The Strength of Repetition

AJW's TaproomRecently I asked the teachers at my school to read and discuss Jenifer Fox’s book Your Child’s Strengths: A Guide for Parents and Teachers. The central premise of Fox’s work is that for too long schools have been teaching in an attempt to correct or mitigate against children’s weaknesses rather than to support them in discovering and enhancing their strengths. She urges parents and teachers to flip the paradigm and focus on strengths in determining the best way to educate children across the developmental spectrum.

In her book, Fox delineates three types of strengths: learning strengths, relationship strengths, and activity strengths. Here is how she describes each one:

Learning Strengths: Learning strengths are discovered from the unique ways we each individually approach and understand new information. Some of us are stronger auditorily while others discover their learning strengths visually or kinesthetically. Regardless, the key to understanding learning strengths is for them to be discovered by the individual rather than revealed or imagined by another.

Relational Strengths: Relational strengths are the things you do for and with other people that make you feel strong and good about the relationship. They are the applications of character values such as trustworthiness, forgiveness, loyalty, consideration, gratitude, and dependability.

Activity Strengths: An activity strength is something that you are both good at and feel good doing. Not to be confused with something you are simply good at doing. For example, you may be good at cleaning your house, but it might not particularly energize you or make you feel good doing it.

In our follow-up discussion about the book in our faculty meeting, we began with a very brief overview of the three types of strengths and then broke up into small groups to discuss our own strengths in the three spheres. It is important in Fox’s paradigm for parents and teachers to understand and embrace their own strengths before attempting to help children discover theirs. In my small group, our discussion quickly drifted toward activity strengths and when the others in my group pressed me to articulate mine and I realized that one of my most enduring strengths is the energy I get out of repetitive motion, particularly the repetitive nature of long-distance running.

I suppose, intuitively, that I have known this as a strength of mine for quite some time but I had never been able to explain why or how it brings me joy and replenishes my energy. As my group continued to prod me toward a clearer understanding of my strength, they observed that I seemed to get into a flow state even when describing my passion for repetition and while the others in the group didn’t share that passion they understood the grip it could have on my head and heart.

As runners we are often forced in one way or another to embrace repetition. I certainly know many runners who thrive on variety to keep themselves engaged and focused and I can understand, particularly, how and why that has brought so many former road runners over to the trails. However, for me, I have no problem at all running the same route day after day, no issue at all with the potentially mind-numbing impact of repeated laps around a track, and essentially, no fear of becoming stale from doing the same thing over and over again. In fact, repetition, in an ironic way, makes me feel fresher than variety does and brings a sense of focus and purpose to my running that extends to the rest of my life at home, at work, and at play.

Bottoms up!

AJW’s Beer of the Week

This week’s Beer of the Week comes from West Sixth Brewing in Lexington, Kentucky. Weighing in at a robust 7% ABV, West Sixth’s IPA is surprisingly smooth and crisp. It has a strong citrus overtone and a really lively, fruity finish without being sweet.

Call for Comments (from Meghan)

  • What are your learning, relational, and activity strengths, according to Jenifer Fox’s definitions?
  • What other activities, besides running, are your activity strengths?
  • And, what is it about running that makes you feel good?

There are 7 comments

  1. AT

    My man..

    I’ve been a diabetic since I was 14, and I guess in some ways, while frustrating at times, my routine has steadily evolved into a flow state with the life long marriage I am signed up for. Running and athletics was there before the diagnosis, and over the years, the repetitive nature of striding my legs and letting my mind wander allow me to continually piece it all together. I guess being a diabetic and a runner was my fate. Unique, but I’ll take it.

    1. AJW

      Thanks for the comment @AT. Your story is a great one and one that resonates with me. Sometimes we need to make the best of whatever hand we are dealt, you are certainly doing that. Keep rolling….

  2. Henry Bickerstaff

    I am an auditory. I read slowly and actually hear the words as I read them. If I could close my eyes when I run I would and just listen. When I do run on a treadmill I catch myself closing them the same way I do when I talk on the phone.

    Besides running my activity strength is woodworking. It helps me work on my visual skill. To see in my mind how all the pieces of wood will fit together especially before I cut them is a challenge. A challenge I enjoy.

    Like AJW I enjoy the repetitive nature of my routes. I will run the same half mile hill for 2 hours straight and never get bored. There is always something new to listen to. I listen to my cadence, I hear my breathing, I hear a rhythm and I know when my gait needs adjusting. It is never boring.

    What confessions do the rest of the readers have?

    1. AJW

      Thanks for your comment @Henry. Indeed, it takes a special kind of guy to run a half mile hill repeatedly for two hours but you obviously do it with a smile on your face and a spring in your step.

  3. Jonathan Gardner

    I remember when I gained entry to a 24-hour track race a few years ago, a fellow athlete who had at that point finished a 100-mile trail race said, “Ugh, I’d go crazy.” I said to him, “It’s just running.” I love a good adventure, but it’s really the running that appeals to me. I think I have a similar strength to yours.

  4. Mark Stone

    Nice article- thank you.

    A relative newcomer to trail – have been running trail ultras for the past 5 years – and no spring chicken – I turn 50 next year; I too enjoy the repetition of more familiar trails.

    A nice local loop of 18km with 800m vert is something I haven’t tired of. It’s interesting to see the trail change over the seasons and a steady increase in trail runners. Also great to keeping chipping away at PRs and beat my former self.


    Brisbane, Australia

  5. David

    AJW – where did you score a West 6th? Recommend a journey to Country Boy Brewing as well if you are ever passing through Lexington.

    Louisville, KY

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