Aging Athlete From Burnout to Brilliance: Part 2: Sharpen Your Axe

Wise ol’ Abe Lincoln had some sage advice: 

“Give me six hours to chop down a tree, and I will spend the first four hours sharpening the axe.”

abraham15But Abe wasn’t really known for his athleticism.  So, how can his advice to sharpen the axe help us shift from athletic burnout to artistic brilliance?

I’ve cut down many a tree and lots of brush – as a forester, coffee farmer, helicopter firefighter and wilderness trail hand.  Axe, cross-cut or chainsaw, if your tool is dull, it’s not an efficient use of your time and energy. 

Well, the same is true for endurance sports! 

  • Running with a dull instrument, it’s going to be a slow and painful slog.  Burnout.
  • Running with a sharp instrument, we’re going to move quickly, precisely and efficiently.  Brilliance.

Endurance Artist: What is your instrument?  

dancing woman wearing blue vest
Photo by Edgar Martínez on

Your instrument is your body.  This is the instrument you “play” to swim, bike, run.  Heck, it’s the instrument you live through!!  No body, no life!

And how do you keep it sharp?

Sharpening your instrument begins with sharp perception.

And this is the advantage of age!!  

 The sharper your perception, the more precision you command as you swim, bike and run.  And, the faster you learn.  To maximize return on your aerobic investment:  Sharpen the axe of your perceptive acuity every time you are training your aerobic capacity. 

There are no limits!!  Over decades of patient training (and a true love for our craft), we accrue knowledge and cultivate wisdom.  Precision, agility, grace and efficiency will continue to improve.


Book One of the Kaizen-durance Series is your manual for sharpening your endurance axe.  Preview Book One here.

Go Deep: Go Inward

image-neural-training-b-600x400As endurance artists, we need to focus on sharpening our inner perception:  Brilliant performance – for the musician and the swimmer alike – requires sharp inner awareness.  We need a seamless interface of body and mind to execute with precision. 

Violin technique or swim technique: The precision of both is infinite: There are no limits to perceptive capacity and acuity. 

Without the sharp axe of perceptive brilliance, technique is sloppy.

With patience and perseverance we seize the opportunity to strengthen the body-brain interface every time we train – day-after-day for decades, well beyond the aerobic prime of youth.

As endurance artists, the axe we sharpen is our perceptive capacity and acuity.

Brilliant perception leads to brilliant action.   

Without brilliant perception, we’re wielding a sledge hammer, not an axe:  MaximalSledge muscular and metabolic fitness won’t make any difference as we smash away.  Sure, we’ll be able to swing that sledge a bit longer, but we aren’t cutting wood; we’re just bludgeoning the tree… and our bodies.

For the athlete, the focus is mind over matter.  For the artist, it’s mind IN matter.

Sharpen Your Endurance Arts Axe:

Thinking “real hard” about chopping down the tree won’t improve the effectiveness of using a sledge hammer.  Instead, sharpen your endurance axe!  Here are some suggestions:

  • As you begin each training session, focus on what you are feeling.  You can’t improve your technique if you aren’t interfacing with your body.
  • Invest deeply in your perceptions: Discover something new about your craft through your sense-felt experience each time you train.  This is how you love your craft.
  • As you train, try this affirmation:

“Finesse is stronger than force.”

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