Can you be a learning athlete?

I picked up this lovely little four step learning framework from a chap called Ryan Hawk. It got me thinking about how it could apply to running and athlete life.

In essence, Ryan believes in order to grow we should all become what he calls learning machines and that will result in growth in all facets of career and life.

Here’s the 4 steps.

  1. Make a part of each and every day one where you are a consumer of knowledge. And make it intentional. That could be reading, coaching, podcasts, videos or even just reviewing your own training diary, etc.
  2. Don’t just be a learner. Be a doer. Take the learning and experiment with it. For example, you may have learnt how to use the maps function on your watch via YouTube, go out a run and try it. Or if you have found a new recipe for running food as part of step 1, make it and use it.
  3. Take a step back and reflect. Look at the learning, and how you applied it and assess its impact on whatever your intended outcome was. Even if what you tried crashed and burned you will have learned something. I mean, if you spewed up that beetroot juice during your intervals, you won’t do that again! But be intentional in your introspection and take the time to be still and think. Even just for a moment.
  4. And this is my favourite step of all. Teach. This is without doubt the best way to learn. It forces clarity of thought. Teaching others with an open mind, and a willingness to be challenged and grow, is where the magic really happens. Even if it is just sharing your ideas, the debate through diverse thought and conversation will undoubtedly accelerate the learning. A simple way to make the most of this is present your learning as a concept for discussion as opposed to an idea you are wedded to. It stops you feeling defensive when challenge. Instead, you feel grateful for the collaboration.

Take a moment to reflect on the four steps. Could you use this simple framework to become a better athlete? By being curious in step 1, applying it in step 2, absorbing the learning from step 3 and then sharing it with others in step 4, I really think it can accelerate your athlete performance.

Sometimes we think performance is numbers, that it is all hours, minutes and seconds, but in this context I think it is more about enjoyment, engagement and satisfaction with your athlete identity. With that in mind, perhaps think about something you want to focus on and use the four steps to help you get to your intent quicker.

And if it works, please share it with me. Writing this was step 1, 2 and 4 in action. Step 3 is a work in progress.

I hope that you find this useful. I’d love to hear from you if you have taken steps to become a learning machine and an awesome athlete as a result. I can be reached at or via social on Twitter @james_stewart13 or on Insta @jamesstewart13


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