So, How Many Hats Do You Wear?

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Pensacola, Florida, United States
Husband. *Dog Dad.* Instructional Systems Specialist. Runner. (Swim-challenged) Triathlete (on hiatus). USATF LDR Surveyor. USAT (Elite Rules) CRO/2, NTO/1. RRCA Rep., FL (North). Observer Of The Human Condition.

Friday, July 17, 2009

In Essentials, Unity

'In essentials, unity. In nonessentials, liberty. In all things, charity.' - (att.) John Wesley & St. Augustine
The more you read any of the training books or magazines, regardless of the sport, the more likely you are to ask yourself, 'dude, are these guys (gals) all saying the same thing, or am I imagining it?' News flash: As a whole there's not a whole lot new underneath the sun...regardless of that 12 Weeks To Your First Ironman or Five Weeks To Your 5K Personal Best book (the former) or magazine article (the latter)...and the article always has the title in BIG, HONKING LETTERS so you can't miss it on the news stand.

In the same fashion that a religion (or church) has its major handful of tenets which ideally everyone holds in common, nearly every coach who has spent enough time in classroom study or real-world experience knows there are some basic fundamental laws of training. Some find a way to write books & magazine articles about them, or based upon them; the really good writers find a way to put it in an entirely new & different language so the casual observer/layman/prospective book/magazine buyer will snap it up. Think of Pringles. It's still a potato chip, no matter how you look at it. While it has a uniform shape, size & texture, it's still based on a potato that has been cooked & seasoned. It was just packaged differently & made to look prettier.
Face it. Base-building isn't pretty. There's no way to gloss over speed work. Time trials are always going to be time of discomfort. And nobody ever talks about recovery or rehabilitation. And heaven forbid you even discuss injuries. So we're always going to deal with semantics, with trying to sell some aspect of training that no athlete particularly likes by giving it a mystical name.

There's nothing mystical about it. The secret is there are no secrets.
'I am of Paul...I am of Cephas...I am of Apollos...' - Paul of Tarsus (1st Century CE)
When I look at books written by Bingham, Daniels, Galloway, Glover, Henderson, Higdon, & so on, most of them try to say the same thing. Don't take this is a stab at my friends (John, Hal...) who have written these books. There is a degree of discipline & sacrifice involved to be a runner (or a triathlete!), but when it is all said & done, the proof of the pudding is on race day, & very few of the runners will wear their allegiance on their sleeve, er, singlet. Even fewer will put credit where credit is due; their own hard work, trusting the book writer's guidance & counsel & translating it into meaningful training & successful execution on the day when it did count.

The most successful runners & triathletes are not products of the program of the month club. Very few of the most successful running or triathlon coaches write best-selling books. Why? Because they understand two things:
There are physiological essentials which must be achieved in a certain order, lest the whole house of cards come down.
Every athlete is an experiment of one. But it's not the article & book writers who are the most dangerous, but their adherents (of which I might be called by some). There are athletes & group leaders who possess a sense of parochialism, to the point of orthodoxy. 'If you don't follow this to the letter you aren't going to be successful,' say some. Or worse yet, they will guarantee unqualified success in their prescribed training endeavor.

The one-size-fits all coaches can make for lousy prophets. The adherents can make for lousy judges.

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