How Athletes – and You – Can Get Faster, Better and Stronger

How can athletes break old records and become faster, better and stronger for each decade that passes? We are the same humans we were a hundred years ago… or?

This is a cool new 15-minute TED-talk on the subject. Sports journalist and author David Epstein is a very skilled speaker. And his eye-opening conclusions are relevant far beyond the world of sports, and could apply to any kind of achievement.

We’re simply given better and better enabling conditions to accomplish things that our ancestors could only dream of… if we take advantage of the opportunity. 

More great TED Talks

Dr. Attia at TEDMED: What if We’re Wrong About Diabetes?

Would You Like to Become Smarter, Healthier and Leaner by Putting in Less Effort?

How Cows Could Green the World’s Deserts and Revers Climate Change

What Your Doctors Don’t Know About the Drugs They Prescribe

Can You Cure MS by Eating Real Food?

Your Body Language Shapes Who You Are

11 Comments

  1. Galina L.
    Actually, I resent that the people who are interested in sport are turning onto professional athletes.Population got divided on athletes who do sports and couch potatoes who watch. I especially disapprove that children are treated as professional athletes way too often. Girls in gymnastics and boys in bicycling are told to loose weight while being at a perfectly healthy weight. Some develop eating disorders and lay the foundation for a future weight gain. Sport injuries are on the rise, and it will hinder the injured individual till the rest of their days. My mother's cousin is in her 70 and don't leave her apartment for last 10 years because her hip joint was injured in her 20-s. She was plying for the basketball team of Ukraine in her youth. People who abruptly stop being involved into serious sport often gain unhealthy amount of weight, and then keep dieting forever - it is how my mom went on a diet first time.
    Replies: #2, #4
  2. Joe
    Well said!
  3. Molly
    Interesting point Galina ! Here in Australia they have found that children drop out of organised sport at alarming rates as they hit puberty - especially girls.

    When they studied it, they found that what was turning the children off was the increasing emphasis on competitive sport - the idea that now they should be aiming for State/ National /International competition, rather than just enjoying their sports.

    The English have what they call "Pub League" football - just friends who get together for a kickabout on the weekend and who can play against similar teams if they like. For most of us, this is a far healthier approach to sports - and a far more enjoyable one as well !

  4. Daniel FErreira
    I dissagree, I think that sports are one of the best things to include your children in. Injuries are just part of the game, nothing in life is with out risk, even sitting on a counch eating bon bons is risky*( even if it is low risk). Kids learn leadership roles and other great lessons from sports.

    and why are athletes getting bigger faster strong?

    I will sum it up in a sentence, "eat CLEN, Tren hard, and ANAVAR give up!"

    I would go as far as to say almost everysport has "enhancements" on the side line. if its competition for money and glory.

  5. Galina L.
    @Molly,
    Sport became an unhealthy occupation for few genetically suited people, and it is not conductive for the rest of our population to get healthier, faster and stronger, just the opposite. "Pub leagues" are perfect, social sport is great. Sport-like activities like hiking, recreational running, dancing, swimming, going on ski vocation are the perfect ways to get more health and joy in life.
    I guess girls may be quitting school sports at puberty time partially because body changes associated with that period of life can be the point of coaches remarks about the necessity to loose weight. As a result the female athlete triad comes - inadequate nutrition, amenorrhea, and low bone mass, accompanied with compliments from girl's coach and others. What could be healthier nowadays than a weight loss?
  6. FrankG
    Agreed that perhaps especially here in N. America it seems sports have become increasingly competitive (even between the parents!)... but it is fabricating a false dichotomy to suggest that the only alternative is "sitting on a [couch] eating bon bons"...

    To me, even among us adults, I draw a distinction between exercise and being physically active. In this context I see "exercise" as being a formalised activity, requiring a gym membership, special clothing and foot wear etc... things that humans never used traditionally but are now a big business. Regular physical activity can be built into your daily life without any special tools or gimmicks.

    Of course there will always be those who enjoy sports (competitive or otherwise) and the like but I don't see that this has to be the "norm", and expected of everyone.. especially by putting undue pressure on our children. Sports and games can be enjoyable without being competitive or potentially damaging. Get them out for a frequent walk, or bike-ride, enjoying nature :-)

    I like to think we have matured beyond ideas like "take a cold bath every day to build character" :-P

    Reply: #8
  7. Boundless
    Well, for those who skip the video, it's interesting, but is about everything except diet, with only a passing mention of performance enhancing drugs.

    I suspect that the next big thing in endurance sports will be ketogenic diet. If KD works, the sporting world will adopt it, and the use of foods that are ketone body precursors, without controversy.

    What may provoke some controversy is exogenous ketones (EK), the first of which is already available. Although developed for cancer research, athletes are experimenting with it. Here's an interesting comment:

    "I just received your KetoForce product and tried it just before my swim today. My conclusion: KetoForce makes breathing “optional”, lol. What I mean is that usually at a given level of effort, I breathe every three strokes, today I was taking 5 strokes before taking a breath."

    from:
    http://patrickarnoldblog.com/initial-ketoforce-bhb-mixed-salts-data/#...

    EK could raise peak performance too.

    If sports committees decide that EK is "unfair", they may have a problem, as it's apt to be impossible for a blood test to distinguish between ketone bodies from metabolism, and ketone bodies from lunch.

    And oh by the way, the most significant use for EKs is likely to be non-sporting - raising ketone levels as part of R-KD therapeutic diets for cancer, epilepsy, T1D.

  8. Daniel FErreira
    @frank,
    First of all, I agree with you and dissagree with you,

    yes, the other extream would be "sitting on the couch eating bon bons" but lets face it, competetive sports are not bad, especially because it is such a small percentage of kids that actually go into it, and we most likely cherry pick the cases that things went bad. Not every child is going to make it in sports, and that is ok, but the evolutionary pressure we give them in sports, I think, would make them well rounded adults(no cold showers!). Yes some kids break, and some succeed, in other areas of life (not just in sports) but to say that "competitve sports are extream", in the real world, not everyone gets gold stars for just participating.

    Now I see how parents could force kids to do this, but it is up to the parent to gauge the childs emotions to make distinctions on if this is the answer for a kid or not. Boys more than girls are competative, which I could see how some of the stories here have some barring on why some people dont like it, but lets face it, Id rather have my kids be busy with something like this than be hanging out with the "bad crew". ( I am massively generalizing on this topic)

    If you and your kid are perfectly happy working out together, I think that is great, but I dont see anything wrong with persuading a kid to join a comp. sport.

  9. tw
    While I can certainly agree with the first comment to some extent, I think some context might be appropriate. I went to boarding school where sports were a requirement for everyone. There were different levels and all teams competed with teams at other schools. There were some individual type sports as well.
    Non athletes benefited substantially. Injuries happened but were typically not significant. This in spite of doing sports every afternoon for 6 days of the week.

    Now what I interpret your comment to mean is the influence of parents living vicariously through their children. Pushing them well beyond their limits and physical capacity. Damaging their health through comments and actions related to their weight, performance etc. I have seen this and know people affected by it and your point is well taken.

    However, I believe that sport has many many benefits long term. I think you are talking about a parenting issue not a sport one.

  10. Tina
    I think the video shows that it's just some competition of arms (better clothes, surfaces, materials) that leads to such great improvements, not really that much improvement in abilities. If that is the case, then this is nothing more than a moneymaking machinery, that is also socially exclusive (you need to buy the very best equipment and need to live close to a state of the art training centre, or private school to ensure that your kids have all of these advantages). If at least some of the money that is made in the process would be used towards sports facilities in public schools, public swimming pools and free playground gyms, it would at least be more inclusive. As for competetiveness. Some people just like being in constant competition - that's just a personality trait. If they have an outlet in sports or music or chess or whatever, so be it. But why have all of the others be pressed in the same game? Only to produce enough losers so that the others who think about winning something 24/7 can feel great? Some people like swimming, because they enjoy the power of the waves against their bodies, because they feel free and light. Some enjoy biking, because they enjoy being in nature and feeling the wind cooling their sweat rolling downwards after a long steep climb, or they like zumba because they want to do something fun in a group. All of these things don't exist for children anymore. As soon as they are happily involved in an activity, some adults come along, turn it into a competition and spoil it for 70% of them.
  11. Tina
    Wether Competetive sports are to a child's advantage or disadvantage hasd a lot to do with who parents react to failure and frustration. There is nothing worse than parents for whom success is more important, than for the child itself.
    Valuable lessons can be learned from sports, such as, that you sometimes have to subject your onw interests to the team's or that there will be setbacks or even to deal with frustration and to see that the world does not stop entirely, when you are not fortunate. These lessons are more important that learning how to act competetively in any given situation, but only if parents don't make a catastrophe of it and are just as supportive in the face of failure as in the face of victory.

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