes has helped improve the outcomes for tens of thousands of everyday exercisers.

There is a downside to all this knowledge. You've got to guard against what I call the "arrogance of today." It's easy to think what we know is the pinnacle of knowledge. With everything monitored and tracked to the last detail, it's hard to imagine there might be a better, faster or easier way to do things. For some people, they've used all those data points to predict where our abilities will peak.

Around the year 2005, one writer predicted the fastest Marathon possible would be run in 2 hours, 3 minutes and 38 seconds. (2h03:38). It's a time so fast, nobody could imagine someone capable to achieving it, let alone beating it.

Remember that Marathon record I mentioned earlier? It was an impressive 2h03:59, but it wasn't the fastest possible.

On September 28, 2014, a Kenyan runner named Dennis Kimetto ran the Berlin Marathon. He didn't just run the "impossible" time, he beat it by over 40 seconds. Mr. Kimetto's marathon time was 2h02:57, over a full minute faster than the 2008 record.

It's time for you to break through your personal records. Write down your fastest race time, your ideal body weight, your best lift. Beside that write down what you want to achieve in the next six months. Then build a plan to achieve that goal. Set aside time each day to walk, run, exercise, cook or do whatever else you need to be successful.

Not sure where to start? Below are several free programs to try. You can also have a professional trainer design something specifically for you.

Visiting Key West? Train for a 5K race that gives out puzzle piece medals to every finisher! The more races you complete, the more puzzle pieces you have for your collection. Go to: www.ThemeRuns.com.

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