“We have to train the physiology so that their body is perceiving that day as low stress. How do you train an athlete so that their mind, their internal emotions are perceiving this day as something they can tackle? And also how do you train their physiology so that inside the body’s going “this is hard, but its not the hardest thing I’ve ever done.” You have to provide them with training that over stresses both of these elements.”
I may finally have arrived at a way to concisely and effectively communicate why I hate HiiT (hi intensity interval training)? And when I say hate, I use the word unemotionally, its an authentic expression to the depth at which it hurts when I hear athletes/parents/coaches talk of it.
If movement is a language, then how we study movement should be comparable to the manner in which we study language, to the manner we use language… be it in poetry, in speech, in song.
Imagine if a teacher of language encouraged you to learn only a handful of sounds, not even words, just sounds, and then suggested that effective communication was the mere repetition of those sounds. If the goal of communication is not achieved thru these sounds, the teacher then suggests that the alternative approach is to escalate the intensity of the sounds until a zenith of screaming, screeching, yelling is reached, because effective communication can be achieved if sufficient decibels are put behind the sounds.
Sound familiar? This is identical to that of a coach prescribing only workouts focused around targets of wattage, speed, or split times (i.e. decibel level), with sport specific technique dumbed-down to a handful of universal principles (i.e. sounds).
There is nothing more moronic, idiotic, ignorant, even evil for a teacher of language to do then to massacre language by dumbing-it-down to a handful of grunts and groans with intensity made the centre piece of communication. It is equally as moronic for a coach to dumb-down peak performance in sport to hi intensity interval training (HiiT).
As caveman grunting is to Shakespeare…
HiiT is to athletic training, to sport, to peak performance.
Those who teach that sport is nothing more than HiiT – i.e. caveman like activities of suffering in a pain-cave (no coincidence that a caveman approach wants a cave to hide in to train), via a “no pain no gain” mindset, where hurting oneself to the point of self harm or self mutilation is believed to be the source of strength, endurance or speed – are morons, idiots, ignorami who should be kept as far as possible from sport, especially from children who are experiencing sport for the first time.
Like language, movement is supposed to be beautiful, inspiring, captivating, intriguing, a creative outlet of self-expression, where an athlete – one who studies the language of movement – arrives to competition commanding such presence, attention, awareness that all eagerly wait to witness what awe-someness they will undoubtedly experience.
What does language have?
- It has an alphabet which represents all the basic sounds of the language.
- Those sounds, represented by letters are tied together in syllables, and syllables tied together to form words.
- There are different types of words: nouns, pronouns, adjectives, verbs, adverbs and every word has a specific meaning, sometimes multiple meanings.
- There are rules on how words are linked together to form sentences, how sentences are united to create paragraphs, and paragraphs linked to create essays, short stories, novels, and so forth.
- There is complexity to language… there is figurative language: simile, metaphor, personificaiton, symbolism, and hyperbole.
- There is more complexity when language uses literary devices: anachornisms, analogies, foreshadowing, imagery, irony, satire, understatements, etc…
The palette may consist of only 26 colours (letters in the case of our alphabet), but the number of paintings an artist can render from those simple starting points is infinite. Hence movement is limitless, hence sport is limitless.
Why is HiiT the training tool of the ignorant? Because it is the equivalent of stripping language of all its complexity… dumbing-it-down to grunts and groans, teaching that communication is a simple matter of intensifying the grunts and groans to exchange concepts, ideas, to negotiate, to interact.
What sort of individual would dumb-down the beauty, the sweetness, the creativity, the white canvas that is language into grunts and groans? They would have to be the moron of morons.
Any coach who relies on HiiT… is just such a moron.
A moron you must avoid at all costs.
Because the risk is that their ignorance will get all over you, and that ignorance will take you down… in injury, in illness, in blow out, burn out, or meltdown; far short of your potential, far short of you experiencing peak performance.
Find a coach whose love for sport is no different than that of a teacher whose love of language compels their students to inhale book after book, to fall in love with verse.
Find a coach whose appreciation of movement leads athletes to fall in love with the complexity of the language that is movement. A coach who inspires athletes to explore, to play, to engage in movement encouraging not only self expression, but self discovery so that the potential of the athlete can and will be truly experienced.
To become the highest performing version of you… you need to find a coach who is willing to take the time to teach movement as a language so that as an athlete – a student of movement – you can start to learn how to write creatively, and then to write your own essays, your own short stories, perhaps a novel, maybe an entire series.
When movement is seen as a language, then you will come to appreciate that there truly is no limit to pursuing your potential. If this was not the case, then long ago we would have decided as a civilization that there are no more combinations of words possible… that every book, song, story, play, movie that could be written has been written and we have reached the pinnacle of our existence, of our creativity. It hasn’t happened with words, it hasn’t happened with music, therefore it has not happened in movement, thus not in sport.
Every World Record that stands today is a single chapter in a novel of that sport… its waiting for you to come along and write the next chapter in the history of the sport. But to be able to write that chapter… you will need more than grunts and groans, you will need a full vocabulary, a thorough understanding of the rules, the patterns, the process to writing and sharing ideas.
I challenge you… become a student of movement so you can write yourself into the history of sport.
Wonder why athletes – who are supposed to be healthy – end up developing heart arrhythmias, heart attacks, strokes, or worst, end up dying? Part of the reason is because they have become deaf. No, not deaf as in cannot hear sounds from with-out, but unable to hear from with-in.
Think about it this way…
If you train yourself to deny what you are feeling, train yourself to repress feelings of discomfort, soreness, pain, well… how are you going to feel when you want to and need to feel?
If you train with the goal of deadening yourself to the messages your body sends, effectively numbing yourself to yourself, what happens when your body actually sends you a signal that you are in… distress? Numbing yourself so that in competition you can ‘hold on’ and live to survive to see the finish line may seem like a winning strategy… but it isn’t. It isn’t because it does not translate out to real life, as in the life you lead the other 20+hrs a day when you are not training, not ‘an athlete’.
What happens when you are in respiratory distress, cardiac distress, or as the athlete in the Runners World article (click here for link)… having an actually cardiac arrest? That’s right… a runner living an active “healthy” lifestyle that he likely boasts all about on Facebook and Instagram had an heart attack, and continued on his way as if nothing had happened, as if nothing was wrong. So “healthy” that he could not hear nor properly interpret the signs and symptoms that his body was communicating that he was in fact in the midst of an emergency situation, a life or death moment. A moment that he is blessed to have lived through and to tell about is a miracle!
If there was ever a time when the cliche was appropriate: “lights on… but no one home”.
This is how we have been collectively instructed by well-intended (but 100% clueless) trainers, coaches, and fellow athletes to train. This mindset of self denial, self suffering, self inflicted harm of “no pain, no gain”, to the point of self mutilation (i.e. I couldn’t walk for days after that CrossFit session… gnarly!) which is supposed to be building us healthier, is in fact doing the diametric opposite.
Look around… today the average person is unhealthy.
How do you think that after training day after day, training not to hear from within, that what… by magic you will hear from within, become self aware of significant health issues when necessary. How? How will you discern between what you have trained yourself not to do (i.e. hear), when you need to hear in order to take affirmative and possibly life saving action?
If you train yourself to deny what you feel, then guess what… you are training yourself to be an expert in not hearing what your body and brains want to tell you, needs to tell you so that you can make healthy decisions… at work, at home, at the grocery store, at the gym, when out on the town.
That is why we all have heard from family, from friends… stories of people receiving diagnoses of heart disease, dementia, cancer yet absolutely and unequivocally blindsided by the fact that they are sick, they have a disease, they are ill, even terminally ill.
As if cancer is one day not there and then poof all of a sudden you have a golf ball sized tumor, or your arteries just overnight clog up, or your neural connections just all of a sudden deteriorate, or your endocrine (i.e hormonal) system is fine and then next day breakdowns as if abused for a decade or more.
It doesn’t happen that way.
Guess how ‘good’ decisions are when you are missing vital information to make a ‘good’ decision? They are random, and they are not decisions, because without all relevant info they are at most gambles of hope [that you are making a good decision].
Imagine running a business where the CEO refuses to listen to anyone, and I mean anyone in the entire company. What if the CEO refused to listen, not just listen – has trained themselves not even to hear – the corporate lawyers, accountants, the other C-level executives, to the Board of Directors, to the shareholders? How long would that company last?
Well… that is exactly how we are running our bodies. We are CEOs of our body and brain, and with “no pain, no gain” we train ourselves stupid because we train ourselves to not only not hear and not listen to, but we train ourselves to purposefully ignore the messages, the signals, the communication that millions and billions of years of evolution have programmed into us in order to keep us healthy.
Yet, we wonder in amazement… how did it happen?
How did I get 50, 80, 100lbs overweight?
How did I get heart disease, end up with a stroke or cancer?
Meanwhile, its back to the gym, pounding the s#!t out of ourselves believing that working out hard, harder and harder still is the right course of action.
I do not know how to say it, or how many times to say it… hi intensity training is stupid. HiiT should be reserved for highly trained athletes under the direct and watchful and caring supervision of a coach, or a team of coaches ensuring that nothing stupid happens to the athlete when they are pushing themselves to their limits. HiiT should never have been popularized due to its inherent risks, but that’s industry for you… screw you, all that matters is their revenue and profit targets.
If you are not a highly trained athlete – i.e. an athlete who has thousands upon thousands of hours of appropriate physiological and psychological base training – then there is absolutely no reason for you to be doing HiiT (hi intensity interval training).
If you are a highly trained athlete, then only if you are in a state of health (i.e. no injury, no illness, not recovering or still in rehab) should you perform HiiT.
If you are a highly trained athlete, only if you have developed and trained a profound sense of self awareness, a keen sense of intuition, or are being coached by someone who is well trained and well versed in evaluating and training athletes who are riding the red-line of peaking to perform in competition should you perform HiiT.
Peak performance, and exploration of your peak potential happens only in the condition of consistent training, not peak training. If you do not train consistently, then there is no reason to peak… for you have nothing to peak.
Find and work with a coach who can evaluate where you are at, can progress you in an healthy manner by developing capacity, skill and technique, and refuses to spike performance using HiiT in order to pacify your or their ego, a coach who places health as the priority. There are few such coaches, but taking the time to find one may mean the difference between life and death.
As a follow up to the prior post [titled “Most Advanced & Most Depressed] I thought it would be appropriate to shed light on the tactics used by trainers, coaches, heck… the entire sport and fitness industry regarding “getting you healthy”.
The tactics used by the entire sport & fitness industry are NO different than the addictive “persuasive techniques developed by propagandists and the gambling industry” used by tech companies like Facebook and platforms such as Twitter, Snapchat, and Instragram to addict their users to get the average consumer to check their phone 150 times a day (at last count, and rising).
In the world of tech, the addiction is created by users seeking another and another hit of dopamine which comes with every ping, ding, like, follower, swipe and star.
In the world of sport & fitness, the addiction is created to endorphins where the trainer or coach teaches a trainee or athlete to suffer under the guise of “no pain, no gain” so that every workout becomes a quest for ever more self inflicted pain and suffering.
The epitome of achievement in the world of sport & fitness is when you obtain “beast mode”, a level of such self hate that you are willing to push your body til you cough or pee blood. Trainers & coaches revel in the limelight of being able to ‘hurt’ trainees and athletes, with those who can hurt you the most feared for the level of punishment they can push you to cause yourself.
If we are wondering what on earth we are doing to children’s brains through the addiction to technology, and especially social media apps, then perhaps the sport & fitness industry can shed some light…
In a time when health and fitness clubs mark almost every street corner and strip mall, a time when trainers have become TV celebrities, interviewed as if experts on all things health, placed in positions of authority when it comes to health and wellness… then surely there must be some evidence of success. Is there? Is there any evidence of success of all this endorphin seeking high intensity interval training?
Even the godfather of HiiT himself – Trainer Bob Harper of Biggest Loser stardom – has had his own heart attack proving that what he has preached adds up to a big fat ZERO! Review the aftermath of Biggest Loser contests, the stories shared by contestants while on the TV series and you will read that the weight loss on the show was exactly that… a show, with most unable to keep up appearances once out of the spotlight.
HiiT is a bunch of smoke and mirrors, selling cosmetic health as a proxy for true health.
If all this ‘health & wellness advice’ was accurate in anyway then we – collectively – would not be the most diseased, most overweight, most obese, most medicated, most depressed, most anxious, the most addicted and sickest society ever!
If there is anything more indicative of the health of society then it must be the state of our children… but unfortunately they are as overweight, obese, and addicted as their parents.
A recent study predicts that 57% of children today will be obese when they hit 35! Think about that… just for a moment. If 57% of the population is obese, and obesity comes after being overweight… will anyone be of healthy weight?
We are nowhere close to these stats, meanwhile my daughter has already been bullied at school for being too thin, aka too healthy! Now, that is sick.
For one child to look at another, and instead of hoping and wanting health, instead wants the healthy child to become sick like them… now that is a sick mindset. It leaves me wondering… where are the parents? Do they not see the suffering they are inflicting or perpetuating upon their own flesh & blood? Do they not care? Or, does their social media avator have them so desperate for attention and acceptance that the health and well-being of their child has become secondary?
And this is the the outcome of the most technological and medically advanced society! So whats gonna happen when we become even more technological and medically advanced?
Let’s cut the crap…
HiiT… is bulls#it.
“No pain, no gain”… is the bulls#it that started this whole mess.
“An endorphin high” as a measure of a ” good “ workout…. is bulls#it.
Health does not come by slapping 30mins of exercise as a bandaid to cover day after day of intense stress, of toxic relationships, of unfulfilling work, of improper eating, drinking, where insufficient rest, recovery and sleep, are made up with “sports nutrition” products along with prescribed or over the counter medications to keep both ends of the candle burning brightly for at least one more day (hopefully, fingers crossed, knock on wood… as if that makes any difference).
You want health, then it must be the priority, not a close second.
You want health, then all decisions need to be made through the filter of the impact they can have, will have, even may have on your health, on you and/or your family.
That is the price of health, and that IS the truth.
Anyone telling you otherwise is bulls#iting you.
“The term “addiction” is no exaggeration. The average consumer checks his or her smartphone 150 times a day, making more than 2,000 swipes and touches. The applications they use most frequently are owned by Facebook and Alphabet, and the usage of those products is still increasing.”
Roger McNamee – The Guardian, to link click here
“In an interview this week with Axios, Facebook’s original president, Sean Parker, admitted that the company intentionally sought to addict users and expressed regret at the damage being inflicted on children.”
“He [Parker] said that he, Mark Zuckerberg and others understood this, “And we did it anyway.”
Mike Allen – Axios, to link click here
“That means that we needed to sort of give you a little dopamine hit every once in a while because someone liked or commented on a photo or a post or whatever … It’s a social validation feedback loop … You’re exploiting a vulnerability in human psychology … [The inventors] understood this, consciously, and we did it anyway.”
Sean Parker quote from Mike Allen/Axios interview
“God only knows what it’s doing to our children’s brains”
Thuy Ong, The Verge, to link click here
“The sad truth is that Facebook and Alphabet have behaved irresponsibly in the pursuit of massive profits. They have consciously combined persuasive techniques developed by propagandists and the gambling industry with technology in ways that threaten public health and democracy.”
Roger McNamee – The Guardian, to link click here
“The US, the most technologically advanced nation on the planet is also the most depressed: 3 in 10 Americans will battle depressive illness at some point in their lives, an estimated 10 fold increase since WWII.”
Stephen Ilardi – The Wall Street Journal
“The addictive pull of social media: the idea that we can substitute a carefully controlled social-media substitute (avatar) for our less-than-perfect real-world self.”
Charles Hugh Smith – of two minds.com, to link click here
Wonder why we are uneasy, down, depressed, wonder no more… every time we reach for our smartphone – 100 or more times a day – we toy with neurotransmitters and hormones that have a profound effect on our mental and emotional states, hence our overall well-being and health.
So what matters more… your health, or the online status of your social media avatar?
If its your online status, then when your health, the health of your family, your children, your grandchildren deteriorates then at least you will know who is responsible… you are.
Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Google may be guilty of toying with your physiology and psychology in the name of corporate profits, but now that you have been informed of their agenda, you have the ability and the responsibility to decide whether or not to continue to use them to the extent that you have been, or at all.
Again, what matters more… your health, or the online status of your social media avatar?
Who crawled is not the point, it is “the crawl” itself and the meaning that has been attributed to it that is the focus of this post. From a business perspective the event known as “the crawl” was undoubtedly the best thing to happen for the Ironman brand and the Corporation. From a health perspective, I will argue that it is the worst thing to happen to the sport of triathlon.
In 1982, a college student by the name of Julie Moss had a senior project to complete in order to be able to graduate from Cal Poly. ABC’s telecast of the Ironman race from Hawaii (back then there was only the one original Ironman event in Hawaii) served as the inspiration for Julie to sign up, as she proposed the event as a study in physiology to her college advisor.
Back then, there were no sources for ‘how to’ train to complete an iron distance triathlon event. With a nascent sport, there were neither coaches specializing in it, nor were there former athletes who converted into coaches to guide novices. In short, with no formal coaching, using a couple marathons as test events in the months leading up to the Hawaiian Ironman, Julie Moss completed the race but not before stumbling and staggering from exhaustion, ending with “the crawl” to the finish line. It was “the crawl” that was televised to the world, and was televised year after year, for years, and on occasion still makes it into the annual broadcast of the Ironman World Championships.
“The original Hawaiian crawl by Julie Moss set Ironman triathlon as a mainstream sport and launched the race as a must-do event in the minds of a generation.” IM website
College is a period where most teenagers have their first true freedoms in life: freedom from home, from mom and dad, free to suffer the consequences of their decisions without a life line to dig them out. That is part of what makes college or university life what it is, making decisions without the safety net of parents. As with all things that we are new at, few of us get all the decisions right the first time, and sometimes we make decisions which are simply irresponsible.
Julie Moss’ decision to compete at the Hawaiian Ironman was and should have remained as one of those “what was I thinking” college decisions, one never to be repeated (along the lines of partying the night before final exams). It should have served as a warning, a caution to anyone contemplating racing an iron distance triathlon that these events are not to be taken lightly, training is a must, proper preparation is needed if you do not want to end up crawling to and across the finish line.
Instead, the crawl became a defining moment in triathlon that led to the rise in popularity of the sport as the thought of an endurance event being so difficult that competitors are brought to their knees became an experienced that those watching, wanted for themselves.
It was a defining moment for the sport of triathlon as it changed the sport from one challenged by athletes, to an ‘experience’ pursued by thrill-seekers, a bucket list item for those willing to risk their well-being, their health by “winging it” in hopes that they too can cross the finish line. The risk of ending up like Julie Moss for thrill seekers is no risk: the story of a near death experience is exactly what they’re after. Whereas thrill-seekers are willing to “ER or PR”, true athletes are unwilling to take such risks. True athletes do not take such risks.
As a case study in business, the images of Julie Moss’ struggling to make it across the finish line are undoubtedly revered as pure gold in advertising and marketing. For those seeking to emblazon a corporate brand, a corporate identify into the minds of millions… this was and still is the jackpot. It must still be recognized as a stroke of pure genius to re-frame what was nothing more than a student’s attempt to complete a college project into a metaphor for the struggle of life. To parallel the enormity of an iron distance triathlon and the obstacles and challenges we endure in life by suggesting that completing a triathlon is proof of your ability to conquer in life… must be a MBA course in itself in how to herd the masses into a meme.
What business would not want its brand associated with such a message? To own a piece of a brand that communicates that you are a winner? A conqueror of life? A champion? Who doesn’t want that? All it takes is a sizeable fee and crossing one of their corporate finish lines!
Its no wonder why Ironman races [the ones with easy courses] sell out in no time, or why triathletes get Ironman tattoos… its the message behind the brand: cross the finish line and you are branded a champ, a winner, a conqueror, not only of triathlon, but life itself.
Prior to “the crawl“, the Ironman was reserved for those who chose for themselves what it meant to cross the finish line. It was reserved for athletes. It was reserved for those who had a respect for the event, for themselves, for training, for competing, who respected the effect the effort would have on mind, body, and soul, who competed in the spirit of John Collin’s triathlon manifesto.
Post “the crawl“, Ironman became a magnet for thrill-seekers: those who think they are athletes because they complete or survive the event, failing to understand that the becoming occurs in the process of training over years and years, not in the fleeting moment of crossing some arbitrary line temporarily lit up with sponsor banners, spectators, and cameras.
Another byproduct of “the crawl” was that ill preparation, insufficient training, ambition, sheer excitement and enthusiasm were pronounced as “enough” to get you to the finish line. Crossing the finish line became all important, not how you crossed the finish line. Instead of advising years of preparation, individuals posing as coaches saw an opportunity to ‘sell’ iron distance triathlons to be within anyone’s reach, with as little as a few months of “training”. Why not? If a college student could take a stab at it, and after crawling end up not only celebrated but on the podium, well then… how hard can it actually be, right?
In the not to distant past, the good ol’ mid life crisis was solved by a Harley Davidson and a ponytail. Today, iron distance triathlons are the solution… having sacrificed health as a desk jockey in pursuit of fame and fortune, completing an iron distance triathlon has become the ticket to regaining an image of vitality, longevity, health, wellness, and anything else you want thrown in. Whether you achieve any of these is not the point, its looking as if you have that matters to thrill-seeking bucket listers.
With the fitness craze just starting in the ’80s, “the crawl” was the PED triathlon needed to vault it into the dreams of all those aspiring to the extremes of endurance sport, to the persona of athlete without having to put in the years and years of commitment, effort, dedication, sacrifice.
Echos of “the crawl” can be read online at triathlon sites today where amateurs ask pros what it would take to beat them (cause it cannot possibly have anything to do with training). The belief that “the crawl” instilled is that pros win because they have better equipment, more aero or hydrodynamic apparel, or their sports nutrition (i.e. adult candy) is more ‘dialed in’. With pharmaceutical and mechanical doping now verging on commonplace amongst age groupers, the reverberations of “the crawl” continue, echoing the desperation of the masses to regain the health of their youth, or at least look the part as ‘cosmetic health’ passes equally in our society for true health.
In fact, “the crawl” has perverted training to the point that proper training, training that builds unshakeable physiology and psychology and which takes years to develop is looked down upon. Its all about short cutting the process to a minimum. The mindset has been corrupted to where those who train least and still manage to cross the finish, irrespective of how, are the ones celebrated as champs. Training technique, training skill, gaining aerobic and anaerobic capacity through energy system development… has become the losers approach to sport.
As an athlete, a coach, and health professional it both saddens and infuriates me what the sport of triathlon has become. Being involved in the sport in its early years was a time when the joy of training was found in the simplicity of the challenge of excelling in three distinct disciplines. There was a child-like excitement at the opportunity to enjoy a new sport, to play in a new way. Now, to see the sport become a contest between credit cards – i.e. carbon fiber equipment – and impoverished training reveals a desolate landscape where the innocence and beauty of a sport has been strip mined for every possible ounce of profit. It should not be a surprise to anyone that the sport is losing participants and interest… how long could “the crawl” remain significant? Today, Ironman Corp is launching a reality series in hopes that it will revitalize interest, spark another wave of athletes. Will it?
As a parent, I believe the glorification of thrill-seekers is irresponsible. What are we teaching our kids? That ill preparation, slogging through relying on NSAIDs and painkillers, suffering to glorify excessive effort has anything remotely to do with mental or physical health? That gambling with your health, rolling the dice on life are acceptable in the process of striving, achieving, and living? Its not just careless, its downright irresponsible for a generation to be so consumed with itself that it fails to realize the imprint they are making on those watching. You really think your kids admire you for coming home injured, ill, broken, ‘destroyed’ after a workout? Do you really think the medal matters when your kids just want to be with you, spend time with you, enjoy a bike ride or run at a reasonable pace where you can talk about life, enjoy each others presences, and the beauty that surrounds. If the medals are that important to you, don’t worry your kids will be sure to bury you with them when you pass on.
I believe the sport needs to return to its roots. Back to a time when equipment was secondary, and the basis of competition was identifying the athlete who was able to master all three disciplines, and able to deliver on any given day. It was the demonstration of sheer brilliance in physiological supremacy and psychological superiority that was the inspiration. It was a time when an athlete’s effort would leaving all those watching, and those competing motivated to seek a new level within themselves. It was a time when we played triathlon (as in the words of triathlon pro Eric Langerstrom).
Finish lines are sought after today as some sort of ‘holy grail’, that once obtained will release the finisher from their inner turmoils and distress, proclaiming to the world that they are ‘good enough’. It doesn’t. Its an illusion. An illusion sold because it profits business. Don’t believe me, then read the memoirs and the autobiographies of Olympians who stood on the podium crying not in joy but disappointment that with gold medal in hand while their national anthem played they remain unfulfilled, realizing their pursuit was empty from the start. Finish lines pursued with the wrong motivation always feel that way (problem is, if you don’t believe anyone telling you different, you have to experience it for yourself to awaken to the truth).
Think it was last year when CNBC polled to find out how much money was “enough”. Those with $1million stated $5million in the bank would be enough to feel safe and secure. Those with $5million had no plans to stop working as they responded $10million was needed. Guess how those with $10, $20, and those with $50million responded? Consistently, the need was for double of what was their current bank balance. Yet double was never enough when they got there. How can the solution be more, if more never satisfies?
If you are not enough to start, there are not enough finish lines in the world to make you enough. Those that realize this after crossing a finish line, but are unable to accept it, deny it and either change sports claiming that triathlon wasn’t challenging enough, or live in denial. To avoid the lingering emptiness, upon completing one goal they immediately sign up for another and another hoping that next time… will be different. It never is.
Training, triathlon, sport in general are all beautiful when used and pursued properly, when the starting point is a search for enlightenment into oneself, as a form of self expression.
When abused, when pursued by thrill seeking addicts, sport becomes ugly. It loses its value as a source of inspiration, motivation, because turned into a battle of conquest, there never are winners.
There is an healthy way to train and compete, and there is most definitely unhealthy ways to train and compete.
Today, triathlon has become u-g-l-y, ugly and it has no alibi. It doesn’t need cosmetic surgery, it needs a fresh start, a do over where fun, play, learning, and training are the starting points, and where thrill-seeking is left to amusement park rides and bucket lists are for those who are dying, not living.
Reference and Links:
- The Most Famous Finish in Ironman History
- The DIfference Between Trainee and Athlete
- You’re Not An Elite Athlete, So Stop Acting Like One
- Strength and Skill: How To Become the Ultimate Athlete
- Motor Control and Movement Patterns: A Must Read for Athletes
- Everybody Wants to Be a Lion…
- Can Fit Athletes Really Be Unhealthy?
Stress is the basis for 80-85% of all diseases and medical diagnoses. We cannot eliminate stress in life, therefore it is the inability to manage the stress of life that is the source of almost all major ailments, injuries, illnesses and diseases.
The corollary is that health is the ability to manage stress: physical, mental, and emotional stresses under varying circumstances and durations. Health is a level of robustness, a type of flexibility that allows us to rebound from stress. It is a state of anti-fragility achieved by balancing training and rest, while developing and rehearsing strategies in preparation for the next time that we do engage a stress/stressor.
It stands to reason then that a professional athlete should be an expert in health as the entire focus of a pro athlete is to develop themselves to handle the physical stress of training, the mental stress of competition, of competitors, of juggling their sport organizations, sponsors, of home and work life, and the emotional stress of failing forwards in order to achieve their goals.
For a professional athlete to be unhealthy, to have failed at managing stress is a contradiction of states, its an incongruency. To be an athlete and to be unhealthy is to fail at the exact skill set that you are supposed to excel, to model. For a pro athlete to compromise or sacrifice health to achieve performance goals contradicts the very meaning of athleticism. To be a pro athlete means to be equally adept at planning and laying out appropriate timelines for goals, preventing over-reach, ambition, desire, and covetousness from taking over.
As a coach, to have an athlete who is unhealthy is to have failed in the role of teacher, mentor, advisor. It is to have overexposed your student to stress without appropriate preparation, with insufficient training and/or rest. It is to have demanded too much of your apprentice too soon.
I believe that we have forgotten what it truly means to be an athlete, what it truly means to coach.
To be an athlete used to mean pursuing your potential through exploration, learning, skill acquisition and development. Now the objective seems to be all about sourcing the short cuts which will deliver desired goals, where the attitude is anything goes, including the sacrifice, compromise, gambling and leveraging of health to cut the process to a minimum regardless of consequences and repercussions. We go so far as to call this approach active, healthy, balanced living.
As a health professional, a coach and athlete, I see swimmers, cyclists, runners, and triathletes all trying to achieve ‘healthy’ using this mindset, but instead of developing robustness, flexibility and capacity, they have become brittle, fragile, rigid, inflexible, chronically injured, ill, and overweight. Instead of gaining and enjoying freedom, they have become jailed and debilitated by their training and racing. The belief at the root of this dysfunction is that if we only try harder, push harder… the health which has eluded us will finally arrive.
In a 2016 Triathlon Magazine Canada article, pro triathlete Alex VanderLinden shared that this summer he dealt with ” low energy, poor recovery, lack of motivation” and having some blood work done was informed that he had a B12 deficiency and low testosterone.
Pro athletes who are unhealthy tend to make it seem as if their issues are mere inconveniences, ‘flesh wounds’ as in the Monty Python Dark Knight skit, not an indicator of anything significant.
To be injured, to be ill, to be unhealthy is a state that a pro athlete cannot be in. It is no different than a bank going bankrupt… its not supposed to happen, banks are supposed to be impenetrable institutions, no different than the body, mind, and spirit of a pro athlete.
When things don’t go as planned, we should stop. We don’t.
Instead we resume training, typically training even harder.
To progress, an athlete must honestly evaluate training, recovery, competitions, appraising the value of each and every aspect to adjust upcoming cycles. When an athlete begins to suffer pain, dysfunction, injury, illness, or ends up developing symptoms to a syndrome, or a full blown medical condition training should come to an absolute halt so that a thorough autopsy is performed to ascertain what went wrong.
In Formula One, Indy, and World Tour racing, the cars and bikes used by the athletes are routinely stripped down to the frame. Every screw is examined, regreased, and retightened exactly to spec. Cables and fairings are inspected, repaired or replaced, and engines or gears and chain are taken apart, then put back together. Nothing is left to chance, absolutely nothing.
Apparently we respect cars and bikes more than we respect ourselves, more than we respect our bodies, minds, and spirits because how often do you hear athletes taking such care of themselves? How often do you hear of coaches analyzing training and racing to such a degree to improve performance while preventing over-training, injury, burn out or blow out by their athletes?
Instead, we have set our narratives of athlete and coach precluding us from seeing what needs to be seen, preventing us from stopping. Our narratives as they stand now:
- Athletes are models of health, of vitality, of physical, mental and emotional capacity. To be an athlete is to be healthy. Athletes achieve this health, by training. Therefore, to be an athlete is to train. It follows then that not to train, implies that you are not being an athlete, that you are not pursuing health or are not healthy since you are not training.
- A coach is someone who is educated and experienced to train athletes, hence coaches are reservoirs of information and wisdom in how to achieve health: physical, mental and emotional well-being. To coach is to train athletes. If a coach is coaching, then their athletes are training. It follows then that athletes who are not training, are not being coached.
See the problem? These narratives preclude stopping, resting, recovering. As a result, athletes cannot rehabilitate fully, cannot rest, recovery or heal completely, because not to train means not to be an athlete. We have cornered ourselves where we cannot stop even when continuing on causes us pain, causes us injury, causes us illness… we are driving ourselves into disease and cannot stop because we are trapped in a negative spiral, a doom loop of our own creation.
We can be on a handful of medications, need regular medical appointments, require taping, bracing, medical grade compression stockings, receive regular adjustments, massages, and therapy, we can ever suffer a heart attack or stroke, but as long as we get in our training… because of these narratives, we are convinced that we are truly healthy.
In psychology, a state of contradiction is called: denial.
Bent on upholding that our lifestyle, our training, our coach, and our lack of recovery is healthy, athletes will injure themselves, drive themselves to extremes of over-training with the resulting physiological and psychological chaos written off as bad luck, bad genetics, or just bad timing.
Bent on upholding our narratives, by refusing to question the status quo:
- Training is never questioned, never doubted, never evaluated to ascertain if it is truly delivering desired goals without undesirable consequences;
- Coaching is never questioned, never doubted, never assessed to determine if the philosophy is capable of delivering desired goals without undesirable consequences; and,
- Rest, napping, sleeping, downtime, real recovery including appropriate pre-hab & rehab, total rejuvenation, full healing are all impossibilities because none exist in the narratives we use to define health, wellness, well-being.
As an athlete or coach, to have your training methodology questioned is one thing, but to have to consider your training methodology as wrong… well, that’s just not going to happen, and if it does happen then there will be no admission to being wrong. Too much rides on being right despite the risk of harm that we refuse to admit ignorance or incompetence when it comes to our own health, hoping that ‘good intentions’ will insure us against unwanted side effects.
In psychology, the term describing the refusal to challenge and confront narratives, thus to live in contradiction (i.e. denial) is: cognitive dissonance.
Cognitive Dissonance: The mental stress or discomfort experienced by an individual who holds two or more contradictory beliefs, ideas, or values at the same time; performs an action that is contradictory to their beliefs, ideas, or values; or is confronted by new information that conflicts with existing beliefs, ideas or values. [From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia]
Cognitive dissonance regarding our health and the resulting lack of health is our new normal. How else do you explain the popularization of the adage “no pain, no gain”? We deny the deep pain we live in, we normalize inner turmoil to the point that we inflict harm to ourselves to override the divide, to deaden the inner conflicts we struggle with when we refuse to deal with our fears.
OVER-TRAINING in the best cases, DEATH in the worst.
Ask athletes or coaches if their athletes over-train, are over-trained and the reaction will be… get outta here, no way, never! There can be no such thing as over-training because by our own narratives over-training is synonymous with being over-healthy. No one would admit to being ‘over-healthy’ therefore over-training is an impossibility.
Physical injury, mental impairment, and emotional fragility should suffice as clues to an athlete and their coach that something is wrong. But nothing is ever wrong in a society where “no pain, no gain” is the reigning mindset towards life: you weren’t wrong, you just didn’t suffer enough, you didn’t try hard enough. Its a society where crawling across finish lines is heroic (instead of mindless), where inflicting and tolerating pain is a testament to manliness or womanliness.
Where does it end?
Stage 1 Over-Training ends typically with an injury, an impairment, or illness of some sort. If proper rest and recovery or rehab are provided, then the athlete can return to a balanced state, a state of being healthy, truly healthy, but these days the mindset is screw that, get adjusted, get taped, foam roll, wear compression clothing, add a brace, get a prescription, pop the pills, get back out asap to training as these imply health. Its cosmetic health, but hey, cosmetic health is good enough because at least you look healthy. As a result we skip Stage 1, and we speed right along into Stage 2.
Stage 2 Over-Training is marked by weight gain or weight retention due to increasing and/or unmanageable levels of stress and the subsequent flooding of cortisol into our blood. The availability of so-called sports nutrition products (i.e. candy for adults) gloss over the signs and symptoms of Stage 2 leading most to continue along, unaware of the damage they inflict to their physiology and psychology. The fueling with gels, sports drinks, and every other sugar laced product power the adrenalin-cortisol hyped workouts and state of mind, ushering the athlete onto Stage 3.
Stage 3 Over-Training starts with diminishing or negative returns from training as the credit account of health is nearly depleted, leaving nothing further to leverage. Stage 3 is when athletes start to suffer from issues such as metabolic disorders, food sensitivities and intolerances, hormonal imbalances, neuro-endocrine fatigue, arrythmias, anxiety, insomnia amongst other signs and symptoms. Whereas in Stage 2 athletes start to underperform in competition, in Stage 3 athletes start to dislike, even hate competing. The stress of competition simply overwhelms them, but being so far gone these athletes come to the conclusion that they are simply bad at racing, good at training, so they train even harder as a compensatory reaction. Stage 3 makes its presence known in a myriad of ways which is why it confuses athletes, coaches, even health care professionals: multiple signs and symptoms develop over a period of time dilute connections. Signs and symptoms pop up across all 3 dimensions: physical, mental, and emotional, and to further confuse the matter, pop up in combinations. Stage 3 asserts itself when the individual finally breakdowns, often ending up with a physical or mental medical diagnosis (a diagnosis that they fall on as a crutch to explain their condition, as opposed to realizing that how they have trained has resulted in this condition). In the worst scenarios, the individual never makes it to an health professional until after they suffer a heart attack, a stroke, fall into severe depression or worse, skip right to the final scene: dead.
I encourage all athletes to consider… if your training, if the coaching you are receiving is not moving you towards your goals and improving your health, then what is the end game of the path you are on? Think about it now, before you end up any farther down the path, and hopefully long before you end up in an hospital Emergency Room.
Here are links to a series on the topic of Over-Training from the website breakingmuscle.com:
- Part 1 – Overtraining Can Kill You: The 3 Stage of Overtraining
- Part 2 – Overtraining Can Kill You: The 3 Stage of Overtraining
VanderLinden isn’t the only pro triathlete with health issues… fellow pro triathlete Cody Beals shared that he faced similar issues earlier in 2016, and now pro Matt Bach wrote an article on these exact same health issues. Question is how many more pros are there who are not healthy, but are training and racing as if they are? How many are pressing on like Monty Python’s Dark Knight believing that “tis only a flesh wound” and that they are fit to fight? For their own sake, and for the sake of all those that these pros serve as role models… I can only hope that they are awakened to the fact that they are hurting themselves by how they are training, that how they train is what is inflicting the damage. Health and returning to training and racing healthy is possible, but not on the path that they are currently on.
P.S. An acquaintance shared that they heard of a young guy, 40’ish, a husband, a father of two who recently played a game of shiny. After the game he had an heart attack and died. What would we have said if he was 70? Likely, sorry, that is sad, but considering his age an heart attack is not entirely unexpected. If he was 60 we would have said, oh, that is unexpected. If he was 50, we would be shocked, saying wow, that is young. So what do you say when a 40 year old dies of a heart attack? It says our definition as a society of health, of being healthy, of exercise, of being active and fit are wrong, totally wrong wrong wrong. It says that how we are pursuing health, fitness, performance is incorrect. Think about it. Know anyone who was too young to die?
It is recommended that both posts titled “Simon Sinek: Understand the Game” are read prior to this post as the addictive nature of aspects of our nervous system is important to grasp so that you can appreciate the significance of how the industry markets exercise to us, and why.
In general, we are not encouraged to train towards a goal mindfully. We are not encouraged to evaluate our starting point: our cardiovascular and respiratory capacity, our flexibility, our mobility, our skill level. We are not encouraged to establish proper baseline measures against which to assess progress, to assess improvement in any real aspect of health, or function; instead we are told to pick a goal, preferably an epic event, then follow a plan which will take us to the finish line.
We are encouraged to create an addiction to exercise, not for exercise to be added as a balanced aspect of life. We are encouraged to over-reach and over-train all in the pursuit of finish lines, participant medals, and t-shirts, as if any of those are measures of wellness, function or health. We are encouraged to participate in sport, as if its an experience no different than wine tasting… something you casually do on a weekend with friends which requires no development of ability, capacity, or skill.
This is how dumbed-down training for performance, for the pursuit of health, of peak physical and mental function has become.
Its been dumbed-down not for your benefit, not to make health more accessible, more available, but for the sake of corporate revenue and profit.
The major sports product and service companies, from footwear, to apparel, to event management and so-called sports nutrition (i.e. candy for adults) have diminished sport telling everyone and anyone that a 10k, a marathon, a triathlon, a grandfondo, any and all finish lines are just on the other side of acquiring all the right training equipment, outfits, technology and tracking devices, and of course, all the sports nutrition your two hands can carry to the check out.
Training… oh, don’t worry about training, all that it takes is a few weeks where you train at your limit (hopefully without a resulting injury or illness) learning to “take the pain”. There is no technical instructional, there is no learning of skills; instead mindless all out effort has been branded “training”. If you aren’t coughing up or peeing blood… you ain’t trainin’.
The industry makes it sound like anyone can participate in any sport, and if you are not, then the final attack in their strategy is emotionally manipulating us to believe that our lack of participation is due to a lack of willpower, a lack of discipline, or evidence of inadequacy as an human being that holds us back. The corollary being that we will no longer feel inadequate and all our life issues will disappear if we only sign up for their event, wear their gear, use their equipment.
Consider the recent announcement by World Champion and 2016 Rio Olympic gold medalist in the sport of triathlon Alistair Brownlee:
- He announced that he will be training and competing in iron distance triathlons, moving up from the sprint and Olympic distance triathlons for the next two seasons. His goal is to qualify and compete at Ironman World Championships in Hawaii, but he believes that the two year time frame is likely too short of a time span to achieve that goal.
We are not talking about an athlete who is just starting out. This is an athlete who has been training since elementary school age, who has been competing at the highest level of sport for over a decade, and who has stood on the podium at Worlds, European Champs, and the Olympics, both as a Junior and Amateur athlete…
We are talking about an athlete who peaked for competing in Rio in an Olympic distance triathlon by putting in 35-40 hr training weeks, swimming 20-25km, biking 500-700km, and running 120km per week…
…and he doesn’t think two years is enough to prep properly for an Ironman triathlon.
Please stop there, re-read this point, and allow enough time for the significance of it to sink in.
How many who have spent the last decade or more sitting behind a desk and behind the wheel commuting 6-8+hrs a day, who have little background in formal training for sport, who have a ways to go to regain health let alone starting on fitness are sold that all it takes is a few months and you can… run a half or full marathon, race in a triathlon, or better yet complete an iron distance triathlon, or cycling grandfondo?
How many coaches are selling aspiring athletes that two years is more than enough time to prep for an Ironman? Really. Its not enough for Alistair Brownlee, two time Olympic gold medalist in the triathlon (London 2012 & Rio 2016), and four time ITU World Champion, but its more than enough time for everyone else? How exactly does that work?
How is it that pros who have decades of training under their belts, train as many hours per week that you work your job need years to prep while everyone else is packaged and sold that training and competing in sport is no different than packing a suit case and going for a cruise, or an overseas vacation? Just have the right luggage; that’s all it takes.
The health and fitness industry are lying outright to you in order to monetize your fears, and turning profits to the tune of billions and billions of dollars in so doing. Meanwhile, you in an honest effort to become healthy have become addicted to excessive and insanely intense exercise at that, which after yielding some temporary positive results now leaves you jailed with unending aches, soreness, pain, injury, and illness. Plus, the all out efforts and subsequent days of discomfort add to a growing animosity towards the gym, fitness clubs, and the entire thought of training. It builds an inner turmoil fed by the guilt the industry sows to make it seem that if you don’t work out then you are inadequate because you obviously lack the willpower, desire, and ambition to drag yourself back out for another session of self inflicted harm.
So what do you have to do to keep it going? We sign up for some extraordinary epic one of a kind event. An event that we pray will motivate us to continue to hurt ourselves day after day until we are healthy (or die trying).
The industry cares not whether you get healthy, all they want is to pry from you every penny you’ve got and once drained, drop you moving on to another whose fears of being overweight, obese, stricken by anyone of the lifestyle diseases (e.g. heart disease, stroke, cancer, Alzhiemers, diabetes) or due to the desire to be identified as an athlete fall for their trap of “only 10weeks to look and feel your best”.
You have not been and you are not being encouraged to engage in mindful training.
Mindful training is where you regain flexibility, regain full function of all your joints, muscles, and with that mobility, leading to agility, balance, coordination, and dexterity. Mindful training naturally leads to an appropriate body weight, and retrains the mind to remain at peace, focused, and objective when stressed, and precludes getting injured or ill. Mindful training is not a destination, its a process.
Sport is about the beautiful movements that the human body is capable of creating, not mindless extreme effort.
The problem for industry is that mindful training cannot be sold in quantity. So the solution is to dumb-down training and competing in sport so that they can achieve sales quotas.
Mindful training comes from a caring, compassionate, knowledgeable and experienced coach and health professional, preferably done one on one, but doable in small groups.
Mindful training focuses on learning how to move, from which joint and muscle group to generate power, resulting in speed, endurance, and ease in movement. None of which can be done via Skype or by downloaded spreadsheet.
Mindful training does not depend on premium equipment, the latest technology, laboratory developed nutrition. If it did, then why do Olympians arise from poverty? Hmm?
You have been encouraged to get addicted where your supplier and enabler is the health and fitness industry.
You want your health? Then break free from the mainstream definitions of exercise, of training, of competing, of nutrition, and especially of health.
Addicted living is not healthy living.
Find someone in your community who coaches healthy mindful training.
Those depending on HIIT (hi intensity interval training), bootcamps, Tabata, CrossFit or any other insanely intense and excessive form of exercise are selling short cuts to cosmetically change you to look healthy, they are not truly helping you to change to be healthy.
Find someone in your community who is teaching how to move, how to regain movement by acquiring skills in movement, and who will help you one on one figure out what is holding you back, what you need to do to get healthy, who are willing to walk with you each step of the way.
Find a sport or a performing art that speaks to you on a deeper level… it can be ballet, hip hop dance or jazz, or it can be any sport that you fancy. If its fun, if you are challenged by it, if you can commit to it, if it requires you to practice, to train, to learn, if you can start at an appropriate level and progress at your speed and skill, then its the right activity for you no matter what it is.
The wealth of information and insight in Simon Sinek’s talk “Understanding the Game” continues to astound.
Transcript (video time from 2:48 to 3:30mins):
“Many of this young generation – of the Millennial generation – were subjected to what has been described as a failed parenting strategy. Some of you, and many of your friends were raised being told that you were special, and you were told that you can have what ever you want just cause you want it. Many schools gave participation ribbons, another words kids got medals for coming in last, and the science on this is good… we know what it does, it devalues the feeling and the medal for the person who actually works hard to come in first and it embarrasses the person who comes in last because they know that they don’t deserve it and it makes them feel worse.”
“Understanding the Game We’re Playing” by Simon Sinek
Its a failed parenting strategy, and its a failed teaching strategy as teachers today are unable to use a red pen or provide honest evaluation as that may reveal that a student did not get an answer correct, and to point out their error risks “damaging their self esteem” (my next door neighbour is a school teacher… I ain’t making this stuff up).
OK, so what exactly does not pointing out errors teach?
That showing up, participating, not studying, not learning is all that is needed in life. Boomers have institutionalized passing without studying for their kids. For themselves, Boomers have institutionalized participation ribbons as reward for showing up to a sport event. Go to a road race, especially a half or full marathon, an iron distance triathlon, a cycling event and what do you get just by crossing the finish line? A participation medal.
Seriously? Adults need an award for participating?
Training… hah! No one trains, you just need to show up, look the part of athlete so you can participate: water bottles around your waist, gels in hand, hi-end running shoes and you are a runner; aero helmet and carbon fiber TT bike and you are a triathlete, now cross the finish line, collect your participation medal that authenticates your identity as an athlete. If you do want to train, then a 8, 10, or 12 week generic training program that you download is good enough. Cram in as much ‘training’ as you can, but it doesn’t really matter because if you pop a couple painkillers, an anti-inflammatory, foam roll, make sure your sports nutrition (aka adult candy) is on point, and give a near death effort to crawl across the finish line, you can pretend that you are healthy, fit, have cheated old age, and proved your doctor wrong.
To belabor the point:
“the science on this is good… we know what it [awarding participation] does, it devalues the feeling and the medal for the person who actually works hard to come in first and it embarrasses the person who comes in last because they know that they don’t deserve it and it makes them feel worse.”
The byproduct of this participation mentality is that health is not something you work for or towards, you are proclaimed healthy despite diagnoses and medications, all because you participated in some sport event. Its no different than your kid passing a grade because you argued with their teacher until blue in the face that they have no right to hold your child – who doesn’t comprehend the material – back a grade. No different than going to your child’s job interview, to make sure that they are “represented fairly”, “understood properly” by the hiring committee so they get the job.
We need to bring an end to rewarding and accepting ‘participation’ level commitment.
Look into the eyes of those who commit on the level of ‘participation’, and there will be emptiness, a cold numbness, nothing there that motivates, that inspires, that pulls at your core.
Look into the eyes of anyone who has committed to something wholly, and you may not be able to hold their gaze because the energy, the strength, the stability, the self awareness and knowledge and fearlessness they emit can be terrifying (to those who haven’t).
What is it that you want?
If anxiety and depression are not epidemics yet, then it seems that its only a matter of time til these silent subduers overwhelm us. What if these epidemics were started by well meaning, well intended individuals who believed that by rewarding participation, by trying to make everyone feel good all the time, would result in happiness ruling? We know now that’s not the case. So what if instead of rewarding showing up, we start rewarding work, effort, diligence, integrity, and commitment? I believe that that has a chance to slow, or better yet turnaround the growth of fear, of darkness, and of despair in our world. We need to restart our belief in our own potential, in the goodness of our dreams, and remind ourselves that it takes unwavering commitment, consistent effort.
When you have a moment over the holidays, I ask you to watch this talk, uninterrupted from start to finish. If it doesn’t alter the course of your life, then I am sorry, but I can assure you that the information within has already altered the way I think, the way I want to think, the way I want to be, act, and how I want to influence my children. I believe it will have a similar impact on you.
For whom is this talk relevant? If you live in the information age and want to live in it, in control, not controlled by it, if you have children and want them to grow up as independent, physically, mentally and emotionally healthy adults capable of contributing to society, if you are a kid and especially if you are a Millennial, then this is one talk that I believe offers the insight into the obstacles you are encountering and pose a direct threat to your health, your well-being, to your success in life.
Transcript (video time from 5:29 to 7:05mins):
“Alcohol, nicotine, gambling all release dopamine, its why they feel good and its why almost all addictions are dopamine based addictions. We also know that almost all alcoholics discovered alcohol when they were teenagers. You see when we are very very young the only approval we need is the approval of our parents. Then when we go through adolescences we make this transition where we now need the approval of our peers. Very frustrating for our parents, very important for us, but it allows us to acculturate outside of our immediate families and to the broader tribe. It is a time of high stress and high anxiety and we are supposed to learn to rely on our friends. Some people – quite by accident – discover alcohol and the numbing effects of dopamine, and unfortunately that connection becomes hardwired. Then for the rest of their lives every time they face significant stress they don’t turn to a person, they turn to the bottle. Now as I said before, we know that social media and smartphones release dopamine. We have age restrictions on alcohol, we have age restrictions on tobacco, we have age restrictions on gambling, but we have no age restrictions on social media and smartphones. Its as if an entire generation is going through adolescence and their parents have thrown open the liquor cabinet and have said “try the vodka, it’ll help you get through the teenage years.” That is what social media and smartphones do.”
“Understanding the Game We’re Playing” by Simon Sinek
A few points on addiction…
- The issue is not whether or not we are addicts: if you are alive, then your nervous system functions and depends on the neurotransmitter dopamine, and as a byproduct of the addictive qualities of dopamine, everyone by default has the potential to be an addict, as addictive tendencies are innate to us all. The addictive tendency of any individual is the outcome of how they live out their core beliefs: core beliefs are expressed through the narratives they have written and repeated to themselves (consciously and subconsciously), and the behaviour patterns and habits they repeat and which rule their day, programming their physiological and psychological states (hence their ‘addictive-ness’).
- To be addicted to exercise is no different than being addicted to anything else, the only difference is that society approves of an addiction to exercise, just as smoking and domestic violence were once socially acceptable addictions. Just because society approves of it, doesn’t mean its right, or that its healthy. You may want to consider the fact that the collective we is known to change its minds rather frequently as to what is ‘in’, what is right, what is healthy.
- Any addiction, every addiction is unhealthy, because by the definition of addiction it is to live unbalanced. The immediate impact of an addiction to exercise may be positive: weight loss, fitness gains, but if the addiction grows, then where does the addiction end? Body image issues, eating disorders, winning at any cost… where does the it end? Lance Armstrong once was a role model, til his addiction overtook him. Lance Armstrong was an hero, then he wasn’t. There is no clear line in the stand, so no one, not one person has the ability to honestly state that they are in control when living addicted. The delusion of addiction is control: all addicts are ‘in’ control, that is until they aren’t.
- I would encourage you to live healthy, by living in control, living in balance. I would encourage you to model for your children a life of balance, a life of control, so that they can grow up having experienced parents living in control. It is rather convenient to want your children to be ‘in control of their lives’, but for you to live a life of reckless abandon.
- To live in balance, requires retraining daily behaviours, and rewriting narratives which are the lens’ through which we see life. Simple? Yes. Easy? Absolutely not. Worth it? You cannot even begin to imagine how worth it, it is.
A few points on gambling…
- When the term gambling is used, most will think of a casino, a poker table, or the slots. These are indeed forms of gambling, but ‘games’ are not the only form of gambling. The way we drive can be a form of gambling: barrelling down the highway at excessive speeds, cutting off drivers, perhaps with a drink or two in us to lubricate our thirst for risk. The way we handle ourselves professionally, we gamble with our licence, our ability to practice, to conduct business. Ever heard of ‘ER or PR’? What healthy adult of sound mind risks hospitalization in pursuit of a finish line t-shirt, medal, or selfie? Excessive insanely intense exercise performed in an attempt to burn extra calories, or to achieve an outlandish and unrealistic finish line goal are also forms of gambling… this time with your health, your life.
- Want to function at a higher level? Want to explore your potential, in business life, in home life, in sport? Then it starts with an honest appraisal of how you are living today. Addicted? Addicted to socially acceptable, so-called healthy addictions, or addicted to social no-no’s? Doesn’t matter, its all the same, just painted with a different brush stroke.
- There is another path. It will likely require starting over, unlearning old ways, old habits, but the path – unlike that of addiction, of gambling – has no limits, because at no point does it risk you, your health or your life.
On being an athlete…
- If you are addicted to sport, to exercise, to fitness, to smoothies and protein powders, to watts on a power meter, to a fitness app or tracker, to split times, to spreadsheets with data points tracking results, then I can assure you and can guarantee that you are not on the path that leads to your vast potential that is waiting to be unearthed.
- Champions, consistent peak performers are in love with freedom, the freedom to move, to explore, to play, to learn, to have fun, to enjoy the hidden potential of their body and mind when unleashed from all earthly addictions.