Culture TEDTalks

5 great TED Talks for athletes

Posted by: Emmie Le Marchand

484076hrThe world of athletics is brutal. Athletes put themselves through grueling workout schedules and intense competitions, pushing their bodies and minds to the limit. But because part of being an athlete is constantly going up against (and sometimes with) faster, stronger and/or younger competitors, by far the hardest test any athlete faces is their internal struggle with themselves. It’s natural to question: Am I good enough? Can I keep going? Why am I doing this?

This series of moving and motivating talks reaches out to those athletes in pain, reminding you why you do what you do and illustrating that, whatever the excuse, it is no longer valid.

Janine Shepherd: A broken body isn't a broken personJanine Shepherd: A broken body isn't a broken person
Janine Shepherd: A broken body isn’t a broken person
In this talk from TEDxKC, Janine Shepherd will make you laugh and cry in the same sentence. Talking from experience, she highlights every athlete’s worst nightmare and biggest question: who am I if I can no longer do the sport I love? Describing her journey from Olympian to paraplegic to pilot, Shepherd shows us the importance of a supportive team and a peaceful soul when redefining your identity.
Lewis Pugh: How I swam the North PoleLewis Pugh: How I swam the North Pole
Lewis Pugh’s mind-shifting Everest swim
After vowing never to take on another cold-water swim after he swam the North Pole, Lewis Pugh came back for more when he heard about Lake Imja in the Himalayas. While drawing attention to global climate change, Pugh learnt an important lesson in humility. In this raw talk from TEDGlobal 2009, Pugh describes how his near-drowning experience forced him to re-evaluate his tactics and forget everything he had ever learnt about swimming and about survival.
Christopher McDougall: Are we born to run?Christopher McDougall: Are we born to run?
Christopher McDougall: Are we born to run?
Human beings were once like a pack of hunting dogs. That’s the suggestion Christopher McDougall makes in his talk from TEDxPennQuarter. He uses the story of a little-known Mexican tribe to show how the ability to run is mankind’s most primitive weapon. In the pack mentality, we understand the origins of the concept of a team — and in our ability to sweat, we discover our biggest natural advantage. The human race was made to run and made to compete he says. In other words: Being an athlete is a natural state.
Aimee Mullins: Changing my legs - and my mindsetAimee Mullins: Changing my legs - and my mindset
Aimee Mullins: Changing my legs-and my mindset
Aimee Mullins has been a double amputee since she was one. A record breaking Paralympic athlete, a model, an actress and an advocate for women, Mullins has still run further than many that have all four limbs. This TED archive video from 1998 celebrates a positive, happy and beautiful person who was never told that her disability should hold her back and so never let it. (Bonus: watch Mullins’ talk from TEDMED 2009 where she illustrates how the adversity surrounding a term like “disabled” actually opens the door for human potential.)
Ben Saunders: Why did I ski to the North Pole?Ben Saunders: Why did I ski to the North Pole?
Ben Saunders skis to the North Pole
Ben Saunders is interested in the limits of physiology, technology and psychology. Only four people have skied solo to the North Pole, a journey that is right at the edge of human capability. Saunders is, of course, one of them. His entertaining talk, complete with spectacular photos, is enough to inspire even the biggest couch potato to use the tiny amount of time we have on this planet to do something special. Ben tells us that “you’re the only one that decides what you do and how far you go.”