This story gives us an idea about how we should make intuitive decisions to build confidence through training as runners. The fireman who saved himself and his men by acting on intuition was, of course, extensively trained in fighting fires and brought a system of firefighting techniques to bear in fighting each fire. Nevertheless, most of what he really knew about fighting fires he learned implicitly through experience on the job. This knowledge existed in his unconscious as a capacity to recognize certain patterns before his conscious faculties did, make predictions based on them, and signal these predictions to his consciousness in the form of gut feelings. Similarly, every runner must learn and apply the principles and methods of training that have evolved over many generations as best practices. There are specific ways of training that are generally more effective than others for all runners, just as there are more and less effective ways to fight fires. But each runner is unique, and every day in the life of a runner presents a novel challenge in the quest to improve. Only by learning through experience can the individual runner gain proficiency in customizing the application of the proven principles and methods of training and in making good predictions about how specific training decisions will affect fitness development. And most of this learning is implicit, as it was with the firefighter in Gladwell’s book. The runner’s subconscious faculties are usually first to figure out what the runner should do next and communicate their conclusions to consciousness as feelings and hunches.
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