Think Like A Bumblebee, Train Like A Horse

January 12, 2013

To most of you the name Joe Friel probably doesn’t ring any bell. It’s ok, that’s what I’m here for.
Joe is a world-class endurance coach and author of the notorious book “The Triathlete’s Training Bible”.
In the triathlon community his training methods are highly regarded and consistently implemented. He’s some sort of triathlon coach-semi-god.
His training advice focuses on strengthening the body as well as the mind.
In this respect, Joe uses a powerful message to get his athletes to stay focused and believe in themselves during the long training season: “Think like a bumblebee, train like a horse!”.
This message, as simple (and maybe silly) as it sounds, is instead very powerful and could work for anyone, not just endurance athletes.

Think like a bumblebee, train like a horse

Think Like a Bumblebee

Bumblebees are huge, furry insects with tiny little  wings that fly with incredible speed, accuracy and agility.
For years, NASA scientists studied in fascination the bumblebee. How could something that big and furry fly with such  little wings?
They did several researches and determined that a bumblebee can’t fly. The physics behind bumblebee state that they are too large and too heavy to fly. Their little wings simply cannot carry the weight.
Here’s the interesting part: no one told bumblebee. The bumblebee goes on believing it can fly and so it does. As the bumblebee has faith in itself, it is able to fly no matter what NASA’s scientists have to say about it.
As per Joe’s words:

The silly insects go right on believing that flight is normal for them despite what the best minds in the scientific world know as fact.
You, as a person (and an athlete), just like the bumblebee need to have unyielding faith and belief in yourself. Don’t let anything or anyone limit what you can do and can achieve.
You can do it, if you just believe you can.
The bumblebee thinks it can fly. Actually, the thought of anything else never even crosses its tiny mind. It just keeps flying.We can learn a lot from the bumblebee. The single most critical piece of this sporting puzzle is believing in yourself and your capacity to succeed.
Train like a horse

Racehorses are just like any other athletes. They know they are athletes, and they know they are different from the other horses. They train with heart-rate monitors. They do intervals and
lactate-threshold training. They eat a special diet designed to improve performance. They have coaches, and they get nervous on race day.
The difference between racehorses and you is racehorses don’t second-guess their training program or their abilities.
Racehorses go all out when asked to; they don’t save something for tomorrow. You’ll never see a
racehorse add unnecessary mileage as it's worried about its performance, neither does it worry or fret after a poor performance.
Race horses don’t look at other horses and freak out because the other horses are doing something different. 
On race day, race horses are nervous just as human athletes are; they know what is about to happen, but they don’t magnify the tension by comparing themselves with the other horse (“look at the legs on that stud!”). Instead they are very purposeful in their approach to training and racing. There is but one reason for everyday existence – to get faster. If the horse is physically strong and the trainer is smart, this happens.
Racehorses just do exactly what is asked of them: nothing more, nothing less.
Racehorses have 100% commitment to being the best they can be. They have one purpose in their lives: to get faster and stronger, to be better.


The take-home message is to have complete belief in yourself. Believing you are capable is the first and most important step in becoming a better athlete and a better you.
Second, you should do things with purpose. If you are constantly second-guessing, you undermine your accomplishments and will never reach the highest levels.
[...] the first thing you must do is believe in yourself just as the bumblebee does. Without this, all of the science in the world won’t do any good. You must also have a purposeful, racehorse trust in your training. Continuously second guessing and changing training direction after every race are a sure way to fail.
Think like a bumblebee, train like a horse!

If you’re interested in reading more about Joe Friel, you can find most of his work here


  1. These are great attitudes. When I think about it, I really do admire racehorses because "they don’t magnify the tension by comparing themselves with the other horse.. instead they are very purposeful in their approach to training". So much positivity and no insecurities.