Today in the mail I received – like all Triathlon Ontario members – my bi-monthly copy of Triathlon Magazine Canada (Vol 15 Issue 1). As usual, I started to flip through it to see the range of articles in order to narrow down to the specific articles I intend to read later on. I didn’t get past page 24… the picture of Dave Scott was enough to stop me from flipping further, and was enough to get me to read the article titled: “Form Check: Run Like A Dog”.
For those that aren’t Triathlon Ontario members and who will not have a chance to read this article, let me summarize it quickly… the article is essentially a book review of the 2011 Matt Fitzgerald book titled “Iron War”. The book references research performed by Stephen McGregor who used mathematical models to quantify workloads amongst runners and extrapolated those results to conclude that: “there is no such thing as good running form”.
The article states that the conclusion to be made is that running form is “a puzzle that each body must solve on its own”, and the way that the body solves the puzzle of efficient running technique is through…. hi intensity (interval) training, HiiT. In fact the writer argues that HiiT is not enough: training must be performed with a ‘no pain, no gain’ / effort is everything mindset, as in… just do it: run like a dog!
Huh, go figure…
Somehow everything in this world is engineered to the nth degree to be optimized for acceleration, speed, to minimize energy consumption and drag, and is engineered not to violate the laws of physics, yet this article wants us to believe that running is different, that the laws of physics do not apply in running! In running you simply make up technique as you go by “running like a dog”!
Back in reality, the best of the best in running believe this about technique…
“to run fast, to run really fast… technique is crucial”
“to run this fast… Bolt had to have executed the perfect technique”
Michael Johnson, 4x Olympic Gold Medalist, 7x World Champion – 200m & 400m
What Olympic and World Champion sprinter Michael Johnson is saying is that there is not only technique, but there is perfect technique, as in a technique that maximizes the laws of physics by minimizing wasted energy while converting with peak efficiency metabolic energy into physical motion sufficient to yield a World Record. Furthermore, Johnsons says that there is technique specific to each event in running.
The one who has run fast – Olympic and World Champ sprinter Michael Johnson – states that technique is not arbitrary, technique is not random, technique is not specific to the individual, technique is not acquired through trial & error.
Those who have never run fast are convinced that there is no such thing as technique (i.e. that running is excluded from the universal laws of physical motion).
Becareful who you listen to if you are in pursuit of your potential; you don’t want someone else’s stupid getting all over you. As Forrest Gump said..
After reading numerous auto-biopgraphies & biographies of consistent peak performers, of Olympians, of World Champions I have yet to find a single athlete who unequivocally states that they achieved consistent – illness & injury free – greatness in sport as a result of hi intensity training/HiiT. Absolutely, a period of HiiT to taper and become race ready is normal amongst peak performing athletes, but HiiT as the base training that builds an athlete’s foundation… not one athlete. Usain Bolt shares in his biography that despite being recruited by numerous US Colleges, he decided to stay and train in Jamaica because he knew the intensity of training and racing that would be expected of him if he went to the US would in the long term derail the pursuit of his greatest potential. Meanwhile, all that we read from researchers, authors, and sports media writers is that nothing except HiiT exists as ‘the’ epitome of training to achieve your potential.
“Repeat a lie often enough and it becomes the truth”, is a law of propaganda often attributed to the Nazi Joseph Goebbels. Among psychologists something like this known as the “illusion of truth” effect.
Becareful athletes & coaches… the desire to paint an “illusion of truth” is tempting because turning lies into ‘truth’ is big business. There are many lies in the health & fitness industry today painting HiiT as the ‘short cut’ to success, and since many have been taken by this scam the temptation to keep the lie going becomes greater and the need to keep the lie alive greater still.
There is only one healthy way to achieve your long term potential… hi-repetition technique training. Its the only approach to training that achieves the one metric correctly identified by McGregor in his research: control entropy. When a “runner’s brain is as inactive as possible, it turns out the best possible performance.”