One of the biggest stories of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games was mental health. From Simone Biles to Naomi Osaka, more and more athletes were speaking up about mental health. And for good reason. It is hard, if not impossible, to separate the mind from the body. And for so many elite athletes, the pressure to perform a certain way, speak a certain way, and look a certain way can be crushing.
Professional athletes aren’t the only ones to experience the crushing weight of expectations. It’s practically baked into Western culture. In my (Brad’s) new book, The Practice of Groundedness, I call this “heroic individualism:” an ongoing game of one-upmanship against one’s self and others, where external measurement is the main arbiter of success. In this model, we are never enough. We never have enough, we’re constantly pushing for the next thing, always trying to justify our value, and constantly living in the pressure cooker. In the sports world, this could be a climber getting caught in a life-threatening storm because they ignored the weather radar, or a runner cutting their career short by trying to push through a chronic injury, or a person simply burning out on something they once loved and planned to do for the rest of their lives. In the business world, it’s the professional burning the midnight oil until there is none left to burn. In academics, it’s the high school or college student that feels regardless of how they perform, they are not good enough. It is not surprising that anxiety, depression, and burnout are at all-time highs. What is surprising is that we wonder why.
Our nation is dealing with a mental health crisis. A lot is at stake. We (Shalane and Elyse) believe what is driving this is twofold: a constant and compulsive striving for more leading to stress, busyness, and a lack of restorative sleep; and serious nutrient deficiency—the standard American diet is lacking in the vitamins and minerals that are essential for brain health.
Athletes, from the pros to weekend warriors, can feel this more than the sedentary population because our bodies demand more. Every time you head out for a run, your body uses up some of its nutrient stores, which can leave you feeling depleted in the short-term and depressed in the long-term. Replenishing with wholesome meals day in and day out helps fuel your brain and body. Yet too many Type-A, driven athletes, deprive themselves of the fuel they need. (Due to a shortage of time to cook wholesome meals or from following a restricted diet.)
The main reason we (Shalane and Elyse) wrote our new cookbook, Rise & Run, is to help athletes start their day better because we believe how you fuel your body in the morning impacts and sets the tone for your entire day. When we began the research for our new book we also realized that there is something special and sacred about mornings. We found that a slower morning routine is just as important as taking the time to eat breakfast. Before we started dreaming up this book, we were as guilty of “frantic morning syndrome” as everyone else. But once we started listening to our own advice and committed ourselves to early runs and better morning nourishment, writing this book transformed us. We hope reading it has the same effect on you. What you do when you wake up in part sets the tone for the day. Our goal is to help you set a sustainable and good tone.
One of our favorite researchers, writers, and coaches who we interviewed for Rise & Run is Brad Stulberg, author of the new book, The Practice of Groundedness. This book is the perfect complement to Rise & Run for those who are looking for a mental reset after the stress and frenetic energy of the past year. In this book Brad talks about a better way to pursue success and excellence: groundedness.
Groundedness is internal strength and self-confidence that sustains you through ups and downs. It is a deep reservoir of integrity and fortitude, of wholeness, out of which lasting performance, well-being, and fulfillment emerge. Groundedness does not eliminate passion, productivity, or all forms of striving and ambition. Instead, it is about ditching an omnipresent and frantic anxiety to begin living in alignment with your innermost values, pursuing your interests, and expressing your authentic self in the here and now. When you are grounded there is no need to look up or down. You are where you are, and you hold true strength and power from that position. Your success, and the way in which you pursue it, becomes more enduring and robust. You gain the confidence to opt out of the consumer-driven rat-race that leaves you feeling like you are never enough.
Groundedness is based on practicing six principles, all of which are supported by the latest evidence:
- Accepting where you are to get where you want to go
- Being present to own your attention and energy
- Being patient to get there faster
- Embracing vulnerability to build genuine confidence
- Building deep community and belonging
- Moving your body to steady and strengthen your mind
Years of research and reporting shows that people who focus on and pursue a more grounded kind of success are much healthier, happier, and more fulfilled.
The two books are intertwined because endless frantic activity, rote busyness, rushing, and doing for the sake of doing means no time to cook. And no time to cook means depending on packaged foods, which provide little micronutrient nutrition, which is essential for health. Together we hope these books will help you find a better way of feeding your mind and body (which again, cannot be separated) and give you concrete practices, recipes, and insights to be healthier, stronger, better, and more grounded.
We’ll end with one of our favorite insights that cuts across both books:
If you are a driven pusher who likes to go all-in on things, that’s great. But you can’t go all-in on everything at once. There are seasons for certain things in life. Trying to be great at everything all the time just leaves you frustrated, fatigued, and burnt out. Figure out what you want to prioritize now and go hard. Just constantly evaluate what you’re giving up, the trade-offs, and adjust and adjust and adjust over time. Pursue your core values. Show up consistently. And build community along the way.
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Brad, Elyse, and Shalane
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