What Do Marathon Running And Stress Have In Common? (Answer: Presuppositions)

by Doc Orman, M.D.

This week, I’m discussing a very unique way that marathon running and stress are connected. In my last post about the Boston Marathon, I shared that I was able to dramatically transform my relationship to both running and stress in the early 1980s.  Here is exactly what I said:

“I ran in the Boston Marathon twice, back in the early 1980s.  This was quite a radical accomplishment for me, since for the first 30 years of my life I absolutely hated running.  Also for the first 30 years of my life I was terrible at dealing with stress. I was angry, anxious, tense and irritable much of the time. At around this same time (early 1980s) I also had a major transformation in my ability to deal with stress.”

I also pointed out that I used the very same “personal change process” to consciously engineer both of these major transformations.

Today, I want to describe the first thing I did—in both cases— to initiate these “miraculous” and lasting changes.

Presupposition Magic

There’s a big sign in the Gold’s Gym I go to most mornings of the week. It says “Change Your Body, Change Your Life.”  While this may be true, you could also put another sign right next to it.  This sign would say “Change Your Presuppositions, Change Your Life.”

Presuppositions are basic philosophies we have about life that are usually taken for granted (as being true) and that give rise to many of our other more conscious opinions and beliefs.  If you change a basic presupposition you have about life, your whole world (or a specific part of it) can also undergo radical change as a consequence.


For example, before Einstein proposed his Theory Of Relativity, our commonsense view of the world was that time and distance are fixed and absolute.  In other words, a second is always a second and a 12 inch ruler is always 12 inches.  These were our presuppositions that everyone assumed were absolutely true.  Then Einstein came along and changed these two basic fundamental presuppositions and the whole world of physics had to change as a consequence.

Well, the same type of world-altering changes can happen to us personally. Change one of your fundamental presuppositions about life and you’ll be forced to reconsider a whole bunch of other downstream conclusions that you also believed to be true.

What does this have to do with marathon running and stress?  Well remember that in my world, for the first 30 years of my life, running was an unenjoyable activity and stress was something that was mostly inevitable and out of my direct personal control.  These views of “my world” came from my underlying presuppositions, which I didn’t even know I had (as presuppositions) because I believed them to be absolutely true.

The first thing I did to “transform” these two areas of my life was to recognize I had these very deep beliefs and that they may not be absolutely true.  In fact, I did something even more outrageous!  I took the exact opposite of these two presuppositions and asked myself what if these opposite presuppositions were actually true?

Here are the two new presuppositions I ended up with:

1)    Running is by nature an enjoyable activity for human beings, and it is humanly possible to train for and run a full marathon while enjoying yourself, without struggle or pain, all throughout the process.

2)    Stress is not an inevitable part of modern life. I have total personal control over any stress that I might experience.

Then, I set out to explore the implications of these two new presuppositions, assuming that these new ideas were both true and my older ideas were false.

What were the results of changing these two presuppositions as my first acts of personal change?

  • Running five full marathons including two Boston Marathons
  • Consistently running long distances and enjoying every mile (thousands of them) for more than 25 years.
  • Creating ground-breaking training programs to teach others how to enjoy physical exercise.
  • Creating ground-breaking training programs to teach others how to master stress.
  • Writing more than 10 popular self-help books on how to eliminate stress.

Not too shabby for thinking two “crazy” thoughts.  But that’s what it often takes to produce profound transformations, which is why so few people experience them.

NOTE: For more information about my unique approach to eliminating stress, please visit http://stressmasteryacademy.com

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