“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 Town of Oakville is giving the Oakville Arena – located on Rebecca St – an uplift. The 64 year old building will have $29 million of renovations, updates, and additions.
Take a close look at the construction of the domed roof… its wood. Wood from the 1950s.
It got me thinking about structures built well from the start, it got me thinking about athletes who are built well from the start (and conversely those who are not).
Today our primary building block for structures is steel bar reinforced concrete. Problem… as with most things we do these days, we are little concerned about the long term. Steel reinforced concrete allows us to build taller and lighter structures than if there was no steel. Fabulous! We can leverage a plot of land by building floor after floor after floor. What few mention is that steel bar reinforced concrete has a long term issue… the steel eventually rusts, the concrete loosens, deteriorates and falls away from the steel, eventually leading concrete to literally fall off in chunks, or it having to be cleared away, the underlying structure cleaned up and reinforced to prevent the entire structure from collapsing. Wonder why construction on the elevated Gardiner never seems to end, its because it can never end because if it ever did stop… the Gardiner would come crumbling down. All thanks to the go-to solution of steel bar reinforced concrete. At the time of its original construction, the concept of an elevated highway made affordable by using steel bar reinforced concrete must have come across as space age brilliance. Today, the Gardiner is a drain on the City of Toronto budget to the tune of hundreds of millions of dollars (verging on billions if you add up past, present and future commitments).
Funny, eh? The pyramids have stood centuries, the Gardiner cannot last one. The pyramids were built with solid blocks of rock, yet the Gardiner was built with 21st century architectural and construction technology. So… are we actually progressing or regressing as a result of all this so called technology?
We can erect a structure in no time flat… is that what matters? Is what matters how quickly we can complete a project, and how many projects we can complete all at once? What about getting one project done, and done well… with quality, with excellence. Nope. No time for that.
We are busier than ever, moving faster than ever, doing more than ever, but are we solving anything or simply creating more problems, while kicking the can down the road for the problems that have already started to boomerang? It seems all that we are doing is loading future generations with debt and with projects that we know today will crumble if not maintained constantly.
I remember the day my daughter came home from school and shared that she learnt on her field trip that First Nations people (she didnt refer to a specific tribe) made decisions based on how that decision would impact multiple generations into the future. If the impact was negative, even if the here and now stood to benefit, the decision was not approved by the elders.
Just stop and think about that: how many people put any effort into just thinking let alone thinking about how their decisions, how their behaviour today will impact tomorrow, and their children tomorrow? Does anyone consider consequences or costs to today’s actions? How much time do you put into the decisions that will affect your health, your well-being, your performance in life, that will affect the health, wellness and performance of your children? Anything beyond a couple seconds? Anything beyond a poll of what everyone else is doing?
The parallel to sport, to training, to performance, to health is this…
We have our own structures: our body, our brain, our organs, which total as our health.
If we are ‘building’ our health the same way we build buildings… well, lets just say that the epidemics and crises we face should be no surprise. That we live in a society of victims afraid of their own shadow, afraid of being shamed and hated at any instant, so fearfilled that now the average person is not healthy but unhealthy: overweight, obese, addicted to medical prescriptions, recreational drugs, or all of the above. It really should be no surprise based on how we behave.
Its time we stop with the bandaid – i.e. steel reinforced concrete – solutions, which although tempting, and appear to be ideal solutions for the here and now… are not long term solutions.
What do you want your structure to look like, to work like in the coming years and decades? Do you want it to be like the Gardiner? Needing almost a billion in renovations to keep it alive? Seems with all the cosmetics, cosmetic surgery, and health and wellness interventions that that is the plan for most. Lets continue to bandaid over the crumbling infrastructure despite the fact that the core is rotting. The Gardiner was once a triumph of city planning and construction, now its called an eye sore and a barrier between the City of Toronto and its beautiful waterfront? Is that what you have become? An eye sore, with the health of your body and brain a barrier between you and your potential?
What about being like the Oakville Arena? Built from what many would consider inferior material as compared to concrete, yet the original building is not being torn down, far from it, it is been added onto and more importantly the building is seen as beautiful and worthy of upkeep so that many generations to come get to enjoy skating and playing hockey under its wonderful wooden roof.
FYI… we are cutting the same corners in residential construction.
A firefighter whose daughter swam with my daughter a few years back shared with me one day that he was called out to a fire in a row of townhomes. Due to poor construction, they no longer enter these buildings for risk of total collapse. The construction these days is so poor – the cross beams supporting the roof are not nailed together but held by thin NON FIRE RESISTANT metal screens – that when a fire breaks out, it literally melts these screens leading to total collapse/cave-ins of the home. He shared that firefighters have been caught on main and basement levels when the entire residential structure above caved in and collapsed on them.
Gee… now why would we skimp on nails, NAILS for crying out loud! Replacing them with thin sheets of metal?
Because some MBA sitting at their labtop hired to figure out how to save a few pennies identifies that nails are too expensive.
Because today… money matters more than human life.
Because today… time matters more than human life.
Because today… now matters more than human life.
Because today… what we want matters more than the impact it has on our children.
Because today… I want what I want, and all that matters is that I get what I want… NOW!
Its time for all the adults to grow-up and start acting and making the tough decisions that adults are supposed to make. For their own well being, and that of their children.
After reading the title of Clarke’s Vlog #047 “Nutrition Breakthrough”, I wondered what was the epiphany this triathlon neo-pro had today. I don’t watch all of Clarke’s vlogs but once in a while I give in and think… why not. It tickles me now being in my 40s, with two kids of high school age to watch the arrogance/ignorance of youth, especially youth which has been put on a podium or puts itself on a podium.
Today, there was no tickling… I watched Clarke’s video and was gob-smacked. He didn’t really say what I think he just said… did he? Hold on, let’s play that back and listen… and then I had to listen again. He did! He really did say what he said… and the thought crossed my mind…
Does Clarke have a death wish?
Below is a transcript of Clarke’s vlog #047 starting at 2:39, and here is the link to the Youtube video if you want to hear for yourself: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=14LqTn0cglY
“Usually when I do longer harder workouts, I feel like literally everything has been drained out of my pores, I feel really weak, sometimes I would have headaches, there would be a little bit of dizziness, sometimes my vision would be a little bit blurry. I always in the past just attributed that to the fact that triathlon training, Ironman training its hard, its meant to be hard, you are pushing your body I just accepted that’s the way it is and I never investigated it further. The big takeaway… just because you are doing something one way doesn’t mean that its optimal for you. And because what I was doing wasn’t broke then there is no reason to fix it… but in Tremblant it broke and fixing it is something I needed to do.”
Clarke’s fix… salt pills.
Cadel Evans, leader of cycling WorldTour team, TEAM BMC, winner of the 2010 Giro d’Italia, winner of the 2011 Tour de France, winner of 2009 World Road Race Championships shares in his book “Cadel Evans: The Long Road to Paris” that on one mountain stage he started to lose vision as a result of the effort he was putting forth.
Its one thing to be a GC (General Classification) contender, to be a leader of a cycling WorldTour team, to be leading a team of top professional cyclists with the expectation of winning the Tour de France, to be competing in the Tour itself, a race that lasts 21 days covers 3,500+ km of horizontal and 35+ km of vertical distance, to be on a mountain stage at altitude, in the moment of competition against the best of the best in the world of cycling, to be an athlete with over a decade of training and racing experience at an international level as a pro, to be an athlete who knows what they are doing to their body, who understands and is able to weigh the risks of their actions.
Its one thing to be the leader of the Tour or to be going after the yellow jersey – because there are a select few times in life where it may be appropriate for an all out effort – BUT…
Its an entirely different thing for a neo-pro, who demonstrates little evidence of having enough knowledge or understanding of basic human body function, let alone advanced physiological and psychological principles and training concepts to push themselves routinely to extremes. Besides, Clarke is talking about training; he is not experiencing these medical signs and symptoms while competing in the race of his pro career, he is talking about headaches, dizziness and vision loss in regular training! Worse, he is talking about training during a long distance session… as in training which should be aerobic, not at or beyond VO2 max.
Clarke inflicts upon himself signs and symptoms that anyone else would seek medical assessment, emergency medical assessment if these signs and symptoms were severe.
[Honestly, tack on slurred speech and you have ALL the symptoms of a TIA or a stroke!]
Clarke, thinks its A-OK to repeatedly subject his body to stress & strain of such intensity and duration that pain, vision, and balance are compromised.
FYI… its NOT!
Hey, Clarke… ya think asphyxiating yourself on a regular basis to the point that you’re dizzy, to the point that you have visual disturbances is in an way healthy? Can you consider that maybe you are so high on yourself that you falsely believe that the account from which you constantly overdraw from (i.e. your health) to bulk up your fitness is not endless and maybe, just maybe, one day the piper will come calling, and your debts will have to be paid?
Think about it…
Your brain – the most important organ in your body, the organ your body will defend to ensure that it gets the resources it needs – is FAILING IN ITS ABILITY TO FUNCTION… ya think that there may be an issue with what you think is “not broken”?
If your brain is going blue (as in blue from vasoconstriction), then how do you think your liver, stomach, pancreas, kidneys, intestines, all your other internal and vital organs are doing? If your brain is blue, how do you think your heart is doing? If your brain is blue, then what sort of training are your muscles, your nerves getting? What sort of resources are they receiving if your brain ain’t getting what it needs?
What’s the plan?
Do Ironman entirely an-aerobically, holding VO2 max for 8+ hours?
Is this what you deem a smart race strategy?
Is that why you think what you are doing can in any way be called “training”?
I assure you… what you are doing is not training; unless your goal is near death experiences.
“No pain, no gain”, “PR or ER” are impaired mental states and not philosophies that consistent peak performers follow to achieve their fullest potential. These are sales & marketing ploys used by industry to sell you on narratives such as “Beast mode” and other absurd, juvenile, insane concepts of health and wellness.
Clarke, you needed things to break @Tremblant – i.e. you needed a crisis as a pro athlete – in order that your eyes and ears open to the fact that… you might not know everything there is to know about training, racing, lets not mention just basic human body physiology… so do tell… what happens when you are in your late 30s, maybe early 40s and all this catches up to you? I mean… surely you have stopped for a moment and considered what asphyxiating yourself will eventually do? Right? You have, haven’t you… stopped and considered the consequences, the side-effects, the long term risks of what you are doing?
What’s the plan? When you hit 40, or maybe ‘old-age’ doesn’t catch up to you til you are 50 and the headaches, dizziness, and vision difficulties don’t go away… then what? Head to the doctor scratching your head as to why, or how, or what ever could be the source, the cause, the root of all these impairments?
You may not even need to wait til 40, as there are athletes of your age who as a result of their own or their coaches mantra to go hard, harder, go til you pee or cough blood led to them suffering heart attacks, developing heart beat irregularities, even brain aneurysms. I’ve met an athlete who had to have a defibrillator implanted into his chest. Imagine needing a device the size of a deck of cards to be implanted under your skin to make sure you don’t die on a daily basis. Sure, lifesaving device, but what if the need for that device was self inflicted, or perhaps coach inflicted from chronic overtraining, overstressing a young body, demanding that it puke up one more rep, even faster than the last, and then another and another?
You are free to do as you please with your body and brain… they are after all your body and brain, but what I believe is 100% careless and reckless is that there are amateur athletes both age group (as in kids) and masters who watch your vlogs and will think to themselves… oh, you mean that’s how hard I have to push myself in training. You mean that’s what I have to do to myself in order to be considered a ‘serious triathlete’, this is the expected ‘payment’ in blood that has to be made to call oneself a pro? And without any further investigation whether or not its the right way to train, whether or not its healthy… will monkey see, monkey do, and train in similar ways as you.
Clarke, are you prepared to handle the consequences of your “advice” falling on unsuspecting amateur athletes that wanna be like Clarke, who then do like Clarke, and train like Clarke… train til they cannot see straight or retain balance while standing? Are you prepared for the call when they are in a bike accident having pushed themselves til they can’t see straight… when they trained like they heard you train?
I worked in long term care, in convalescent care, in pre and post surgical units, with the chronically and terminally ill for over a decade. I can tell you one thing for certain… not one patient I ever met thought that when they were young that they were living ‘wrong’, unhealthy, in a way that would have consequences on their health as an adult. When we are young, all of us think we are invincible, immune to anything going wrong. When they were young (for example) smoking cigarettes was new, was cool, was the ‘in’ thing that all the ‘in’ kids did. Today, struggling for each breathe, able to function only because of the oxygen they inhale through nasal prongs, dealing with chest infection after chest infection… some will still deny that the pack a day, or two, for a few decades has anything to do with their lung disease, be it cancer, COPD, or however it manifested. Why? Because we do not believe, we cannot believe that we could inflict upon ourselves such injury, that we could ever cause ourselves harm, dysfunction, let alone disease.
Wakey, wakey… we can and we do it to ourselves all the time. We just don’t like to admit it.
Clarke, I hope you and everyone else who trains in a similar manner receive this blog not as a slight, but as a wake up call. Read it appreciating that I have true concern for your well being, for your state of mental and physical health, concern for you from the damage you are repeatedly inflicting upon yourself. Damage that unlike @Tremblant, I guarantee you do not want to ever experience, because if you do, it could very well be too late for a salt pill to make it all better.
Short cuts, short cuts, and more short cuts… unfortunately the sport of triathlon has become more of a sport of short cuts, then a sport recognizing proper training, proper skill, tactic, strategy and execution.
Instead of years building a base, nope… short cut… go straight to HIIT, to all-out efforts.
Instead of learning how to move with ease, with agility, balancing and coordinating the entire body, doing so effortlessly so as to maximize efficiency, nope… short cut… go straight to swimming, cycling and running at peak effort, peal power, max speed.
Instead of starting with entry level equipment, and learning to differentiate between gains made by training, and those available through equipment and technology, nope… short cut… go straight to top of the line equipment.
Well, the short cuts are finally starting to catch up with triathletes, and if the double pronged and/or cut out seat is not the worst short cut of them all, then I do not know what is.
The double pronged or cut out seat were created it seems for the sole purpose of solving the numbness and the pain experienced by those riding in a time trial [TT] or aero position on a triathlon bike.
To solve the problem of pelvic floor pain and numbness from an engineering perspective: eazy peezy, find the bones in the pelvis, support those bones, cut away everything else and boom… an evolution in seating! But did anyone stop to ask an health professional? Did anyone stop to ask if this problem is a problem that should be solved in this manner? No way, there are just too many triathletes and cyclists with painful pelvic floors, so stop talking and start selling a short cut that is sure to make millions.
But what if you are an athlete who has even the slightest interest in…
- retaining urinary control in your later years (not becoming incontinent),
- retaining the ability to have an erection without it being chemically induced,
- not having a prolapse of the bladder, urethra, or rectum,
- not having a prolapse of the uterus or vagina,
- not experiencing pain during sex as a result of pelvic floor dysfunction,
- not having to endure any form of treatment or surgery to repair a damaged pelvic floor,
- not causing and then having to live with damage [that you did to your own pelvic floor] as a result of poor biomechanics and poor cycling technique, then I suggest…
(a) take your pelvic floor pain and numbness issues seriously. They indicate that something is wrong, so seek appropriate, trained, experienced assistance from a registered health professional to heal and recover fully, then
(b) take yourself to a coach who is knowledgeable in anatomy, biomechanics, and physiology, and is experienced in teaching and progressing athletes in cycling technique and take the time to actually learn how to ride with proper technique, and
(c) either get the appropriate bike for your skill level plus a bike fit or if your bike is suitable then get a bike fit with the technique focused coach present during the fitting, so that the fitting reflects your current level: your current flexibility, mobility, and current level of cycling technique and skill set.
Cycling is as technical as swimming, as running, as Olympic Lifting, as any sport. Coaches who do not know the technique of cycling, or don’t have the slightest clue how to teach technique… dumb-down the sport to their level of ignorance teaching that cycling is simply grinding or pounding out power readings.
If you truly are in sport to learn, to discover, to explore your potential, to regain health, to live an active lifestyle, to model healthy living for your family, then start at the beginning… start with technique.
Abdominal Anatomy and Biomechanics Basics
Here’s why and how poor biomechanics and poor cycling technique can lead to pelvic floor damage and eventually dysfunction.
The diaphragm (top black line) is your primary breathing muscle. The pelvic floor (bottom black line) is made up of a collection of muscles which create a concave shape mirroring the shape of the pelvis with a primary role of supporting the internal organs.
Anatomy of the Abdominal Cylinder
Click Image to Enlarge
Image Attribution: GilbertoASanchezA
Between the diaphragm and the pelvic floor are all your vital organs. Your organs do not compress which means that in order for you to take a proper diaphragmatic inhalation, your organs have to shift downwards when your diaphragm contracts. When your diaphragm contracts it moves downwards expanding the thorax so as to expand the lungs causing air to rush in.
When you relax your diaphragm, it recoils back to an ‘up’ position as shown in the image above. Meanwhile, your lungs compress, pushing air out of them, resulting in exhalation while your organs shift back into their ‘up’ position. This up and down shifting can be called the abdominal piston (see gif image below). The abdominal piston and the breathing cycle are synchronous in an healthy individual. An healthy individual is healthy because they have a proper and healthy breathing pattern, and have proper neuro-muscular awareness, tone, and control of their all their abdominal muscles (including those of the pelvic floor).
An healthy individual is healthy because their abdominal piston moves smoothly, easily, effortlessly throughout its full range of motion.
To review… when you inhale the piston head (vital organs) shifts down and when you exhale the piston head shifts up. This is proper use of your anatomy, this is proper and healthy breathing biomechanics. The result of these healthy biomechanics is that you do not create excessive intra-abdominal pressure, you do not compress and stress your vital organs (e.g. stomach, pancreas, intestines, kidneys, liver, gallbladder, spleen, bladder, uterus, ovaries), you do not stress your pelvic floor, you do not pinch or compress blood vessels and nerves which travel through your abdomen. With healthy biomechanics – i.e. with proper use of your musculo-skeletal system – you do not lock, brace, make rigid any of the musculo-skeletal structures in your core. With healthy biomechanics you do not stop the abdominal piston from moving… not ever.
What Happens When We Use Our Anatomy Incorrectly?
We have conscious control over our diaphragm even though breathing to a large extent is controlled subconsciously. We can allow our diaphragm to be used by our body as the primary breathing muscle, or we can use our diaphragm to do something that it was not designed to do… that is to act as an immobilizer of our lower thoracic and lumbar spines, and as a result an immobilizer of our abdominal piston.
Our body was designed to be dynamic: stable yet simultaneously mobile at all times; never fixed, immovable, or rigid. Elasticity – as in flexible movement – prevents injury. Rigid immobile structures bear load until load exceeds their tolerance and then the only option for those structures is to fail.
Fixed bridges do not bend, they either take the load or they fail and collapse under the load.
Your core is no different. When you brace and lock your core (i.e. your spine, back muscles, gluts, hamstrings, obliques, etc…), you stop the abdominal piston. When your core is locked, when the piston is stopped, your core structures can tolerate a small amount of load. Beyond that point, one or more structures will fail. Which one? The weakest link in the group fails and results in injury to one or starts of a cascading effect where more than one structure ends up strained, sprained, or worse, ruptured. In one person the injury may manifest as an inguinal hernia, in another its spasms in their back muscles and/or gluts, in another it results in a bulging lumbar disc placing pressure on the sciatic nerve. Injury with a locked core, injury with a stopped abdominal piston is not only predictable, it is inevitable.
When you lock your core, the first question is how long will be it before something gives?
The second question is how much damage will you cause to yourself as a result of locking your core?Third question is how extensive will the clean be, how long will it take to clean up the mess, then to heal, then to recover and then to start rebuilding?
Is this what you want? Is this what you signed up for from training, from starting an exercise program, from hiring a trainer or coach?
If all an athlete does is heal from an injury, or worse jumps back into training never retraining how to use their core, then re-injury is as certain as the initial injury. Once an athletes starts on a vicious cycle (aka negative training cycle or doom loop) then they are stuck alternating between being injured and not training or training but in pain, never fully healthy, never truly recovering, never truly rebuilt; that is until they take the time to properly retrain themselves.
Your core is not built or designed to function like a fixed bridge, its built like a suspension bridge with distinct support structures, and structures which have the capacity to move and are supposed to move resulting in a bridge that can bend, twist, adapting to extreme loads (e.g. as with high winds in the image below). Imagine if this suspension bridge was fixed, unable to swing, bend, move… then like the stone bridge or the wooden railroad bridge it would fail when stressed. Suspension bridges will fail at some point as well, but their failure point requires far more load, far more stress, far greater forces in order for that to happen.So, what kind of core do you have? What kind of core is your coach training you to have? Is your coach training you to lock and brace under stress, setting you up to inevitably fail; or is your coach training you to be dynamic, flexible, mobile, able to yield and prevail under extreme stress?
Think about it… competition is a form of extreme stress, business and life both can exert extreme loads and forces upon us, what are you training to do under stress? What is your coach or trainer teaching you do under stressful loads? Prevail or lock up and collapse?
If your children are enrolled in sport… what are their coaches training them to do? Are your children learning skills while practicing their sport which translate to competition, and more importantly into academia, into relationships, into life? What are your children’s coaches training them to be able to do… prevail or lock up and collapse when stressed?
Attribution of Abdominal Anatomy image from Wikipedia:
- Link: https://es.wikipedia.org/wiki/Archivo:Abdomen_Anatomy.jpg
- Author: GilbertoASanchezA
- Image modifications: TheAthletesCloud.ca
Attribution of Piston gif from Wikipedia:
- Link: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Piston.gif
- Author: R. Castelnuovo
- Image modifications: TheAthletesCloud.ca
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?
To all aspiring age group and pro athlete,
If you truly want to explore, strive for, pursue, and discover your potential then quit HiiT (hi intensity interval training) and train the way consistent peak performers, the elite of the elite, the way repeat World Champions train… train technique.
The Island House Triathlon is a 3 day invitation only series of multi sport events held in Bermuda. It is where the best of the best square off against one another in head to head short distance elimination based competition.
If you do not finish in the top 10 after the day two of competition, then you go home early.
How do the best of the best race for 3 days? By focusing on technique. The only way to focus when racing, is to focus on technique. How do you become focused, mentally tough while racing? You train to develop sport specific technique, and then you train rehearsing setting your mind on executing exquisite technique to maintain the highest level of efficiency possible when stressed, when performing at your potential.
Richard Murray, 4th at Rio 2016 Olympic Triathlon, 1st at ITU World Duathlon Championships and The Island House Triathlon 2016 Overall Winner
“I know there will always be a moment where I will feel like I am getting tired or there is some pain involved there… but then I realize that moment will pass pretty soon and a lot of the time I just focus in on technique. Its always being in control of what you are doing.”
Helle Fredericksen 1st at Hy-Vee + Challenge Bahrain Triathlons 2014, and 7th at The Island House Triathlon 2016
Michael Phelps, the most decorated Olympian with a total of 28 medals, of which 23 are gold, with 8 gold medals won at the 2008 Beijing Olympics
He focused on technique. He knew his stroke counts, so he knew where he was in each length at all times, so he knew when the walls were coming up.
He didn’t panic, he didn’t choke, he had no reason too, because he focused on executing his trained race strategy with the specific technique which he had rehearsed over and over.
Athletes who train technique perform consistently, execute strategy effectively, race efficiently, thus end up standing constantly on the podium as gold medalists, as World Record holders, as World Champions.
Question is… what kind of athlete do you want to be?
An athlete who bangs their head against the wall in training and racing by focusing on hard HiiT workouts? An athlete whose strategy is to hope that inflicting upon themselves harder and harder workouts will somehow translate into skill, into capacity, into technique come race day? An athlete who spends more time injured, ill, recovering, in rehab, thus frustrated and disappointed when race seasons starts, and with their race results?
What about becoming an athlete who trains technique, who focuses on becoming better in every workout in some way. An athlete who devotes themselves to studying their sport, to learning, experimenting, and then developing in themselves the skills, the abilities, and the capacity to execute competitive strategies at will and on demand. What about becoming an athlete whose confidence arises from the consistency, the deliberateness, the focus of their training, who looks forward with excitement to the race season, and their racing results?
Its is recommended that Technique Training 101 is reviewed prior to reading this post, as this post builds upon concepts established in 101.
To visualize riding around on triangular, square, or octagonal wheels is one thing, but visualizing sport specific technique in this manner is not as simple. To help, here are gifs that will hopefully let you ‘see’ the smoothness of the technique of top consistent peak performing athletes who are repeat medalists at the Olympics, Worlds, and International events. Can you ‘see’ the consistent circles these athletes complete from having trained to execute exquisite technique.
The markers on Farah’s elbow and knee trace out a yellow wave pattern called a sine wave. Below, you can see how a circle transforms into a sine wave, and vice versa… how a sine wave can be equally expressed as a circle. This is why and how exquisite technique can be presented by a circle and/or a sine wave. This is why training to gain full range of motion, flexibility, and mobility is critical to exquisite technique… without them you cannot trace out smooth sine waves, you cannot complete circles (and that’s how you end up with triangles and squares as wheels; see Technique Training 101 if unclear on what is meant by wheels).
Now imagine each and every joint in Farah’s body having a marker… when all the joints, when all the markers make smooth symmetrical consistent wave patterns that is when technique has been optimized. When you are using every possible joint, every possible muscle, and using them all without restriction, limitation, or forceful effort is when optimal technique is achieved. To achieve such a level of consistent execution on demand takes years and years of training. A few weeks, months, or one good solid training camp do not yield such results. It is for this reason that consistent peak performers train for as many hours a day, week after week, and for as many years as they do. It takes loads of work to coordinate your body, brain and spirit into the symphony which is appreciated as effortless execution of sport specific technique: a circle.
Isn’t it why we watch the Olympics? We want to see beautiful movement; movement which is smooth, consistent, symmetrical and fluid in nature. When movement flows seamlessly from one motion into the next, we not only ‘see’ it, but we feel it, we share in it by experiencing it. In sport, ease of movement translates into speed, endurance, height, and distance. Its the reason why the performing arts capture our imagination… because we are mesmerized by the flowing lines, the ease with which the artists balance, jump, float, glide.
Isn’t that why we watch ‘skills’ competitions? We want to see the technique of top NBA and NHL players put on display. We want to see athletes soar through the air, slammin’ the ball into the net while hanging in mid-air. We want to see wingers and centres go one on one with a goalie, see them swing across the ice from left to right, back to the left, while their stick slides the puck in the opposite direction attempting to confuse the goalie allowing a gap to open, and a goal to be scored.
Why does it look like Farah runs effortlessly? Because compared to anyone with a wave pattern any less smooth, any less symmetrical, his running is – relatively – effortless. Farah is not running with triangular, square, or hexagonal technique (i.e. ‘wheels’)… in fact, when he runs you cannot be sure if he is running or hovering overtop of the road. He runs in this manner not because he is gifted, talented, or a natural (whatever these commonly heard remarks mean), instead it is because he has developed technique where he moves with smooth symmetrical consistent waves across every joint, every muscle in his entire body. There is no physical resistance, no mental doubts, no emotional barriers to his movement… that is what he has trained: to eliminate that which prevents effortless movement, and so he moves effortlessly.
Now imagine the typical runner you see plodding, trudging, or dragging themselves down the street, as they ‘train’. Put imaginary markers on their elbows and knees. Do you think they will trace out smooth symmetrical waves when they run? Not even close. Their wave pattern is jerky, asymmetrical, inconsistent… meanwhile those athletes wonder why running for them is so effortful, so forced, and painfully so. They train hard and harder and then even harder hoping that forcing movement will somehow translate into ease, into speed, into endurance; yet all it results in is pain, injury, illness, frustration, disappointment. By failing to train technique, failing to improve posture, form, lines, symmetry, range of motion, flexibility, mobility, these athletes fail to improve. Instead they perform or their coach will have them perform tempo runs, run flights of stairs, hill repeats, hi intensity intervals on a treadmill or the track. They fall for the narrative that ‘to train’ means ‘to suffer’, where ‘no pain’ means ‘no gains’ and since they are definitely suffering, in pain, they think they are training properly.
When your technique is as beautiful, when your movement as effortless as Mo Farah, then it makes sense to add a distinct amount of training to peak (i.e. HiiT). But even that training is designed with the intent of identifying new weaknesses, new asymmetries, so that the process of training technique can restart once again, just on smaller and smaller scales with every cycle.
The concept of technique training applies to all sports:
Put markers on Phelps’ shoulders, his hips and his ankles… and you will see that they all follow a beautifully smooth and symmetrical sine wave. Phelps swims fastest not because he has a higher VO2, not because his lactate threshold is a thousandth of a % higher, not because he can hit a higher max HR… Phelps swims fastest because he swims the smoothest, and is able to swim the smoothest consistently. Phelps swims fastest because even when he fatigues he holds onto technique which is smoother than any competitor.
If you put markers on all of Phelps’ joints you would see they all complete consistently smooth symmetrical wave patterns, indicating that his technique is nearly flawless (to say Phelps is flawless would be to say that there is no way for anyone to swim faster as Phelps has mastered swimming technique perfectly… that is not the case, and never will be the case). Nonetheless, the point is that of all swimmers, Phelps technique is undoubtedly one of the most refined with the result being that he has become the most decorated Olympian (for now).
Put markers on Froome’s shoulders, pelvis, and hips even on his bike and you will find that his technique – like Farah’s, like Phelps’ – will carve out beautiful symmetrical smooth sine waves.
Put markets on Contador’s shoulders, pelvis, and hips and you will also find consistency and symmetry in his sine waves. Contador is said to ‘dance’ on his pedals, and this is provided as the explanation why he is able to climb up mountain passes with what appears to be a fluidity and ease seldom seen amongst even top cycling pros.
Want to improve as an athlete? Want to significantly improve your speed, your endurance, your ability to generate power? Want to explore your potential, while delivering consistent peak performances? Want to improve your health while you improve as an athlete? Had enough of average training, being trained by coaches who can only deliver average results?
Then stop wasting your time, your effort, your life with HiiT (hi intensity interval training).
Start training technique. Start working on gaining more range of motion, more flexibility, more mobility so that you can move smoother, move with greater symmetry, move with greater ease.
Start training to move with smooth consistent symmetrical wave patterns. Don’t know how. Then find a coach who does. Find a coach who understands physics, biomechanics, knows how to teach skill development through drills, who knows how to instruct athletes to strive for efficiency, ease, and fluidity in their movement. Find a coach who will take the time to help you learn how to move, giving you step by step instructions to improve.
A long long time ago, I used to compete in alpine skiing and was an alpine ski instructor who taught the littlest monkeys how to ski. It wasn’t until today when I saw a video from Outside Magazine that I recalled the technique I used to teach (and its relevance to this post). Can you guess from the gifs below which way is the right way to carve out a turn, and which way is wrong? I believe it is obvious (considering there is a distinct sine wave in one of the gifs). For those who do not ski, the gif where the leg is pivoting in one spot does not result in nice turns. Pivoting results in 90 degree turns which are sharp and skidding, and if you do enough of them… exhausting. Hmm. That sounds just like anything else… swim, bike, run with poor technique and its hard, sharp, and exhausting. Execute smooth symmetrical technique… and that’s performing on an entirely different level, a level that you cannot describe, it has to be experienced to be understood.