Why do we do these sports? Why do we voluntarily put ourselves through all kinds of hellish conditions, suffer pain and often injury and yet find ourselves at the finish line or the end of a workout and want to do it all over again?
2x Olympian, coach and extraordinary endurance athlete, Chris Hauth has an amazing answer. Chris appeared on the terrific Rich Roll podcast and shared an amazing perspective on why we do endurance sports he wrote titled “Meaning.” It’s not posted anywhere online so we transcribed it to share with all credit to Chris Hauth.
It’s a long read but well worth slowing down a bit to take it all in.
Meaning by Chris Hauth
“I feel as though there are so many out there looking for meaning not in a deeper spiritual way but instead that they are missing something. Something fulfilling, something that sets their wires straight. I think that is why ultra-endurance and endurance world of adventures, events, and expeditions has gained so much appeal of late. I believe it satisfies these needs; this sense of purpose, sense of living to our potential, this self-realization that there is more to us than sleeping, eating and working/career. Of course, there’s time for family and in more rarer cases, unfortunately, for community and church and more.
We are hardwired for nature, to be outside, to live connected with our environment, to feel it to play and struggle in it.
But one thing is missing in all of this, the self. The time for self, the time for self-health, the time for spending time with thoughts, reflection, elevated heart rate, muscular activity, and most importantly, fresh air and nature.
Endurance events allow for this and more. A connection with nature, with the environment, with its beauty, its ability to revive us. We are hardwired for nature, to be outside, to live connected with our environment, to feel it to play and struggle in it. To be challenged by it and therefore challenge ourselves. This sense of adventure, challenge, struggle, and realization is what pulls people to becoming endurance athletes to discover their potential.
At first, maybe not a huge step, but seeing what we are capable of, and growing from there to a new potential and all the while connecting to our truest rawest, inner self, how we are hardwired as animals to nature, to the outdoors, to a sense of a feeling alive in it via activity. Everything is active around us in nature. And of course, we as humans are part of this nature, part of this growth and vibrant balance. And as the athlete continues to grow to new challenges, which then add some fear and curiosity and uncertainty to it (which again, brings us back to our true raw self), that human living with the outdoors, surviving outdoors, and feeling most alive when we are truly challenged, physically and mentally by nature and our endeavors in it.
Nothing can replace that as it is our truest raw self. It’s buried deep down there, but the more athletes connect with it, the more they realize how much that dormant self was in them, and they want to unlock and unleash more, it makes them better or energetic, healthier, happier, more creative, more efficient, more connected, and therefore caring.
The stewardship of our environment and nature begins with loving yourself in it and feeling this connection to it. How can one relate to the environment and its destruction if one is foreign when in it. But when we have felt how we are truly part of it, that is a deeply connected and wired part of us, we begin to unlock this hard wiring and allow it to fire more and more in order to feel alive and joyful and happy and motivated in our days. Not only to get out and spend time in it again, but revitalized for work, and family and community and more. Because our own tank of self-care is full, and we are connected and seeing and feeling our potential physically and emotionally. We need the fresh air for all of that to fire.
That huge piece is our hardwired self for outdoor adventure, physical activity.
As I heard the other day, in order to love others we need to love ourselves. We can’t give more love than we are able to give ourself. So knowing that we have this emptiness and missing component in our lives, makes living generously and giving very hard, we are missing something. That huge piece is our hardwired self for outdoor adventure, physical activity. And with that comes curiosity with what we could be capable of awakening the endurance athlete within, the one that is curious if they can achieve that goal and once seeing that growing to a new level of appreciation of that better, healthier, more confident, beautiful, vibrant, energetic self that glows outward, because on the inside the fire of that missing component has been lit.
The challenge is we feel this imbalance, we just can’t identify what it is. We have become so disconnected from our potential that we don’t know how to explain what it is. But most, once outside in nature, training with a healthy fear towards an event on the outer edge of their current capability, start to understand. I was reading the other day about how we no longer have these rites of passage that young men and women used to go on out in nature, surviving on our own living in the world of our environment, off the land for days to really feel it, sleeping it, awaken it, live off of it and immerse ourselves in it. We no longer have this and it might be leaving a curious hole in our soul that is missing.
Why is it we are so curious and mystified by the outdoor life, adventure’s raw ability in nature when we see those pictures or hear the stories and it tugs at us and it leaves us daydreaming? Because we are drawn to it, it is who we are, how we are hardwired from thousands of years of living in nature in balance with it, surviving in it being challenged by it, being overwhelmed by it feeling alive on the ocean, or in the woods in the mountains or the desert. It all has its effect on us. We all think back to the beautiful moments, outdoors, alive.
Your senses come alive, ever so gradually, all the components and cells of your body start awakening and firing because that is where we are originally from; land, sea, air.
Have we been sterilized to our fake lighting, fake transportation, fake shelters, fake space we call our property? We have ignored this fundamental part of us for too long. Where is our danger, our use of all our senses, or our unease? Where are we truly challenged in body, mind, and soul? Not at work, not at home, but in play, in the outdoors or anything close to it. Your senses come alive, ever so gradually, all the components and cells of your body start awakening and firing because that is where we are originally from; land, sea, air. Coming back from this dose, it fires all our senses, no treadmill, or gym can replace this. There, time passes slowly, laboriously. In nature, time passes quickly, because we get lost in ourselves, in our thoughts in mind, and spirit and listening to our body and soul. It’s all happening there.
How do you think we feel after a marathon or 50k in the woods, mountains or beautiful terrain? How do you think we feel after a day on the oceans or lake while rowing, sailing, swimming, fully powering ourselves across terrain, mountain biking through hills and meadows across streams. Repeat any of these actions for a few days in a row and our sense of self changes, our priorities shift our soul exhales and relaxes to what it knows is an integral part of it. Nature, challenge, raw beauty and immersive inputs all around us. We all have an impulse to be more, an impetus we often don’t know why or where it came from, but it is there.
Adversity creates morality. It shows our human side, vulnerability and therefore empathy.”
Thanks to Rich Roll for the work he does in providing amazing content that can help us all live healthier lives and be better athletes. I highly recommend subscribing to his podcast.
About Chris’ Company:
AIMP is an advanced training program for the ultra endurance athlete. Going long is a serious endeavor and although there are plenty of athletes that just ‘give it a whirl’, the ultra distance contains risks with every mile you go past that start line. Whether you are looking to finish feeling strong & with a smile, or looking to race for a result, an ultra endurance event or endeavor contains too many variables that cannot be avoided. With outstanding preparation and knowledge going into your event or adventure, many of these variables can be controlled and even embraced. This is where effective coaching comes into play.