Eric Bell: You know there you know when I think of pain it’s, it’s like ok is it say physical pain or pain where it will hurt you like you know , pain in your hamstring or your quad or whatever or like you are overtraining and you just think or you know it’s a potential hotspot that turns into a stress fracture, like a pain that will not go away no matter what you are doing that day, that’s a pain that needs to be recognized and to be dealt, that is not a pain of in your head that you are trying to work through. And then when you get into specific workouts right, there is, it’s understandable so that um you’ll get into a workout, and there will be a time period where you will want to quit, you will want to get rid of that quote that pain.

Jesse 01:01
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Welcome to the Smart Athlete Podcast. I’m your host Jesse funk. My guest today is a former division one track athlete at Tennessee. He’s also a former pro triathlete. Before that he was amateur World Champion triathlon 2008. He’s got his master’s in sports psychology, and he’s had a very interesting career which we’re going to get into. At one time during his triathlon career, he represented the gestede nonprofit organization, and currently, he’s a medical device manager at Abiomed, Welcome to the show, Eric bell.

Eric 02:13
Jesse, thanks so much. Glad to be here.

Jesse 02:15
Yeah, absolutely, and I like your background, if you’re not on the YouTube version, if you’re on the audio only version, you’re missing out on the — it looks like an interesting painting and probably a pretty cool clock in your background versus my total mess house reconstruction kind of background going on.

Eric 02:34
Yeah, this is my office as the pandemic kind of happened, and we all became used to the podcasting or virtual reality of meetings. This turned into my office, and here it is.

Jesse 02:51
Yeah, I know, it’s been interesting and when I’ve gotten back on I don’t know if you’re familiar with Reddit. So it’s a large collection of forums and some forums about anything under the sun, from cat memes to triathlon. I know people have like, there been people posting about how to deal with this situation, and like share backgrounds and stuff, and most recently, I saw a comical background from the show The Office. So it looks like you’re in an office, and there’s window behind you. But then you can see the characters from the show that [crosstalk] behind the window. It’s very subtle. So it’s interesting, the creative solutions people have come up with, this is everybody’s world, and not people like me, who were doing this pre pandemic.

Eric 03:46
Right, exactly.

Jesse 03:47
Yeah. So I want to ask straight off, which is a bit of a hard jump, but I mean, you have your master’s in sports psychology, but you’re working previously device manager, [phonetic 04:03] how do you make that jump? Why are you not coaching teams to success? How do you change industries like that?

Eric 04:11
Yeah, so if I go back; after college, I went and got a real job right after year an athlete and getting your degree, and I was a personal trainer and did a bunch of fitness things, and I have a fascination with psychology, and I saw a sports psychologist when I was at the University of Tennessee, we’d meet weekly, Dr. Craig Risberg was his name, and I thought, okay, I really want to dive deeper into this spectrum, and so I decided to go get my master’s degree while I was getting my master’s degree, I had just been running, and that’s when I started my triathlon career, and so they went simultaneously down the path that I really didn’t know where the path would go, and my triathlon career ended about —

So got my master’s degree, did triathlon for about six more years after that, and so when my career came to an end, I was actually going to try to qualify for the 2012 Olympic team, and I was training in Australia, came back from Australia ran a half marathon here in Knoxville, off a very little running, ended up running 112 and I was like, oh, man, I’m so fit. This is going to be a perfect year for me.

And I remember waking up the next day and I could barely walk and that lasted like three or four days, and I was like, this never happened to me, and so I chalked it up to hadn’t been running that much. It was I was doing a ton of swimming and biking and long story short, that year, my career I’d never — I’ve been racing since I was in sixth grade, and I’m 30 years old or 31 at the time and never dropped out of a race in my life for many reason I’d never quit, and all of a sudden I started getting these races and it literally felt like somebody just unplugged me.

I’d out of the swim, get on my bike, and I literally couldn’t turn the pedals over. So something physically is wrong with me, and so I started getting all this this work done and blood test and this test and this test and I thought I had mana. That’s the feeling I had, and sure enough, what happened was; I ended up getting my testosterone checked, and my testosterone levels were 150. 150 testosterone level is like 85-year-old man, and I’m trying to compete at the highest level in the world, and it’s not going to work. So at that time, I was 31, and this probably isn’t going to work for me anymore. I don’t know how to continue on at this level with what’s happening in my body falling apart.

So I took a Highland’s aptitude durability test, and I wish that I had gone back, I wanted to help people. That’s my general interest is helping people. In any spec. I’m fascinated by psychology; I’m fascinated with medicine. Therefore, I took the Highlands aptitude Ability Test, and out of that test came, hey, you be graded as a doctor. But this the part of becoming going back to school and having to do that, at 31, that’s going to be a real struggle. So the guy was like, you’re a born sales guy, go do medical sales, and so I was like, all right, and so that’s been my path.

The last 10 years, as things have progressed, over the last few years, the sport psychology world, and even psychology, whether it’s industrial organizational psychology, has become more of a fascination of mine, and I think that there will come a day, where I’ll take my last 10 years of work experience, however, the one that lasts — take my sports psychology experience, and I think that there’ll be a time period where I’ll merge and take the two worlds and they’ll become one, and so not necessarily say that my sports psychology background or degree is off the table. I just think that I went down a different path, and it’s going to lead me to another one.

Jesse 08:22
Yeah. I think that’s a pretty common train of thought. I’m interested in this, I’m going to go do this. But I don’t know where the path will lead, though. In your case, I asked because it’s a Master’s, not undergrad, because usually people are like, hey, are we going to do this undergrad thing, and then I don’t know where it’ll go, and by the Masters, not everybody, obviously, but more people have figured out or they’re more sure, this is the thing I want to do.

Now, again, not that it’s everybody because I even know, I wish I could think who was but — I feel like I’ve spoken to even PhD graduates, they’re like, I thought I wanted to do this, and then I got out and I was like, No, I just wasted all this time. [laughter] I totally get that as well. How do you merge those two? Is there a coherent thought on that or is it like I have a feeling that there’s going to be some convergence?

Eric 09:25
Well, it’s interesting that you say that because, it’s about performance. I mean, even though I’m may not be competing on the track or in triathlon, I’m now in the business sector, and I’m in sales, and it has a performance mechanism. It’s interesting. I’ve been listening a lot to Simon Sinek and his new book, The Infinite Games, and it’s the difference is that a race has a beginning and an end. It’s taught you know, all the common players whereas my world now does not have all that there is no beginning and end, I guess there is in a quote unquote working with — when you’re in a company that reports to Wall Street, there’s quarterly numbers, we report it to the street, stuff like that.

But then the day we’re trying to build a business, and that business will is being here before me and will be here when I leave. But so I really tried to insist that my team focuses on the process, and that was my biggest hurdle in going back to my college career, and even triathlon, what is that process? And how can I stay in the moment, each time, it’s, instead of getting ahead of myself. I’m a big intuitive guy feeler, and I get into certain races, and you’re going to go through so many roller coasters throughout that specific race.

One minute, you’re feeling great. The next minute, you’re like, dude, I want to drop out of this race, I’m hurting so bad, and then the feeling changes as you continue in your fitness levels, and it’s the same process in business, there are some days that that the activities don’t match the results, and then there are days that the results don’t match the activities, and so you just got to kind of get to a plan and stick to the plan on a regular basis. And, and that’s what I try to teach my team, and that’s what I tried to live by is, you know, here is my process. Am I sticking to my process every single day? This is kind of there is some parallels?

Jesse 11:27
Yeah, this was straddling the line between your career and racing. But thinking about that consistency. That’s something I saw, I have another show called runner’s high on the YouTube channel. Again, if you’re just listening, there’s the YouTube channel, check that out. But I talked about consistency all the time, and a lot of that is following the process sticking to your plan.

But the one thing I think, is troublesome, and you’ve touched on earlier, I think, along with hitting that will seem like the wall of overtraining and your testosterone going to the toilet, is trying to figure out when not to stick to the plan, when the plan is actually a breaking point, because fitness wise, you’re always trying to straddle the line between training just enough and training too much, because that’s where maximum gains are.

So I mean, is it the same thing career wise, when you’re pushing your team, you’re sticking to the plan, but then how do when not to stick to the plan? In both realms what are the indicators? How do when to change course?

Eric 12:42
I know exactly what you’re talking about. So if I go back, and I look at my high school career, when I was in high school, I was running literally Jesse 20 to 25 miles a week and ran for 15. If you talk to any distance runner today, 2025 miles a week, they’re like, dude, that’s not a distance runner, that’s a 400 meter, or a 100-meter guy. You get to college, and everybody’s like, Oh, you got to go 60 miles a week, 70 miles a week, 80 miles a week. You got to do that. So that’s what I did. I went from where I was to that plan, which is what everybody says you have to do to be the best.

Well, my first year, I made it to November got hurt. My second year, I made it to back it out to January, February got hurt. My third year, it was May got hurt, and so finally, my fourth year, I was like, Alright, here’s the deal. I’m going to run 45 to 50 miles a week, and I’m not going to get hurt and how fast I run is how fast I run, and the rest of the guys on the team were doing their thing. I take a day off every week. 14, 18 and a 5k. off that type of training. Yeah. Right, and it goes back to your thing. The plan is not the same for everybody.

So what works for you may not work for me in every distance runners plan is not the same. The key is, I think that our bodies speak to us. The problem with distance runners is we take that information and think, Oh, you got to push harder, because in order to become the best, you got to go through pain, and that pain mechanism, you got to shut it off, and that’s becomes the best. Well, there’s a difference between pain and listening to your body that maybe today you just don’t have it. Maybe you didn’t recover that well. I think with all the technologies that are out there, it’s unbelievable. You know, you see the whoop devices.

You see the Apple watches; they give you so much feedback on your recovery. Whereas 10 years ago, that stuff wasn’t around. I feel like that the athletes today have a lot. what better advantage if I had a whoop device that was telling me Do you slept like crap you didn’t recover. Then maybe I wouldn’t go out and throttle myself 10, 400s hundreds that day. I’d be like, dude, my body can’t take that I need an easy day, and the same, the same is true in business.

There are times I always look at my team, and I’m like, Okay, what are we doing? What was our plan this week? Did we accomplish our plan? And if I look back and think our activity was crap, we didn’t do anything. We sell a device that saves patients’ lives, it’s a heart pump.

Well, heart attacks don’t have a timer day, they don’t care about the time of day, they don’t care about the holiday. So me and my teams are in the hospital day, night, two in the morning, two in the afternoon, it could be a Saturday, Sunday, it could be a Christmas Day, it doesn’t matter. Our teams are always in the hospital, and what I try to do is I try to recognize when myself or my team may have been working too hard, and they may need a day off or I need to really kind of say something in it, I have to look and think, okay, is this the day that I need to say it or is the team just so beat up that they’re not going to handle?

Maybe not so much criticism, but just some coaching advice. But what I’m saying it all works together in that spectrum is; when is the right time? And are you listening to your body and there, I just feel like there’s a lot of things in life that will teach you and show you, and listening to our bodies is probably one of the key things in and for whatever reason, as a distance runner, I don’t think we’re very good at listening to our bodies very well.

Jesse 16:38
[crosstalk]

Eric 16:39
Yeah. Well, I was just saying, and that’s the key to being the most successful. I think I look at golfers and I’m like, how do they always do it? They have a bad shot. The best golfers in the world, don’t let that bad shot carry into three or four or five more bad shots. They’re like, okay, I had a bad shot. Now I got to move on, or they hit a bad shot, and they’re like, Okay, I can’t get to the green.

From here, I’m going to take my medicine and do X, and then they set themselves up so that this one bad shot doesn’t lead to a bad score, and I think that’s the key to is one bad race, one bad month in business one bad week, don’t compound it, and I think that’s the other key is staying in the moment and sticking to the process, and not thinking, Okay, these things are going to carry on, and this bad week or bad mistake or whatever, the bad workout. It’s not, I’m not going to let it carry on, because it really doesn’t define me, and it’s not really who I am right now.

Jesse 17:39
Yeah, I got a lot of thoughts here. It’s like a hard to know where to start. But I think part of that’s taken.At least on my part, some maturity over the years, maybe you just had a crap day. I’m going through a little bit right now, as I’m rebuilding running — I’ve come away from triathlon, I’m coming back from running. 32 now, and I’m trying to get back into college level running shape to run some 10kprs before I’m too old to do so anymore. This is a last shot, and my long run pace now is like 715 –it was like 645 it is my peak, and I could run 645 but that’s too hard for what I should be doing right now. So it’s taking some maturity in still, there’s that kind of almost reactionary thing that’s like, I’m not as good as I was, and be patient stick to the plan.

And then again, like I didn’t have a great day Wednesday, doing we’ve just moved from tempo to low threshold type of work and a fartlek, and it was not great, times are not great, and there’s that party that goes. I’m never going to get there but then the other part has to say, don’t be reactionary. It’s just one day, maybe you didn’t recover enough, increase in miles, the temperature, there’s all these externalities.

It’s just one point in time, it’s not going to define absolutely everything and that that lack of being reactionary to a negative event or a positive event, — I think, one of the keys to being great at whatever you’re doing. Because, like we talked about earlier, you’re going to stay the course, whether it was amazing or terrible, maybe that adjusts you a little bit, but you’re still like okay, things are working. We’re just going to keep doing the thing that we were doing before.

Eric 19:55
Right. It’s interesting. I 100% agree with you. I think that what I didn’t do maybe at a younger age that I wish I did was take a step back and reflect on things more and not have so much judgment that just take a step back and say, Okay, what is working, what was working? I’ll never forget, I was at the University of Florida. That’s where I — out of high school I signed at the University of Florida.

I know it’s ironic if anybody’s listening that I went from the University of Florida to the University of Tennessee, the two big rivals, but the former University of Tennessee coach Doug Brown, legendary coach at Tennessee, went down to Florida and coached down there not followed him down there, and I went to summer school.

So I’m finished in my career, finished high school and went down and went to summer school, and first day, everybody was there. We had to do a 10-mile tempo run. Well, 10-mile tempo run in August, and Gainesville, Florida is hard. It’s hot, it’s miserable, it’s humid, and we get there and all the even walk on guys trying out were there, and I finished dead last that day, and I remember thinking, did I let what am I doing? I can’t run in college. I can’t run at this level, and I remember him telling me Hey, dude, don’t worry about it.

It’s just a day. He goes, you got big fish to fry here, and I thought to myself what? Most coaches would be pissed. What are you doing? You’re a sissy. You, you got to be tougher, and sure enough, he encouraged me so much. I’ve an internal critic that’s going to beat me up anyway, and he encouraged me and I ended up being 16th at the SEC conference.

As a freshman, I was a top freshman SEC that year. I mean, I literally go from finishing last on a team run at the University of Florida to top freshmen, and it was because I didn’t let that one moment define me to your point, and I had a coach that encouraged me, and it’s interesting; as kids start to look at schools and think about who’s coaching, we all want to go to the school that gets recognition and yada, yada, yada. But I think that the key is, it’s like a relationship, and it’s a long relationship, and you better find the coach that you love, and that really fits you.

Because if not, it will be a long, four or five years, and you may not enjoy running the way you used to. But I also say that it’s the same thing. Just because you have one good race doesn’t you know, this step, you got to come back the next day and do it again. But if you take a step back and think Alright, what have I done the last few weeks that have been really good? Let’s continue to do those or I had a bad day, what was going on here to that day?

It’s a reflective question that we should be asking ourselves more, Hey, what’s going on? Am I tired? Am I emotionally up, — down for some reason, is there a lot of things going on my life and my stress? And so take it a step back allows you to look at the whole picture, and as a distance runner, we’re always like, based on the time that day that is who I am, and I just don’t necessarily think that that’s the truth.

Jesse 23:04
Yeah. As you mentioned about yourself and I think this is true of a lot distance runners and endurance athletes, have that internal critic, and again, as you mentioned that, I’m only as good as my last run. I may have run by my lifetime PR two days ago, but who gives a shit? It’s today that I terrible. That’s who I am now. So I think, as you had that experience of encouragement, I think that’s crucial — Um, gosh, I’ve just forgotten her name former pro-British triathlete.

It’ll come to me, I have her on the podcast before. Talking about she had a really great beginning of her pro career and she raced for 10, 12 years as a pro and just really lived most of it in overtraining. Because a lot of her coaching I think was to continue to be echo that like internal critic to be like, go harder go harder, do more. When it was like she didn’t need that, she already had that.

Most of us that go on regardless of — I ran it — What’s now; Division Two school but whether your Division Two, Division One, Division Three, NAIA, whatever it is, if you’re in college and you’re running, you’re still part of a group that most people will never be able to be a part of, and if you survive for years in that atmosphere, you have something internally that’s driving you forward, you probably don’t need a coach to be your personal whipping boy, you just don’t need it.

So I think, probably shows your coaches experience to know there is very little good to come from being an athlete up over one day because You just don’t get through Endurance Sports without a big internal motivator. People don’t last, I’ve seen plenty of people that were way more talented than me. I remember a guy who ran soccer at the school I went to, he came out, and we were running 8ks for our conference versus 10ks, and he came out and ran low 26’s high 25, or something off of like no training. But he was like, I don’t really like it, I don’t want to do it.

That always irritated the crap out of me. Because you’ve got such awesome legs that I will probably never have but you don’t want to use them. So that’s how I know for sure. You’ve got to have that internal motivation, or you don’t make it. So, I guess I’m happy that coaches out there exist that know you don’t really need to beat up on everybody.

Eric 26:04
Yeah, I always say that, I don’t think anybody and especially very few distance runners need a coach like Bobby Knight. I mean, I just don’t think that works for distance runner, and the best coaches in the world are those coaches that can look at their team and think, all right, I’ve got a team, I’ve got a plan. I know I’ve got all 10 of these guys, or 12, or 10, guys or girls, they need to do X today for a workout, and the best are the ones that are thinking, is this a motivator thing?

Do I need to motivate this person or is it something that they’re fatigued, and I need to pull them off the track and say, Hey, we’re not going to keep drawing on ourselves, you need to go for an easy caught out, run and go back and just rest and chill out? The best coaches in the world are those people that can recognize that, and adapt and change to make that, be the plan for that particular individual. I mean, it just doesn’t work for everybody, you and I can run the same times, and you may have to run 70 miles a week, and I may have to run 40. But that’s because our bodies are just different. That’s just how we’re made. So everybody’s different.

Jesse 27:13
Yeah, you turn about that early. That’s exactly the case. Because I always responded very positively to extra miles. When I went from six days a week to seven days a week I tacked on like a 12-mile recovery run on Sundays. That’s the year I dropped a minute in my 5k. I went from high 16. Still high 15. That was the rest of the training plan didn’t change much from one year to the next, just add that extra mileage. So that’s something that works well for me.

So I fit that. Almost typical, like, more miles better times mold. By know that, you know, people like you exist where you can run or should run lower miles because you’re not going to tolerate them. And, as you said, the good thing about great coaching, and I think great athletes is that they recognize that there is a difference, and not everybody fits into one mold.

Eric 28:14
It’s 100% the fact I think that that’s the key, whether you’re a coach, whether you’re a boss, it’s that there’s no one way to do it, it’s just not, and if there was then we’d all be — Steve Jobs because he has a plan, and he could tell you the plan and you go do it and you become a billionaire because you created apple and we’re all different and all created differently, and you got to listen to yourself, and you got to listen to those around you and trust the people.

You don’t need those critics. Guy or gal that’s already a huge credit. I don’t need you to pile it on me, I actually need you to take it off of me. I need you to say, hey, let’s go man, quit beating yourself up, and maybe there are some out there that need that kind of extra kick and extra critic guy. But that wasn’t me. So I did it differently.

Jesse 29:09
I think that and this isn’t to disparage like high school athletes or beginning athletes, I think sometimes that’s more appropriate for that atmosphere where people are more casually interested. But I think once you get to the point of — serious collegiate athletics, pro runners, high level amateur triathletes, pros, and then you see, at that point, you’ve already self-selected, you are in it. So I think of high school athletes I ran with that I’ve been around coach very, very briefly. While I was in college, and there are people that come out because their friends are there, and they need some motivation, because this is not their jam, but they want to be with their friend. So they need that energy. But then the other people don’t.

Jesse 30:16
So, I want to ask you about because you’re interested in psychology. You got the degree, you’ve been through it. Earlier, we talked about types of pain, and distinguishing the difference between this is uncomfortable or this is, something’s wrong, and this is where I think English fails us as a language. We just talked about it. Does it hurt? [crosstalk 30:55] okay, but what kind of pain? Is it a burning? Is it stabbing? Is it tingling? Is it aching? And that is one way to turn to distinguish.

But it’s even that seems so imprecise. How do we better describe these sensations because, we both know, and anybody listening that’s been through this? If you’re going out for an aerobic threshold or an anaerobic threshold, there are two different feelings, and there are two different walls to get through, and I would describe it as a burning pain, but something I can relax into with enough experience, I think you can let your mind be like — it just hurts right now, and it’s burning, and it’s fine.

But then there’s almost a deeper sense of aching is not quite the right word. Isn’t the language is the barrier here. Is this deeper sense of inconsistency or a glitch in gears or something where your legs just aren’t turning over? You’re trying to get up to that thing, you can’t reach that gear, and something is just holding you back, and maybe it’s diamond painful, but to me it’s almost a lack of rhythm or something like that. It’s like, how do we communicate these things?

How do we identify them internally, that’s always something I’ve struggled with? I’m pretty good, at least inside my own self, knowing what they are, but trying to teach somebody else like, this is what to feel for. I don’t know how to communicate that. So I just curious if you have any thoughts on it What’s the classification system? How do we teach people to feel through these different types of pain?

Eric 32:51
So when I think of pain, it’s okay, is this a physical pain, pain where it will hurt you, like a pain in your, in your hamstring, or your quad or whatever, or in your overtraining, and you just think or it can be a potential hotspot, that turns into a stress fracture, like a pain that will not go away, no matter what you’re doing that day, that’s a pain that needs to be recognized, and to be dealt with that is not a pain of in your head might have, you’re trying to work through it, and then when you get into with specific workouts. It’s understandably so that that you will get into a workout.

And there will be a time period in there where you will want to quit, you will want to get rid of that quote unquote; that pain. Because it’s starting to over, it’s like, Okay, I’m hitting this wall. I know that in order to get to the next fitness level, I need to keep sticking with this and sit with it. I think that we naturally do not — You mentioned the word relax.

I think that there’s a probably breath work is important, meditative work. I think those things are super important for people to say, Okay, I’m going to breathe into this. If you’ve ever — As a triathlete, you’ve been on that bike and you’re like, just hammering it, hammering it, hammering it, and all of a sudden, you take some deep breaths and you say, okay, dude, I’m hurting, I’ve got to relax into this, all of a sudden, you realize if you have a power meter or whatever, you can continue the power and all of a sudden the energy changes in your body, and you settle into this, you settle into it, and so you enter into that world, so to speak, and then it’s like, okay, what’s on the other side of that? I don’t know what’s going to happen on the other side of that.

But in order for us to really — It’s almost like we sit with our pain. We don’t, as human beings naturally do that very well. We want to get rid of it like whatever it is. I’m going to get rid of — I’m going to drink my pain away, I’m going to drug my pain away, I’m going to do whatever the pain is, I’m going to do whatever it is to get rid of, as opposed to entering into it. It’s the same process of what we You and I were speaking to earlier, take a step back and be like, what is this about? What’s going on here? Says self-evaluation, what’s this pain about; is this pain and injury pain, or is this normal pain that I have to get through to go to the next level, to get to the next fitness level, and I think that that’s the thing that we need to really that — the best athletes can sit with their own pain in work through their quote, unquote, pain.

So there is a difference between fitness level quote-unquote pain and an injury pain and knowing the difference is the key to your success. In my mind, you’ve got to listen to your body, and if it is teaching, telling you, you’ve got a hot spot, and if you keep going, you’re going to get a stress fracture, you probably pay attention to that, or otherwise you don’t, and you end up getting a stress fracture.

The body has a unique way of saying, if you don’t listen to me now, I’m going to make you listen to me later, and you may get a stress fracture in two or three days off in the beginning would have been a heck of a lot better than three months off now. If we do listen to it, but it I think the body is a fascinating thing, and in order for us to — we need to be one with our body. It’s a mind and our body and our spirit, it needs to be one — if we can get that to work together, you will have a lot of success. It’s when you are at odds with one of those two, three things that you just in my mind struggle and your body ends up teaching you harder lessons than if you worked with it.
Jesse 36:47
Yeah, I would translate it as like momentary versus persistent pain but it’s also generalized versus pinpoint. Let’s go back to like we’re doing an anaerobic threshold, we’re doing 400 meter repeats, and the lactic acid just is just going to build up like it, there’s a point where your body is going to be screaming at you, and it’s going to be almost your entire body. But your ankle, or your Achilles tendon, or something is on fire, even after you stop, and it hurts when you’re walking around, that’s the difference between momentary versus persistent and generalized versus pinpoint.

I think that’s a great way to diagnose it. I talk to a lot of beginning runners or or young athletes, and how do I translate that experience into words? So it’s nice to hear from someone like you; can make it a little more cogent than me to solidify my own thoughts just because it is so important to learn that lesson because the balance and endurance running right is between listening to your body, and ignoring it entirely.

Eric 38:18
Yeah.

Jesse 38:20
There’s this quote, I tell a lot of people from one of my college coaches, because I not to be, like braggadocios, but I’m fairly smart. So I like to overthink things, and I would try to think all the minutia and we’d be doing repeats and stuff, and he said to me, Jessie, do stupid people are so much faster than you. They don’t think they just run.

Eric 38:48
That’s a fact. Trust me. I’ve thought many times — Is there a switch that I can just turn my brain off and just go. I wish there was a switch, because I think to your point, I overthink things. I’m like, oh, gosh, okay, you get in a race and you’re like, Oh, crap. I’m trying to run — Oh, did I just mess up my whole race because I went out too fast or whatever, and to your point, I wish I could just turn my brain off and just run. I think if I look back in life — back when I was first starting and stuff, the coaches would be like, hey, this person, he’s the best here at this meet.

I want you to go run with him as long as you can, and I didn’t think about times, I didn’t do anything. I just got to go stay with him as long as I can and see what happens, and I had some of my best performances doing that. Versus Okay, guys, we got to go out you’re going to have to run this lap and this lap and this lap and this lap. I got in there, and I’m overthinking it, just like you. Oh, 65 crap. That’s too fast. Now what? You know, now it’s going to happen. So I hear you.

Jesse 39:58
Well, one of the running show episodes talking about pacing and the benefits of being able to sit on somebody for a while and not have to do your own pacing. It’s like we underestimate how much brain power we’re using try to maintain a pace. Whereas if we could just say, on that guy’s got it and shut it down. It becomes so much easier, and I’m sure you’ve seen him, anybody who’s watched the Prefontaine movies, that’s a theme that’s played over and over and over, because he wanted to be in the front the whole time, and that was “Yes”, he throws and I get it from a philosophical, ethical standpoint, you want to be the winner from line to line. Nobody came to touch so I get it.

But at the same time eventually he did. But it’s like, you’re limiting your potential because you’re using up that brain power sooner than you’re used to, and that’s another thing that sometimes people will listen to you when you tell them and other people just got to experience it.

Eric 41:08
I think we all are like that. We’ve been told so many things in our life or at different times as kids, whatever and you’re like, Ah, no, I think I know better. Again, it always goes back to. Life has a way of teaching you the lesson that you may need to learn, and it’s the same with running it, you’ll learn the lesson one way or the other, and it’s whether or not you adapt to that lesson afterwards or not.

Jesse 41:32
It’s a little bit of a hard shift. But before we run out of time, I did want to ask you a little more about the nonprofit work you were doing while you were racing, how that all went together and what you were doing.

Eric 41:44
Yeah, so I’m just lead as an organization here in Knoxville, it was around before me and I got involved with them, and my vision was always to help people, and I tell people, when I started triathlon, the truth is, I didn’t come from a swimming background, and so I literally was like, I don’t even know if I can do this, and I hired a coach, his name was Brent Lorenzen, and he was like, “Hey, man, this is what you’re going to do, you’re going to swim 50s”. That’s all you’re going to do. 50s with a paddle and buoy and a band, and you’re going to be 50s, and let’s see what happens. Let’s see how fast you can get just by swimming, repeat 50 so that’s what I did literally, for an entire year, I didn’t go over 50 yards, and my first race, I panicked, and I swam the entire mile on my back.

And to go from that point, to the success that I had in triathlon, I always wanted people to know and kids to know, if you want to do something you can do it, don’t be the limiting factor in your mind. So this lead group is a group in Knoxville, that helps inner city kids, after school, they kind of have a program after school, they do a lot of athletics, and they have mentors and they allow for the kids to that may not have a great family home, have a place to go after school to learn new ways of doing things. Sso I got involved with him because I believed that I wanted to teach those kids that they have the ability to do whatever it is they want to do if they really think and believe it.

So, I would go there and I would do a lot of talking and I’d hang out with the kids and, and I just wanted them to know no matter what their circumstances is just like me, no background and swimming, you put the hard work into it, and it will reward you but you got to believe in yourself. So that was the premise behind why I got involved with just lead here in Knoxville is because I wanted to help those kids that may not have been as fortunate as I was; to believe in themselves that they have the ability to change their destiny, so to speak.

Jesse 44:12
Your thought reminds me of myself, although I didn’t have as much success in triathlon as you did. I did not have a swimming background. I actually avoided swimming for a long time, and when I began swimming in college, I had sinus problems, which I finally figured out after college, after I’ve been racing for 10 years. It’s actually just like, year round allergies that I can deal with because of that I couldn’t swim one link to the pool with my face in the water. I had to be head on water, doing Polo. I couldn’t do it, and then got to the point where I’m racing, half Iron Man’s going sub 430 because I want it bad enough.

And I think the important thing to take ways that two counterpoints have a similar story and that you did reach your — the stage of being a pro and I did not quite get there. That’s a whole story, I crashed and had that surgery and the whole thing, but I still ended up in a place that’s very much different than I could have imagined because I pursued that thing.

And that’s something I think it’s lost. I see a lot of cynicism nowadays, about — You give that attitude that if you work hard enough, you can achieve anything you want, and it’s like, you get this pushback of – Well, no, you can’t. You, yourself very genetically gifted, running low 4-minute mile in high school after 20 to 25 miles a week. That’s incredible. Not everybody can do that. But even though we can’t do that, if it’s something you want, and you pursue it, you are going to go places that other people wouldn’t have gone and you wouldn’t have gone. Had you not pursued it.

Had you just sat back and been like, well, I’ll just give up. Talking about to remember what you said, exactly, talking about having a way of showing you or your body having a way of showing you what it wants, I think life similarly has a way of putting you where you need to be, if you put in the effort. Maybe in my case, maybe it’s not being a pro triathlete.

But now, I’m leaving this company, and it’s affecting people, and it came through my pursuit of travel and the company never would have existed. Had I not pursued that path. I just wouldn’t have — Something else may have existed. But this I’m doing now wouldn’t have, and I think communicating the idea is a little tough, because it’s not succinct. It’s not like just work hard and make it — it’s not a soundbite. But that’s my counterpoint to the cynicism — Google just talking about survivorship bias.

Well, only the millionaires talk about if you just work hard, you can be a millionaire. It’s like, Okay, a little bit. But yes, there are some people that fell off, did not make it, whether it be being rich, or being a pro athlete, or being a professional musician, or whatever it is. It’s like, yes, some people fell off. But if you continue with the process, with the consistency, then it will lead you somewhere that I think the majority of the time will be a good place. So I don’t know if you have any thoughts on that?
Eric 47:49
Well, I think 100%. You’d have told me at 18 or 19, when I was going through some events that I’ve described to you, that somehow I’d be able to relate those to what I’m doing now, I’d have been like Dude, what are you talking about? You’re crazy. But the truth is, you wait everything you go through in life and everything that you deal with, and I think athletes have a unique way because they have so many failures and successes, and it’s all in one right all in a season, and it could happen actually, in a couple days, you’d have been at the lowest point and be at the highest point, in a matter of days. I remember just going back real quick. SEC’s my senior year, I just quit. We all crapped the bed.

I mean, we were tenants we should have been taught to in the sec, we were like, 5th, and our coach was so mad, and all of us were like, Dude, what are we going to do now, we got regions in two weeks, and we had our region that we were probably second or third, we ended up winning region out here. Because we banded together and, and said, let’s go do we know we can believe it was believe in ourselves. Let’s go do this. But I just think about that in a microcosm of life. Two weeks prior we were all like, Wow, do we suck. Two weeks later, we’re on top of the world, and that’s life, the opportunities that you put yourself in position. Yeah, of course, some people are more gifted than others.

Some people have been given more than others. But at the end of the day, each of these things, especially as an athlete, teaches us a lesson, and sometimes we don’t know where that ends up, and here we are and here I am at 41 doing what I’m doing. I don’t know where I’m going to be in 20 more years, but I can promise you that all the lessons that I look back and think, Okay, this and that and this and that. They all kind of converge and can help you. If you’re willing to take a step back and look back to our original point. Take a step back every now and then and look at what’s going on and see where you might be able to change and maybe pivot and adapt.

Jesse 49:59
So we’re almost out of time. So I’ll ask you real quick. I’m asking everybody the same question this year, and you’ve already touched on him probably in some way already answered it. But I want to ask you, how do you stay motivated after failing to reach a goal?

Eric 50:13
How do I stay motivated after failing to reach a goal is the belief that I had a belief in the beginning that I could do it, and just because I may not have accomplished it, that particular day doesn’t mean I can’t accomplish it, and sometimes like I just said, that may end up a different goal later in life? I wanted to make an Olympic team. I didn’t make the Olympic team. But a lot of things happened in my pursuit of trying to get there, I met a lot of people, I got to travel the world, I saw a lot of different things, and in the process, I learned a lot about myself.

So the ultimate goal is unbelievable, and sometimes you may fail to get to that ultimate goal. At the end of day, there’s a lot of things that happen, steps along the way that will teach you about yourself, and you’ll be able to learn, and at the end of the day, Jessie, about giving back to people exactly what you’re doing. You got this podcast sharing with people, and I mean, at the end of the day, we can make a lot of money, we can do all this, but then a day, this, we need to be about people and loving people and helping people become the best of who they are, and you look around, it’s just not happening right now, and I think as athletes that have been a part of teams, that’s the global; this world’s a team.

We’re all one one person, how can we help the person next to us and we’ve all been on teams were like, Hey, man, come on, come on. Let’s keep going. We got to keep going, and my thought is, how can we help one another, become the best of who we are.

Jesse 51:52
That’s a great point to end on. Eric, I got to get you to your next meeting. So thanks for hanging out with me today. I really appreciate it. I’m sure we could keep going if you didn’t have somewhere to be so..

Eric 52:03
Yeah, well, maybe I can jump on another time we can have… I love this. I think what you’re doing is awesome, and I’m always happy to keep talking and if there’s anything I can help with. I’m always here.

Jesse 52:14
Absolutely. Take care.

Eric 52:16
Thanks.