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Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Quantification Conundrum Part III

Then what the dickens exactly is it that I do to earn a living? Yes there are far wiser & better trained people out there with PhDs who know far more than I do about measurement & even muscle function & human propulsion. There are also many amazing coaches, especially sprint coaches, who have a great number of incredible drills & activities & ways of presenting these that help runners get closer to their innate abilities. I use my understanding of both these worlds & the specific training, & many years of observation & experimentation & a penchant for trying to put research into use every time something new comes to light & seeing if it leads to improved performance with the individual. Of course the communication aspect is huge – the art of taking a primal subconscious activity & trying to teach/alter/replace it intellectually & through visceral experience is what I am most interested in. This can render itself very easily into a “snake oil” scenario of course, but to prevent this, the proof MUST be in the pudding, EVERY, SINGLE, TIME! Athletes must achieve either or all of the following:

1. Reduced recovery time

2. Increased running speed throughout the training spectrum

3. Reduction in injuries

4. Faster racing

Here’s where the science has a hard time quantifying the above:

• Does improved mechanics allow for longer & harder, uninterrupted training? Probably, but the harder, longer continuous training is the cause for the improvement

• Does improved mechanics allow for faster running, (removal of mechanical limiters)? Probably, but it is the impact of this faster running that improves performance through the myriad training responses, like increased rapidity of potassium ion replacement

If we have no complete model, like improved aero-dynamics, or increased K ions, or higher VO2max or extended VVO2 max numbers, or accelerated lactate metabolism that clearly defines the role of mechanics, then we cannot categorically claim that the mechanics made the difference. Or maybe we can! If, in a very short space of time, where the other changes cannot impact performance, we show improvement, then we may be on to something that’ll appease science. As Arthur Lydiard so aptly put it – scientists will eventually show why coaches achieve the results that they do. In the world of high performance sport, science has become more & more crucial to success, but ultimately it is through the willingness of the athlete to experiment with the well- educated & informed coach in search of an edge, or a method to overcome the specific athlete’s limitation that we achieve new standards in performance. Success then is about team, about guts & bravery, about science & experimentation, about striving after ever rising heights, with ever decreasing margins towards ever more ridiculously challenging performances, because that is what is so inherent in the human spirit – to get better. A few will redefine history this way, while the rest of us will strive equally, with less ability, but be on the same continuum, ever searching for the best we can be in the field of our passion, within the confines of our limitations.

Bobby McGee

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