“I’m not shoving it aside, you know, like it don’t mean anything. I know it’s important, I do. I honestly do… But we’re talking about practice man. What are we talking about? Practice? We’re talking about practice, man.” — Allen Iverson
There’s a new book out this week by a Sports Illustrated writer, David Epstein, about athletic performance, called “The Sports Gene.” One of my colleagues at BuzzFeed wrote about it. And this one thing from the write-up caught my eye.
In Jim Ryun’s first race on his high school cross-country team, in 1963, he finished 21st on his own team. The next year, as a junior, he ran a four-minute mile, only a decade after the first human had ever done it. Epstein writes that genes make us respond differently to training — in studies, people doing the exact same workouts every day improve their fitness at drastically different rates. Basically, some people are actually born to be better at practice than others.
Read that last sentence again: Some people are actually born to be better at practice than others.
Which means two things:
1. Yes, Allen Iverson, practice really can make a difference.
2. The way you practice makes a huge difference. There is no one universal solution for practice. Finding the right way to put in the hours can change everything.
Yes, you can get better — at running, at writing, at building something from the ground up. And yes, you have to put in the work first.
That photo at top comes from the SI archives.