Hybrid Athletes are the Core of Human Innovation

Imagine American merchant marines swiftly cutting through the Pacific Ocean in their newly created Tea Clipper sailing ships.

Sleek yet capable, these hot rods embody both cargo capacity and speed.


They’ll need both to get to their prize:  The Chinese tea trade.

Go back to the year 1866.

The juggernaut corporation, the Honorable East India Company (an enterprise that made young, ambitious men flock to its employment from across the world to gain career and fortune) had just dissolved.

But not before having completely dominated India and China.

Could you imagine, a public company taking the governorship of an entire Indian sub-continent and enforcing its policies via its own army?

The East India Company did.

In fact, in one of the most frightening shows of economic power, the East India Company was responsible for the addiction of 1 million Chinese citizens to the dreaded opium drug; all of this effort, just to make a profit on Chinese tea.

Loading cargo at the Chinese port of Canton

That’s the company that shut down in 1866.

The world was in frenzy.

Suddenly the entire Far East had opened up in trade opportunity for other ventures.

It was an economic vacuum.

And it needed filling.

Ships across the world were trying to adapt in order to get to Shanghai faster and be able to bring tea back in ample amounts.

Tea and Training for Hybrid Performance 

Some people say that chasing after two horses is going to screw you over.

They’ll cite that you can’t compete at your best in two concurrent areas.

That’s true, to an extent.

But what if we shifted context?

What if we say, “I don’t care about being the ultimate powerlifter or the ultimate dancer?”

What if we say, “I just want to be competitive in both?”

What if we set completely new goals?

Goals like, “Let’s build a ship that’s going to outrun the other tea traders AND bring us back as much tea within the confines of maintaining a decent speed?”

Isn’t that how so many integrative sports work?

Look at football.

You’re not the strongest that you can be.

Nor are you the fastest that you can possibly be.

Nor the biggest.

You’re trying to be the best football player you can be.

You’re developing skills that conform to success in your given position.

In the same light, the ships that were created in this time of economic opportunity in the Far East, like the Opium Runner, embodied the same specificity as the football player.

They owned it.

maybe you’re interested in taking on a new challenge.

How about cycling?


You don’t want to break up with your sagittal plane, powerlifting lifestyle but you want something different at the same time.

You want to expand but not fall apart like the East India Company.

Going back, reflecting on the lingua franca or common langauge of what we are doing and comparing it to what we’d also like to do seems a great start to taking on competing in multiple types of movement.

It’s where we can then, as Alex Viada says, assess where we’re actually doing ‘junk volume’ for specific movements.

If we’re running dozens of miles a week as our normal and want ot start doing the coveted 5 x 5 barbell strength program, along with bodybuilding work for MORE muscle building, maybe our legs might not be ready for it?

In fact, maybe we need to assess how we’re now trying to manage THREE goals at the same time…in EQUAL priority.

Believe me, through personal experience balancing  running and powerlifting for competition, recovery takes on a whole new context.

Its shocking.

Adding running miles to strength training completely chained my perspective of how easy it is to over-train.

Running is completely different from strength training.

It’s a completely different challenge.

The American shipwrights in the post-East-India-Company boom understood this.

You can’t build a sailing ship that compensates too much speed for cargo space.

At the same time, you can’t sacrifice too much cargo space for more speed.

Time and money are on the line.  Not a lot of the first and plenty of the second.

How did our feisty Yanks adapt to these imposed demands?

  1. By building a sharper keel
  2. By maximizing the available cargo space to have greater product DENSITY

We could go out on a limb and say that it was a ‘lean muscle’ adaptation but we’re holding you by a shoe string on this analogy already, so just humor us.

The point is, the ships that came out of this situation were efficient for their task.

Now that’s cargo density.

They cut through the ocean, leaving the rest of the world wondering how these Americans figured out something so innovative.

How did they capitalize on this epic trade market moment?

These ‘tea-clipper’ ships weren’t the fastest nor built to carry the most cargo.

They were a medium of the two necessary attributes that seafaring merchants of the time needed for their environment.

Looking at pursuing two, or several different athletic goals could be looked at the same way.

Why are you really trying to do both?

If you’re a recreational, but competitive athlete, maybe adding another sport or hobby (to be competitive in) brings greater fulfillment to you.

If so, then you and I have to look at our situation holistically.

We don’t compete in strongman and also play basketball fairly competitively.  We are our own athlete that is trying to improve their ability in both areas.

Imagine the core skills needed for your success in both.

Find overlap.

Find negative volume or disruptive volume.

Be open to organizing your training to minimizing these negative attributes.

Find resources on people who’ve done this before.

Can you deal with it? Can you deal with not being THE BEST you can be at both?  Do you also realize that you can STILL be competitive in both?


Then take on the world through eyes of our feisty American shipwrights.  Build your tea clipper.

Get more fulfillment out of your fitness.