THIS is Always Better Than THAT; Absolutely Not!

This topic is something that annoys the hell out of me! Thanks to Anne with margaritasandmarathons , I’ve been inspired to post some thoughts about our need as humans to rely on absolutisms, and why we need to be aware of this habit and challenge it in our own lives. The other day she talked specifically about “race weight” and how the least weight isn’t always the best. This reminded me of other aspects of the running sport and how people love to prescribe to a specific policy that tends to land on one end of the spectrum or the other.

The Complacency of Absolutisms

We all do this at some point, decide that one thing or idea is the exact answer to everything we need, and we live by that idea with complete dismissal to anything contrary. From my experience, I’ve seen people including myself do this for one of 2 reasons; laziness or security. Laziness, in the things we do, think about how much easier it is to follow one set of rules. You have a specific set of guidelines and beliefs, any and all situations can fall in a specific category for which you can easily call upon an action that’s a one size fits all. Security, knowing that we have a specific answer to any situation, having comfort in having an answer to any situation which may arise with a pre-prescribed solution that will lead to an ideal solution.

When we live by absolutes, we are blinded by them.

When we choose one thing over another, we become entangled in creations of mind — objects of thought — rather than seeing the essential nature of the oneness of the truth. As soon as we make any preference whatsoever, an opinion is formed — it is this bias that obscures us from seeing the true nature of things — especially that of our true Self.

http://www.zenthinking.net/blog/when-we-live-by-absolutes-we-are-blinded-by-them

It’s this inherent and unintentional complacency that can keep us from maximizing potential and efficiency. From my experience, there are very few (none coming to mind at the moment I’m writing this) times where being 100% on one side of a spectrum and idea is best. In learning to be more complex our thinking we can maximize our benefits and adaptation for the best results in all that we do.

Annnnnny ways, read on.

Application to Running

Training

I’ve heard damn near everything when it comes to running training. Whether it’s short, mid or long distance, I’ve seen all sides of training concepts, and to be honest, there’s plenty of methods that are successful. It’s safe to say that you’ve read online or know someone that has a training philosophy that it all-in on one side or the other. Do these sound familiar? “as many miles as possible”, “as fast as possible”, “keeping a low heart rate”, “keeping your heart rate high”. Too many times I’ve had to educate someone who says, “why wouldn’t I want to run as fast as possible for each run?”, or “why wouldn’t I want to do each interval as fast as possible? Won’t you get faster by going as fast as you can?” You can surely find examples of successful runners who live by one extreme, but if you look at the majority of professional runners, their training is very dynamic with large variations in pace and intensity, all having a specific purpose. See Jack Daniel’s training philosophy as an example of one of the most widely used systems for efficient training for runners at all levels.

Running Shoes

I’m a running shoe nut, nerd, fanatic, (freak?). Our connection as runners to our running shoes is so personal an intimate, and for good reason! We spend all of our running time in them, and more than any other equipment, our shoes are our direct connection between our performance and the ground, basically where the rubber meets the road. LITERALLY!

This may be the single most debated topic in the running world, which shoe is best! and furthermore, what type of shoe is best.

You can find countless articles and anecdotal evidence of one type of shoe or another solving all problems, and being the best for all of mankind! Look for maximal running shoes on the internet, you could easily become convinced that the thickest running shoe is what you as a human being needs to operate correctly. Search for barefoot running or minimal running shoes. Read around and you’ll be overwhelmed with the idea that wear anything on your feet more than 1mm thick makes you a sinner and horrendous bastard who is going to die from his body spontaneously combusting of bigotry.

When you search for unbiased evidence, you will actually find that no one type of shoe is perfect. To take it a step further, some shoes that fall on the extreme of one end or the other may actually cause problems when used religiously. For example, using the “softest” shoe possible, sure it absorbs shocks and aids in muscle recovery. But, for some people, the prolonged use of a shoe that is sooooo compliant and squishy actually can cause problems by making the foot and ankle flex too much and move more than your body prefers. On the flip side, using the most “natural” shoe may allow the body to function as normal as possible, but it may not provide enough protection and shock absorption to be sustainable in a sports application. We can get caught up in assuming the most natural thing is the best, but think about it like this, intense sports, or even more so, professional sports and prolonged sports training isn’t what’s natural for our bodies, so doing what’s natural isn’t what’s best for our bodies in a sports application. A runner who doesn’t use the right shoes for the training they’re doing would be the equivalent of a footaball player using no hemet, because they believe the human skull is built to “naturally” protect the human brain. What I’m trying to get at is that you should use different shoes for different occasions. Have a cushioned shoe, have a more minimal shoe, maximize your training by using what YOU need when YOU need it, each run type will call for different changes in effort, gear and mindset.

Body Weight

Lastly I’ll touch lightly on what Anne was speaking about in her article, Race weight. YES!, we know that according to physics, less weight will be easier and more efficient to start and continue moving. But, YOUR race weight is not “the least weight you can possibly be at”. This is another area where people tend to think in extremes. “Get to the least weight possible”, or even “drop weight”. These mindsets are not always true. Each person has a specific weight and body fat percentage where their body responds best and most efficient. Remember, to lose body weight based on water or nutrients is NOT a viable source of weight loss. In sports and especially endurance sports, being dehydrated or malnourished will almost always results in reduced performance. Imagine running your next race with 5lbs less water in you system, or having not received enough calories the day or days leading up to a marathon. When you stop and think about what your weight is made of, the idea of losing a couple pounds to make race weight no longer makes sense, when that couple pounds is made up strictly of that which your; heart, lungs, nervous systems and muscles rely on to function.

Hopping Off of My Soap Box

Ok, I’m stepping down from the soap box and stopping the rant. I ask that you just take away the idea that being extreme on any side of any equation may not be the best. I suggest that you be better than the average human and be complex in your thinking. It may require more effort and may be less comfortable, but being adaptable in your thinking and compliant to different situations will gain you the best results, especially compared to a peer who is a simplistic minded individual.

The take away I want everyone to have is this. Make complex and diverse thoughts, take simple actions. 🤔🤗

I’d love to hear your thoughts! please comment and let me know what you think, and if you feel that there are occasions where extremes are actually best. I’m no expert, but I try to remain open and adaptable in a way that gives me the best results. I can say that my experience and research has lead me to believe that sports training is fluid and no extreme will be sustainable and best, but I ask that the readers of this chime in with their experiences and thoughts. We can only get better by sharing ideas and learning from each other!

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