Personality & Performance
There’s no such thing as a one-size-fits-all training plan. Even if two people have a lot in common, they can have very different reactions to and perceptions of the same stressor. Some pro athletes fret in advance over all the variables that could affect their training weeks—bad weather or a busy week looms on the horizon, causing worry and what-ifs.
On the other hand, I know pro athletes who barely find time to squeeze in training between all of the other stuff they enjoy doing. It can be stressful or unproductive for these athletes to restrict their lifestyle more exclusively to training. The ideal approach to training, competing, and maintaining a balanced life will—and should—look different for each of us.
Your training plan will be shaped by all of the things that make you unique—lifestyle, personality, and genetics, for starters. Genetics plays more of a role than you might think. Beyond your physical attributes, genetics can determine how you approach your sport. The processing of dopamine in our prefrontal cortex has been attributed to a single gene, COMT. This gene can determine how you process and deal with stress. In Top Dog: The Science of Winning and Losing, Po Bronson and Ashley Merryman explain how the two personality types as determined by this COMT gene are referred to as “warriors” and “worriers.”
To get a feel for which type best describes you, take our quiz. Knowing your personal strengths and liabilities will help you maximize your ability.
Go to www.runnerquiz.com to take the quiz and to find out which pro runners are warriors or worriers.
Diligent as worker bees, these athletes thrive on routine. Worriers love order and are happiest when they have a plan with clear objectives. They tend to fret over the details and analyze all potential outcomes. Worriers can be challenged by stressful situations, but they are persistent and tenacious individuals who learn from their experiences. These traits allow them to be very successful even in high-risk career paths. They’re not rattled by negative thinking; in fact, they use it to prepare themselves for worst-case scenarios.
If worry isn’t kept in check, it can lead to anxiety disorders. Worriers can sometimes be introverted and rigid in their ways, which causes them to be less open to new people or experiences.
These are the quintessential “born-to-be-wild” risk takers. Warriors are free-spirited and quick to say yes to an adventure. High-stakes, high-pressure situations are where they thrive. They actually need stress in order to achieve optimal cognitive functioning, and they seem to need deadlines to achieve peak focus and mental alertness. Warriors come alive and perform well on race day.
A lack of focus can make it difficult to honor the most meaningful ambitions. While they have no problem rising to the challenge on race day, warriors often struggle with the day-to-day grind. If they fail to prioritize and limit their activity, they’ll end up exhausted and will fall short of their goals.
While warriors might apear to be primed for success in athletics, worriers often outperform warriors over the long term. Athletes at every level must learn how to maximize their personality type to achieve their goals. Both worriers and warriors can be successful, and best of all, they can complement each other! Worriers keep warriors focused and organized, while warriors liven up the routine and keep things fun. Whatever camp you fall into, you will benefit from adopting a few traits from the other end of the spectrum.