Unconventional Thinking

I suppose I'm a bit of a heretic. I seldom accept things at face value just because that's "the way we've always done it" or just because an "expert" says it should be done that way. Or, my favorite, which always starts with, "everybody knows..." I always ask myself why. Why should it be done that way. I've seen these three "reasons" be wrong so many times in my life that I am continually skeptical. You've probably seen the results of my skepticism many times in this blog. It shows up in such topics as nutrition, hydration, periodization, training methods, and lots more. This doesn't mean that everything we've "always done" or that experts have told us to do are always wrong. Not at all. I have often found that there's merit to much of what I’ve questioned. That's a good thing. It means that I can accept the idea and use it with some degree of certainty.

I've sought answers over the years to those things I've questioned by experimenting - first with myself and then with clients. A good example of this is midsole cleats for cycling. This idea was suggested to me in 2005. I thought at first that it sounded ridiculous. After all "we've always" put the cleat under the ball of the foot. “Everybody knows” that's how it should be placed. “Experts” even tell us that. So, with all of this in mind, I set out to prove the midsole cleat position was wrong. I discovered just the opposite: it worked well for me—I climbed and time trialed better and rode more efficiently. So I then tried it with willing clients I coached. For many it also worked better. But not all of them improved as I and others had done. That's not unusual. In my Training Bible books I write about the principle of individualization in sport. The effect of midsole cleats is but one small example of this principle at work.

Besides experimenting I also like to read research to find answers to my questions. The more research I can find on a topic, such as cleat position, the better. The research doesn't always agree. That's ok. It still gives me more information about the topic at hand. For more than 30 years I've started almost every day by reading a research abstract. I keep a stack of them at my desk. If the abstract interests me I seek out the whole study to get a deeper understanding. You can read abstracts for yourself by going to PubMed. Should you be a geek like me you can search out the abstracts for topics that interest you. I suspect there are only a few who would want to do that. But before you assume somebody is wrong because "that's the way it's always been done," or "experts" say we should, or "everybody knows" be sure to do an in-depth review of the research. And try it yourself. You may find, as I have many times, that the alternative method works for you. Or not. That's good. Now you know.

A little skepticism is a good thing. Because of this way of seeing the world I have great respect for others who question what I say. They help to make me a better coach and person.


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