Enduring vs. Charging

Explores the difference between sprinters and marathon runners as example of youth-preserving vs. aging exercise practice.
Explores the difference between sprinters and marathon runners as example of youth-preserving vs. aging exercise practice.
Usain Bolt of Jamaica

Often, to make a point, we ask people what kind of body they prefer: marathon runners or sprinters? Most people prefer sprinters’ bodies because they’re more muscular and vibrant. They emanate power. Yet these same people, when they go to the gym, train as if they’re marathon runners.

So what is the nature of each? Marathon runners are about endurance; sprinters are about attack and charge. If you look at the Happy Body standards that we created, being aware of how we deteriorate with time and how to stay youthful, you can see the alignment between practicing the skill of sprinting and the Happy Body program:

The Nature of Each: Marathon Body vs Sprinter Body vs Happy Body

 MarathonSprinterHappy Body
Good Posture
Ideal Body Weight
Ideal Body Proportions

By achieving the six standards you can age but still become more youthful. There’s a popular quote, “Life’s a marathon, not a sprint,” but lately we’ve seen it inverted to “Life is not a marathon, it’s a series of sprints.”

Is life really a marathon? Physically, your joints are designed to be used for a certain amount of time. Other problems can occur with marathon running like heart scarring, or a condition where the blood supply to the colon is limited in order to supply the muscle, and oftentimes part of colon dies and has to be removed. If you abuse your body in any way, you’ll age faster. And if you see life as a marathon there’s no time to pause and step back. You’re mindless on the treadmill, just surviving to reach the “end” of drudgery. Yet, if it’s a series of sprints, you have to accumulate the energy to charge forward and attack. There must be variation. In this approach, you can both be mindful and restore yourself and then still raise the bar and charge when you need to.

Every day when you wake up, ahead of you lies a series of “sprints”—tasks that you must perform. Your attitude can be one of endurance, a joyless, mindless round of repetition, or you can spark yourself to focus on one thing with enthusiasm. It’s up to you.


Which habitual style do you most identify with—sprinter or marathon runner? How do you rejuvenate? And how do you spark yourself to action?

Leave your response below in the comments.

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    • Hi Patrick,
      Welcome to The Happy Body. Of course you can, it would be fantastic to have THB teachings in UK. There is information on our webpage about THB mentorship program that you might look into. It’s a 12-week program that Jerzy teaches over the internet. We have participants from all over the world: Canada, Australia, Germany, Switzerland, South Africa and others. Why not you in UK?

      • Cool
        I am training to be a pilates equipment instructor but I love the happy body proposition + watched the Jerzy vid about seeing the veteran sports people.
        L o v e t h a t s t o r y
        If I take Happy Body to Market in the UK what are the considerations in terms of company / business protocols?

        • Maybe you should start with achieving THB, then becoming THB Mentor, and then inspire people in UK to make THB their way of life. I am sure that the experience of becoming THB and of mentoring others toward more youthful and happier living could help you to know next steps on the way to market it in UK.

  • Excellent article! It clearly lays out why we should approach life like a sprinter, not a marathoner. Both in how we train and how we think.
    I tend to rejuvenate by using my sauna. Or, just getting outdoors and enjoying nature.

  • This is a very useful perspective. Absolutely true in my experience. I appreciate how your efforts have improved my health and my daily life. The Happy Body mindset has contributed so much to my general wellbeing and the success of my family. Thank you.

  • I’ve been an endurance athlete for years. (Ironman distance Triathlon has been a focus since 2001.) . Currently I’m exploring … ‘the sprint’. Love this quote: “Life is not a marathon, it’s a series of sprints.” … working on changing my mindset at 51 years old. A series of sprints makes more sense at this point. Currently goal is to do a hand stand. I’m a long way from that place … now working on shoulder mobility.

    • Bryon,
      It takes time to either deteriorate physically, or get better. Sprints, weightlifting, or gymnastics are functional, fun skills. It’s great to pursue them. Let us know or send a picture when you do a handstand.

  • I think my dog would agree with this post. I watch how he plays hard, runs fast, then rests deeply. I do best when I follow that Rhythm too.

    I heard it said once that everything in nature pulses, and we are built to do that too. Nowadays we treat ourselves like iPhones; We flick ourselves on in the morning, run 10 apps simultaneously all day until our battery dies, then we plug ourselves hastily into sleep and feel somehow cheated if we don’t wake up fully charged again and again. The Marathon approach seems not to honour the nature of things…at least according to my dog 🙂

    • Good point Kim. Our dog Bella is definitely a sprinter. What you practice you become, and so the principle applies also to quality versus quantity.

  • Well said. I have been doing THB since July and do not plan on stopping. I’m getting batter at the practice. Thanks for the program and education.

  • You come to a lot of conclusions with zero evidence. In addition, running marathons does not reflect or result in any particular mindset.

    • Read: “Ultra Marathons Might Be Ultra Bad for Your Heart” by Katherine Harmon Courage, June 4th, 2012, Scientific American.
      Quotes: The researchers found that many of these athletes had temporarily elevated levels of substances that promote inflammation and cardiac damage. One study found that as many as half of runners in the midst of, or who have just finished, a marathon show these spikes, which can last for days after an event. And over time and with repeated exposure, these compounds can lead to scarring of the heart and its main arteries as well as to enlarged ventricles—all of which can in turn lead to dangerous irregular heart beats (arrhythmia) and possibly sudden cardiac death.
      Earlier this year ultra runner Micah True, also known as Caballo Blanco, made
      famous by Christopher McDougall’s book Born to Run (Knopf, 2009) for running with the Tarahumara tribes in Mexico, died at the age of 58 while on a relatively short trail run. The medical report concluded that he had a scarred, enlarged heart and likely died from arrhythmia.

  • How would you train in the gym like a sprinter, then? My adviser in the gym says I need some cardio to make sure my heart is healthy and to warm up my muscles. I do 15 to 20 minutes before and after weight training, (treadmill or elliptical) and do not run to exhaustion.

    • Like Jerzy mentioned, warm up with what you are going to do. If you do snatches, do it with a stick or a light bar, the same goes with other exercises. You need to avoid endurance, sprinting and weightlifting is cardio.

  • But the joy and freedom of running and being able to run 3 to 5 miles with some sprints in it…Why not combine?

    • Hi Mike,
      Maybe if you know the purpose of your run, it might help you to decide which way to go. You either train quality or quantity. The longer the run, the quality of the run goes down: you become slower, your posture deteriorates, your strive is shorter and that makes you less flexible. In addition if you run out of “fuel” your muscles are the target. That’s why the effects of marathons on the body is align with aging.

    • You can also look at that from a perspective of fast twitch muscle and slow. As we age we get slower. Getting slower does not affects only our ability to save ourselves in emergency situations but also affects our brain which when slowing down interferes with our ability to sustain normal functions—delayed reflexes, slow thinking, and forgetting are result of slowing brain. Learning new things becomes almost impossible. That is why I would never compromise the fast twitch muscle.

  • First, I must note that The Happy Body workout has helped me significantly, though I am recovering from an injury and have to progress very slowly.

    Next, I must note that I was blown away to be able to talk to Jerzey in person; he’s truly awesome and I was sorry to have to cut the chat short.

    I thought about this running comparison for quite a while, then I did two Google image searches: “Marathoners” and “Ultramarathoners.” I saw a wide variety of body types — from extremely lean to very muscular, of which I thought were fine versions of the human form. Very few were over-fat or over-weight.

    Then I did a little research on Janne Holmen, the marathoner you show (unsmiling, looking like he’s emaciated and struggling). Here’s a far better picture of him:


    Apparently smiling isn’t something he does much, but that’s okay.
    And here is a quote from Runner’s World, translated into English, about his strengths and weaknesses as a runner:

    “The weaknesses include poor basic speed, asthma, allergies, a crooked left leg that is also associated with poor mobility in the left hip. The strength is between the ears.”

    (https://www.runnersworld.se/artiklar/loparprofilen-janne-holmen.htm, translated by Google Chrome)

    I’ll never look like him, barring actual starvation. But I sure admire his thinking.

    So… I’m not sure that the comparison helps The Happy Body much. Instead, why not focus on the benefits of The Happy Body without putting down other forms of exercise?

    • Hi Joanna,
      As food you eat either keeps your organs healthy or deteriorate them faster — and so does the exercise. These two factors will affect your body, specially when you are older. There is such a thing as bad food and bad exercise. If you don’t know the difference then any food or any exercise is OK. Socrates once said: “Unexamined life is not worthy of living.” The strength is between the ears. Do we need to break down the body to prove the power of the mind?

      • I did a little more research. Janne Holmes is 5’10” and 131 pounds, according to Wikipedia. Dwaine Chambers is 5’10.5” and 183 pounds. For a 5’10” man, the Happy Body Ideal Weight is 170 pounds. (For women, it is 134 pounds.). Unfortunately, Mr. Chambers was also suspended for using performance enhancing drugs. I hope that he has since switched to a healthier way to maintain his physique.

        • As you know athletes do not take steroids to get bigger but to perform better. That does not exclude endurance athletes which was recently proven by our best cyclists.

        • If a woman was suppose to be 110 pounds but became 75 medicine would have a name for her. Does medicine have a name for a man who is supposed to be 170 pounds but is 130 pounds?

    • Let’s not talk about people but about activity and what it does to our bodies. Quantity wears us out. Quality makes us better. The longer we run the slower we run and the more our joins are inflammed and more our organs are stressed. Our hearts get scars, they get arrhythmia, and the final result is clear. A sprinter lives the longest and has the highest quality of his life because of his power and not wore joints. This is axiomatic for me and I do not need any evidence to be sure. And I will not compromise greatness either by running one mile because I could think that maybe it is not as bad as running a marathon. After all almost in all sports a quality of one second decides about winning and not quality of one hour.


      • I have great endurance in my life because of weightlifting and sprinting. I pursued The Happy Body business without any compromise for 30 years. I wrote poetry for 20 years to just find out if I could be a poet. I do TM for 25 years everyday twice a day. All of it happened because of power training and not endurance. Today I do not have any feeling that my body is aged. Even though I am 63 I know I am flexible, strong, and have a t least 40 years to enjoy quality life. Doing full snatches at a 100 will be fantastic. I love my joints and organs and will not compromise to just prove myself that I can run for 3 hours. Do I have this power if I want—of course. I walked down the Grand Canyon to the Colorado river for 12.5 miles and back 12.5 miles up 7000 feet in 5 hours and 15 minutes. I did it without any preparation with one bottle of water and Nikon F2 camera hanging on my neck—making 7 rolls of films during the walk. It was 20 years ago and there is no doubt in my mind that I cannot do it today—if I want to.

  • Actually the less you train the better for your body. All blue zones people who live longer then a 100 do not exercise at all—just simple daily challenges are their exercises. Can we learn from the best? Can we stop debating axiomatic truths. Wayne Dyer once pointed to that this way. If you ask a normal person how much is 2 plus 2 he will tell you 4. If you ask a debater he will tell you I know it is 4 but it could be 5. If you ask a schizophrenic he will say 37.

  • All teachers know that to accomplish a difficult or lengthy task, it must be broken down into manageable “chunks.” It is my personal experience that we become overwhelmed when “there is too much to do.” This is when we often do nothing. Learning to read (or write) is a process. When we show students the whole by reading a book to them or sharing a story we have written, they can see the end result. Then, we practice each day to become more fluent, remember our letters and sounds, read our sight words correctly and quickly, and soon, we are reading. It is much the same with The Happy Body. I saw Jerzy and Aniela and could see the strength, grace, agility, flexibility, healthy body weight, and proportion. I learned the sequences of the exercises and refine them each time I do them. Sometimes, I take a step back. I know a step back is ultimately a step forward. I eat well most days. I meditate by reading, writing, walking. I spend quality time in nature with friends and my dog. Though I am “in It” for the long haul, I am able to do this by taking the day in chunks and varying activity with quiet times. The analogy of a marathon v. sprinter is one analogy and each of us can think of others that are aligned with our own experiences. I have been practicing the Happy Body since July when I began at the Omega Institute. I will continue till the end of my days. I can hum all of the Theis meditation without the music. I embrace the wholeness of the experience and add to it with my own findings- reading many of the stoic books by Ryan Holiday, and listening actively to Jerzy and Aniela’s stoas. Microprogressions are key! One day, you wake up and you are closer to your goal! I know I am!

  • Would walking for 30 minutes a day add or subtract from THB goals? I have researched for a long time how wonderful sprints are, and THB program, but what about a daily walking program that is never longer than 30 or 45 minutes a day?

    • Nicole,
      Walking is a nice pastime and we encourage people to go out, be in nature. There are many reasons “forest bathing” Japanese have even term for is, is good for you, beside stress release; dose of Vitamin D, fresh air, pollen that helps to strengthen immune system etc.

      • Thank you so much, Aniela!

        I am currently homebound and am gradually gaining strength. I really do look forward to going outside! For now, a treadmill and vitamin D light will have to do.

  • I´m confused with the new design of your website. I love the content but there´s no way to navigate the site, no menu. You could go back to the design of, say, five years ago.
    As you said about the exercise videos you wanted to “simplify operations” but the site is impractical now. I had to google “the happy body blog” to access the blog posts, doesn´t help newcomers.
    Thanks for your brilliant teaching.

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