I have a Japanese friend. He has done over 20 Ironman triathlons. His secret?
He is 74
People believe that Ironman racing and marathons are tough. That is a consequence of our easy and sedentary lifestyle. In my office job, unless I have to go out and see someone, it is easy to only take 3,500 steps a day.
So when we talk of a marathon where we have to do 50–60,000 steps over 4 hours it sounds shocking. Ten times more effort than you normally do in a day!!!!!!
It’s the Wrong Comparison
I have another friend. She’s actually my mother in law. She grew up in eastern Turkey. Her dad was a farmer and as a young girl she worked in the fields. That, pre-mechanisation, means working from dawn to dust. It means walking a marathon every day, whilst bending down every ten steps, whilst carrying a 10kg bag for half of it and only having a water break at lunchtime.
Well that’s what the majority of humans have done in agricultural societies for the last 6,000 years. Back break labour each and every day to avoid, hopefully, starving to death in the spring. Why the spring? The food has run out and the new shoots haven’t become edible yet.
So when I think of a marathon or an Ironman my thought isn’t that it is extreme. My thought is that it is a nicely packaged, lite version of what human bodies have been doing for millennia.
Does that sound crazy?
Think back to my Japanese friend. He is not alone. When you go and watch a marathon or Ironman look at the back of the race. You’ll see hundreds of people there. They are fat, old, young and slow. Some of them will be limping from blisters. Some of them will be cursing that they haven’t trained. All of them will be quite different to the über fit image that sport marketers promote. Think Body Shop not Nike.
They are the proof that marathons and triathlons are not extreme. They are the proof that people love exercising their bodies in the way that they have done for millennia. Are humans designed for endurance? Not designed but evolved.
This answer originally appeared on Quora