Smart Athlete Podcast Ep. 37 - David and Megan Roche - THE HAPPY RUNNER - Part 1 of 3

As soon as you think about it, it's like, the little things that feel so big, often don't matter as much. You're like, holy cow. This life is finite, this life is beautiful and amazing. But like, all these little things that we all naturally tend to stress about are so small in the concept of things.
Smart Athlete Podcast Ep. 37 - David and Megan Roche - THE HAPPY RUNNER - Part 1 of 3

Go to Part 2

Go to Part 3

MEGAN: As soon as you think about it, it's like, the little things that feel so big, often don't matter as much. You're like, holy cow. This life is finite, this life is beautiful and amazing. But like, all these little things that we all naturally tend to stress about are so small in the concept of things. And I think actually harnessing that, I think it's truly a gift to be able to think about death that really in that young and to think about how beautiful life is by itself. DAVID: Yeah, definitely. I mean, that's why every spiritual system starts with that grounding, you know? And so even honestly, atheism, when you think about it, it's all grounded, like humanistic atheism type thing, it's all grounded in the same perspective. And I think it's not that like, “Oh, you're thinking too much or anything like that. It's, “Oh, you're just thinking about just enough.” This episode of the Smart Athlete Podcast is brought to you by Solpri, Skincare for Athletes. Whether you're in the gym, on the mats, on the road or in the pool, we protect your skin so you're more comfortable in your own body. To learn more, go to JESSE: Welcome to the Smart Athlete Podcast. I'm your host, Jesse Funk My guests today-- this is the first time I've had two people on at the same time, so a very special episode. My guests today are the co-authors of the Happy Runner. Let me see on YouTube, I've got a copy of the book. They are the founders of Team SWAP, which stands for Some Work All Play where they are coaches, they coach anybody in between elite and amateur runners. Megan, in particular, is a medical doctor. David, although I think he likes to downplay a little bit has his JD. So, asking for legal advice, I’m sure ?? 01:47> legal disclaimer here in a second. Anyway, welcome to the podcast David and Megan Roche. DAVID: Hey, thank you so much for having us. We're so excited and you definitely introduced us the right way. Megan is the superstar of the operation and I’m more the nuts and bolts guy. She's ?? 02:05>. MEGAN: We're really pumped to be here and also pumped that this is like a top half YouTube interview because we're both wearing pajamas at the moment So, all of our listeners can know that. JESSE: I'll have to remember for the future just be like, no no like you have to wear proper attire, you gotta stand the whole time, we need a full body shot like we need to know what's going-- Like suit top half and then you got like boxers on the bottom half or something. MEGAN: That's my go-to. And then when you need to go get a computer charger. It's always super awkward ?? 02:39>. Back up very slowly and only show my top half to do this. JESSE: So, now, this kind of strikes me, I was having this conversation the other day with a group of people that work from home but they work for a hospital. I work from home, I don't really get dressed, so to speak. Like I don't put a suit on to get to work. I assume you guys do a lot of your work from home or like a pretty casual environment. Do you feel like you have to, like get dressed for the day to get in the right mindset, or can you work in pajamas? MEGAN: We actually have that discussion often. So, I probably do 25% of my work from home. And I would say all 25% of that work is done either with no pants, or pajamas so we definitely don't have any very formal rules about that. DAVID: Yeah. Well, I mean, I work almost solely from home and I'm pretty much universally no pants. But yeah. No, I don't really feel the need to segment those things because like, the way we do it a lot of the times is like, the way we coach we try to check in with every athlete every day. So, we're pretty much always within the world of like, it's not like we tune in, turn-- like we clock and clock out so much. So, if we were wearing suits or something, it would be kind of awkward because it'd be like 5 am on a Tuesday and you'd be like, “Why are you in a suit right now?” JESSE: Because this is my professional attire. DAVID: Yeah. JESSE: Yeah. I kind of have the feeling that like I get up, I'll start work often 15 minutes after I wake up because, so I'm here in my office, my bedroom is essentially five feet away. And for me, if I got in a suit I would almost be like I'm going somewhere I'm not in like work mode because it's all-- you know, I don't get dressed up cuz I have nobody to impress here in the office besides you guys. DAVID: There's a ?? 04:22> background. I think that's a penguin. JESSE: Yeah, penguin. That's a Christmas gift from last year from my girlfriend for donating to World Wildlife Foundation. DAVID: See, you’re impressing-- MEGAN: That’s awesome. DAVID: ?? 04:37> international nonprofit at the same. JESSE: Right. Right. Right. I don't know what all you can see back there. I've got a beaver here that I won ?? 04:46> MEGAN: ...board games back there. We would have to take you - like a virtual life challenge. DAVID: That beaver is creeping. JESSE: Yeah, the beaver behind my head, yeah, that was from a triathlon or the first time I ever made money in triathlon, I place third, it's called the Dam Tri. And it's because it has a dam as part of the run course and they gave out these like beaver trophies. They're a little bit different every year but they hand make the trophies for the like top competitors. So, I'm really proud of my beaver trophy that hangs out in the background. And yeah, all the board games-- MEGAN: ?? 05:21> that's what you needed to say to the Beaver... DAVID: I feel like that beaver needs to tell your neighbors like that it moves into the neighborhood or something. Can't be within 50 feet of a school. JESSE: It's a possibility. Although we're in a relatively new neighborhood so maybe I should have done that as like a's our beaver like...stay away from us. So, we’ll kinda get into the book. And I mean, you covered this in the book, but just for those listening if you have not picked up the book yet, why does it matter that runners are happy? Can't we just be like curmudgeons and trudge along and do our thing? DAVID: So, happy is used as shorthand in the book to essentially mean, you have-- you’re fulfilled, your content in your daily journey, like you understand your relation to the world and the existential questions because that's basically what being an athlete comes down to and being a runner comes down to is, you're finding your way in the world and running is one of the ways you do that. So, if you're not viewing it through that whole context, you're just setting yourself up for an existential crisis. It might not be tomorrow, but it's coming. And so yeah, what a happy runner just means is essentially like the runner that sees the big picture and zooms out a little bit and gets that the minutiae of performance is not what leads to those good things. You know, it's thinking about these questions and being happy with being like self-accepting with who you are. MEGAN: There's also a chapter four in the book which I consider to be the most important in the book goes into mental health struggles and the relationship to that to being a happy runner. And what we've seen working with athletes is that mental health struggles are so common. So, many athletes struggle with depression, anxiety, eating disorders. And sometimes in the context of all of those things waking up in the morning and being happy or living your best day is really challenging. And so we really make sure to emphasize that as well in the book is that it's really just coming back to knowing that you're enough no matter what, and sometimes that isn't necessarily happy within the framework of happy and that is perfect too. JESSE: Yeah, I think ?? 07:35> writing notes at the same time. I think the moniker happy sometimes it's misleading. I had this conversation with my friend Kevin, and we were both pursuing our professional licenses in triathlon for quite some time. He came from a soccer background where he didn't quite make it as a professional soccer player. And I come from a background of just wanting to be enough. And we kind of dealt with the difficulties of that journey but also knowing that even professionals that he had spoken with kind of made friends with were like maybe they're not happy on every day or they're not necessarily like having fun in the sense that like board games are fun, like this is kind of fleeting fun, but there's a contentedness underneath because of the pursuit. DAVID: Yeah, well, I mean, I think that that can be true but it still needs to be examined. So, let's talk about triathlon, sorry, I mean, the book’s not about that. But we're talking about, let's say, elite track on performance, where athletes are doing 30 or 40 hours a week. You know, that sort of thing can be sustainable for some, but talking to people behind the scenes a lot, they'll go into pretty severe depression when they leave the sport because you're essentially getting the rug pulled out from under you, where-- or you see behind the screen, where it's like, oh, wait, this purpose that I was putting on my life is actually it's fully coming from my own brain. Like, it's awesome to have that with everything. So, essentially what we're trying to get people to do is ask the questions. And what we came-- we were super fortunate in that we got to coach, some of the best trail runners in the world, people have won the biggest races in the world. And you see that reaching finish lines doesn't change anything. So, yeah, we just want to emphasize that like through that whole process, you can be enough no matter what you're doing, and no matter what you achieve, and no matter how much you can train because injuries happened too. So, yeah, that's kind of where we're coming at. MEGAN: And I really like thinking about it from the idea of having a flexible purpose. So, I'm a very purpose-driven person. I need to wake up in the morning and feel like I'm working towards something and that's really what drives me to get up at 4 am and get out of bed, excited to put on my pajamas and go through my workday. But I think for me, over time, I've realized that I've had to be flexible in that purpose. So, for example, if you get injured as a runner, it's like my purpose shifts to becoming the best that I can be on the bike. And I think that like being flexible in that is what translates to happiness in the long term is being flexible in your goals is goal setting with that purpose in mind and that flexibility overall. JESSE: So, I'm kind of curious how you approach-- I almost see it as a dichotomy. I had troubles with this myself like I said since I spent all this time trying to become a professional and didn't quite make it. And I've kind of, I mean, from a personal standpoint, the last 18 months kind of been almost floundering trying to figure out what now, what am I doing? So, it's kind of, I want to say poignant or very well timed that I'm speaking to you guys and have the book. How do you balance the idea and the internal struggle about I am enough, and also finding new goals to focus on and chase after without those consuming that idea that if I don't get them, I'm not enough? DAVID: So, I mean, I think all self-improvement has to start from a place of loving and accepting yourself. Because you're just going to find that when you lose 30 pounds or succeed at business or become a professional, you still have whatever you brought into that. Like if you're doing it from a place of I need to prove something, you're never going to prove that. Your best will never be enough unless it's always enough. And so starting from that place is the key we found with athletics too, not just for psychology. I mean, we always frame it in that aspect because it's easy. But at the end of the day, I don't even care if someone buys into the psych part of it. I want them to do it for the performance element of it. And I think that's been the key with SWAP developing such a big protein is essentially you do this, you take off those constraints, you let yourself believe you're not afraid of failure and then every single workout, every single run can come with a little bit less of the things that are weighing you down. And yeah. MEGAN: Yeah, I think for me, what that translates to logistically is setting both short term and long term goals. So, I think it's helpful to have those really big scary goals about, “Hey this is the race, I want to win in three years,” and making sure that you prioritize training and make the difficult life decisions surrounding those big goals, but to also have daily life goals too kind of have metrics of getting you there. But also, it's like these check marks to be like, “Hey look what I did today. This is awesome.” But not feeling defined by those either, like we're never perfect in reaching our goals. And so understanding that, and then I think also just making sure that goals are all mostly internally driven. So, doing this, like making sure you're writing down and coming to the conclusions that you're doing this for an internal reason, as opposed to an external reason, like beating someone or proving something to someone. It's like, it should really be coming from within. JESSE: Have you guys worked with so I mean, working with elite athletes is obviously awesome. And I know you work with amateurs as well. Have you worked with people that are going through that transitional period age wise where there is no more up, it is just down and is a physiological impossibility? Like there is a point for everybody, whether it's earlier or later, where you simply can't keep up with the clock of time. Have you worked with people going through that transition and kind of dealt with that, not like psychology kind of hands-on, not just in yourselves, but with somebody else? DAVID: Yeah, I mean, I think that that question gets to the very core of why being an athlete can lead to these deeper thoughts. So, yeah when you're thinking about aging, I mean, if you're paying attention closely enough to your body, you start feeling that process very early. And that doesn't mean you can't improve, improve, improve. It just means that after 21, you’re starting to feel little incremental things. And as you get a little older and then as you start to hit your 40s and 50s and beyond, you really start to see that transition. And if your brain thinks about it even a little bit, which it does, even if you're not thinking about it super explicitly, you can plot out where that regression line ends, right? Like, athletics gives you a window into your fragility that normal people probably don't get until maybe like a midlife crisis or something like that. And so with that in mind, like what we try to do is talk about that stuff early and often, and divest athletes from results to outcomes and get them to like whatever the process entails in like a day to day of an athletic life. So, I never ever want an athlete training just because they think they are going to get faster and faster. I want them training because they enjoy the life that gives them on each little day, and then that adds up to a greater whole. So, with the athlete that's aging, when I'm like it's like look yeah, we might have to reorient goals a little, we can still strive we can still push it. But what I want us to focus on is, okay, what do we love? Like when you're 60, you might not necessarily want to do 100-mile weeks as a runner anymore, you might want to start working, biking and yoga and all this other stuff, and then we'll go crush races. But essentially reorienting it from the very beginning, from maximizing every possible element of performance to maximizing the amount of joy that you can get within the context of a life that's meaningful to you. And so yeah. MEGAN: I think layered on top of that I was having a discussion with a runner last night about this is that running is such a cool sport because it's one of the only sports I know that has age categories for performances and for competitions. And it's kind of fun to think about aging. So, it's like all of a sudden, I might transfer from that 50-59 age group up into the 60 to 65 age group. And just like understanding where you are within the context of that, and I think it's a beautiful thing that we can continue to compete as runners and into our 80s and 90s if we want to and just appreciating the beauty of all that, the beauty that this is a lifetime sport, and just sharing that with community and others around you. DAVID: And I mean, the reason the book starts talking about death is just that it's so ever-present. And if you're not able to like, come to terms with that, at least to a certain extent, I mean, all of this crap is hard. And not just running, literally everything that you care about, is crumbling to dust slowly. So, I mean, it's a good thing to think about, it’s a good thing to try to be able to laugh at. And what we try to do is talk about it really openly with everyone, even though we're not spiritual leaders or whatever, just so that we can get this like shared experience, maybe laugh a little bit on the way. JESSE: Well, I'm glad you mentioned it because I was just getting ready to-- I’m glad that the book kind of starts on the framing of death, which sounds a bit morbid, but I'm glad just in the sense that I think a lot of my own personal pursuits and a lot of people over the years have said in part how are you so motivated, why do you try so hard at all these things? A little bit-- it’s maybe genetic, but also, I mean, I think-- I've been thinking about death since I was a teenager. And not just in the sense that like, I won't be alive, but thinking about my parents and my own life, in knowing, cognitively, even if I don't know, internally, and maybe this doesn't make sense to you, I'm kind of in-- I guess I'll ask if this makes sense. But there's like two kinds of ?? 17:32> like, you learn something in a book, and you know it, and then something where you know it just internally. So, as people age, I think they become more aware internally, my life is finite. So, I started from a place of definitely, earlier on being cognizantly aware in my own mind, okay, I'm not gonna live forever, it could be tomorrow. You know, I had friends die throughout-- I think a lot of people in high school have at least one classmate die and knowing that could be me, and it kept me motivated. But anytime I spoke to people about that and I said, “You know guys like we're not going to be here forever you've got to get to work if you're going to get your shit together, basically get things done the things you want to do.” It was always a matter of like, “Why are you so weird? Like why are you talking about that?” I'm like, “Maybe you'll get it eventually.” I know I certainly at this point, I'm 30 this year, getting ready to be 31 next year-- next month, and well aches and pains creeping in and like kind of knowing my age so to speak, knowing a little more intuitively like time is not infinite for us. DAVID: What made you come to that those thoughts-- I mean, if you're comfortable sharing-- JESSE: No. Yeah, yeah, that's fine. No, I'm pretty-- well, an open book. I think for me, I always said that I have the both up and down side, I have an older father. So, I'm only 30 my father is in his late 70s now. So, even though your kids aren't aware of like age in the same aspect, but I always knew my dad was a lot older than everybody else's dad, basically. So, I think that kind of put it in the frame of mine, for whatever reason to start with me from an early age like he's not going to be around forever. And I know for a long time, I was motivated about like, I know, I want my dad to be proud of me. So, it's kind of a combination of those things together with just there's kind of a-- I guess I’ll say like a family trait almost that like the men in my family are competitive. And it's not-- I don't know that it's a culture thing. Like we kind of all do our own things, but we all come by this kind of competitiveness and this drive naturally. So, I think it's kind of an influence of those things in terms of motivation. But I attribute it to my father being older than kind of other parents as I was growing up. DAVID: I mean, it's super interesting. MEGAN: It is really interesting. I think, actually the recognition of death and like thinking about it, and processing it is actually very rare in young people. And it's even rare in old people. I actually need to get a formal statistics on that. But very few people actually think about that, which I think is interesting and I think actually thinking about it is powerful. Because as soon as you think about it, it's like, the little things that feel so big, often don't matter as much. You're like, holy cow. This life is finite, this life is beautiful and amazing. But like, all these little things that we all naturally tend to stress about are so small in the concept of things. And I think actually harnessing that, I think it's truly a gift to be able to think about death that really in that young and to think about how beautiful life is by itself. DAVID: Yeah, definitely. I mean, that's why every spiritual system starts with that grounding, you know? And so even honestly, atheism, when you think about it, it's all grounded, like humanistic atheism type thing, it's all grounded in the same perspective. And I think it's not that like, “Oh, you're thinking too much or anything like that. It's, “Oh, you're just thinking about just enough like the old. It's hard to like the old, if you look at the earth from the moon, it's like, whatever. And so viewing yourself from that same place gives you that like stoic ability to hopefully be able to find contentedness in everything, and also be comfortable going for it. It doesn't mean that you're not trying. It means that you are trying, you are doing-- Like your interpretation of it, I think it’s beautiful and one I haven't really heard before. It's like, I need to do all these things before I go, as opposed to none of these things matter. And I think that's super cool. JESSE: Right. You can definitely veer towards nihilism where you're like, nothing-- I'm sure I've been there before where it's like why am I doing any of this? None of it matters. Go to Part 2 Go to Part 3

Google Pay Mastercard PayPal Shop Pay SOFORT Visa