There is something more sustainable than mere athleticism needed to win a 100-mile ultramarathon, swim in in sub-freezing temperatures (in only a swimsuit, cap, and goggles, of course), or complete 50 Ironmans in 50 States in 50 day. To repeatedly perform at such a high level for such a long time extends well beyond the ability to endure. One element that emerged from my research is that the world’s best are all resilient.
Resilience is more than just a buzzword. It’s real. It’s tangible. It is the ability to respond positively to setbacks, obstacles, and failures. Through experience, it can be fine-tuned. Genetics, physiology, and environment are characteristics unique to the world’s best; however, they are only part of the formula.
Based on my research as a sport psychology student and my experiences as an ultra-marathoner, I am convinced that resilience is a fundamental quality in performance improvement. I use the word quality because resilience is not permanent. It's also not limited to any one particular population or demographic. Resilience is unique to the person and the moment. Some are forced into situations where resilience is necessary for survival and others choose situations to test their resilience. Regardless, it is accessible to all and can continue to be sharpened through choice.
‘The Resilient Athlete” is not limited to the boundaries of athletics. Failures, obstacles, and setbacks are a fact of life. Therefore, there is plenty to be learned through examining these real-world examples. Even if only a sliver of insight is gained, that might be enough to propel one to dig a little deeper, push a little harder, and get a little bit better.