Change Your Thinking, Change Your Fitness

Roger Bannister

In 1952 a young English runner named Roger Gilbert Bannister found himself in the 1500m final. The race was to prove one of the most dramatic in Olympic history, and the outcome was not decided until the final metres. Bannister finished a disappointing fourth. Over the next two months Bannister considered a number of dramatic changes to his training; and even the idea of giving up running altogether. To say he was frustrated is an understatement. Ultimately, he decided on a new goal – he would run a mile in less than four minutes. At that time, nobody had ever achieved this. In fact, this was several seconds faster than the world record. Over the next couple of years he gradually took slices off his times. By the start of 1954 he was running a mile in just over 4min2secs. The day that was to change his life came in May 1954, during a meet in Oxford. In front of 3,000 incredulous spectators, Bannister ran the mile in 3min 59.4sec. He had finally done it.

A new way of thinking

The astonishing part is not just Bannister’s achievement (although that’s a big thing in itself); it’s how quickly other runners were breaking the same barrier. Just 46 days later – in a meet in Turku, Finland – Australian John Landy broke the record with a 3m57.9s . Others soon followed. This to me outlines the power of a mental barrier to limit goals; particularly when it comes to fitness. The fact that something hasn’t been done certainly doesn’t mean it can’t be done. It also highlights the importance of putting hard numbers in the goal. Whenever I’ve tried to ‘lose a few kilos’, ‘increase my overall strength’, ‘run without gasping for breath’ I’ve seen slight improvements at best. Aiming to ‘lose 10kg’, ‘deadlift 200kg’ etc has proven far more effective.

Change Your Thinking, Change Your Fitness