Are You Gritty?

Grit by Angela Duckworth

What is grit and why is it important to an endurance athlete? That was the question I had prior to reading Angela Duckworth’s book, GRIT – The Power of Passion and Perseverance.

There’s a real difference between those of us with Grit and those who don’t have it. How many people do you know start a path and then give up? Think about all those people who buy treadmills or Pelatons. They use it once or twice or maybe even for a month and then, end up using them as a place to hang dirty clothes.

There are way too many of us who quit what we start far too early and far too often, says Angela Duckworth. “Even more than the effort a gritty person puts in on a single day, what matters is that they wake up the next day, and the next ready to get on that treadmill and keep going.

Do I have grit? How do you get someone to have grit? More questions I asked myself as I read the book.

What is Grit?

According to Duckworth, who has her Ph.D. and is a professor of psychology at the University of Pennsylvania, “grit is about working on something you care about so much that you’re willing to stay loyal to it.”

Do you have to have the talent to have grit?

Duckworth says, “no.” Talent is genetically influenced. Some people have genetics that makes it easier to run fast or to play an instrument. There is no single gene for grit.

What happens when we age?

Angela Duckworth says that our circumstances change. “As we age, we are thrust into new situations,” she writes. “We get our first job. We may get married. Our parents get older, and we find ourselves their caretakers. Often these new situations call on us to act differently than we used to.” She says we rise to the occasion.

She also mentioned that personality change is more of a “function of life experience.” And, she’s right. When I think about this I think about how unathletic and unmotivated to exercise I was and how that has taken a 180-degree turnaround.

Because of these life experiences, we grow “grittier” as we age.

How does grit work?

Duckworth says it first starts with an interest. For us, it was an interest to swim, bike, and/or run. She writes, “Passion begins with intrinsically enjoying what you do.”

Next, she says, comes practice. You need to practice what you love every day.

The third is purpose. She writes, “what ripens passion is the conviction that your work matters.”

The last thing is hope – hope that you will rise to the occasion of perseverance.

The rest of the book goes into each of these with various case studies. It truly is fascinating.

Key takeaways:

  • Make your training a habit. I have found that when I get my training done first thing in the morning, I don’t think, I just do.
  • Make sure you have deliberate practice. Don’t just go out and ride around the neighborhood if you have an Ironman coming up. Do interval training, ride a path, feel the ride and be deliberate.
  • When you get knocked down, don’t quit. Pick yourself up, brush yourself off, and keep moving forward.

Although I found many of the concepts in the book common knowledge, I loved reading her case studies and her equations. She is an excellent writer and researcher and if you haven’t read the book and you are an endurance athlete, you should pick it up. It will be an eye-opener for you.