Friday, August 1, 2008

"Runner's High": Beyond Human

First off, watch this:

Michael Phelps beat the world record by a full body length. He took almost 2 seconds off of it. 2 seconds is huge in the world of swimming.

What I really want to talk about, though, is his turns. Look at him come off that wall. Look at the streamlining. Look at the undulation of his body. Take a look at the whole unit. He doesn't look human. But he doesn't look like anything else, either. He doesn't look like a dolphin (or a butterfly), and that's surely the closest thing to which you could compare him. So he's not quite animal.

I think the only thing you can say is that he's beyond human.

And I think we athletes have all experienced this, or can at least all aspire to do so. Have you ever been running and felt like you were flying? Have you ever been cycling and forgot you were even on a bike? Have you ever been swimming and felt almost like you had dissolved into the water? Have you ever forgotten yourself in that moment?

See, I may not be able to do it with as much panache as Michael Phelps. I know I can't (I'm not tall enough). In fact, watching me swim, bike, and run, no one will ever mistake me for anything more than human (except maybe , as some of you have noted, in transition).

But in my mind . . .

In my mind is another matter.


  1. the last few words of this post totally summed up my experience competing in bodybuilding.

    I SO WON THE my mind.

    great post.


  2. OMShizzle.

    When I was an ittybitty, I had a plastic toy puppy that swam by revolving (an impossible 360 degrees) his little arms.

    Michael Phelps is JUST LIKE THAT. Lol.

    Only the cuteness is different. :D

    PS a couple of the Olympic swimmers were here on campus, and they checked in while I was working at the gym (not Phelps, sadly). Still, I almost peed my pants.

  3. Hee. Miz Fit, have I told you the difference between a triathlete and a bodybuilder?

    A cheeserburger ;-)

    And swimmers always seem to have such ridiculous flexibility in their arms, Mandapants. Like disgusting flexibility.

  4. The undulation movement is totally human. We are organic with the strength and fluidity and grace of animals, but few of us ever develop this aspect of our movement, because we are so intent on using machines as our role-models. Run like a cheetah! Swim like a dolphin! Undulate more all the time and you'll be faster, stronger and get fewer injuries.

  5. Good advice, Anita. That's exactly why I love the butterfly (even though I'm terrible at it), because once you get into it the stroke feels so natural. However, I would argue that Michael Phelps takes that natural movement to a completely different level.

  6. Hi Jamie,

    No doubt Michael Phelps is an inspiration for us all. Thanks for sharing this video. It's so impressive, I'm going to post it to my blog . . . and let people know that I found it on yours.

  7. Amen, sister! I have a video of a hockey game my wife and I played that we laugh about to this day. Playing, we felt like we were flying accross the ice, wind in out hair, the elite of the elite... the video evidence documents a somewhat more humbling level of accomplishment :-)