Before we get started, no – this is not a political piece… far from it! However, the basis of supposed “fake news” has a lot in common with information that you likely read on a daily basis in the area sports performance. Some of these areas are:
- Manipulating facts
- Facts established on loosely-based correlations vs. causation
- Intentionally leaving out data/facts
- Presenting statistically insignificant data as solid science/facts
- Presenting opinions as facts
- Antiquated and, or myth-based information
While we list six areas, we’re quite sure that the list goes on. The point is that with so much ‘noise’ out there in regard to endurance sports information, how do you know if what you’re reading is accurate and applicable to you and, or your clientele?
Ever wonder how a drug comes to market? In order for a drug to gain FDA approval and make it to market, aside from billions of dollars spent, clinical trials require hundreds if not thousands of subjects. Unlike the pharmaceutical industry, sports-specific research typically lacks robust funding and this often equates to relatively low number of participants. Therefore, even though a study is performed well and the results are without bias, simply due to the number of participants the results may be considered statistically insignificant and therefore it’s hard to decipher the actual value of the information/study.
As a result, use of a meta-analysis (comparing the results from multiple similar studies) is often needed to determine the value and validity of a particular piece of information or study.
In the world of endurance sports (and most all sports), a top performer is often revered and as such, their personal training methodology and thoughts on training and racing are often mistaken as facts. For example, if a 2:10 marathoner tells me that I need to do two days per week of pyramid intervals to be ‘fast,’ who am I to argue with that?
Should you take an elite endurance athlete’s advice just because they are a pro? No – but nor should you dismiss a non-elite athlete’s advice just because they are slower than you. Listen to everyone and form your own opinions on what advice to incorporate into your training program or that of your clients.
I can count pretty high but likely not high enough to be able to count all of the blogs out there pertaining to endurance sports training/racing/lifestyle. While not all blogs exist for the purpose of giving training information, a lot do and even those that don’t, the readers still interpret the information on blogs as advice due to their admiration of the author.
Don’t get me wrong, I love a good blog as much as the next person but it’s important not to misinterpret information on blogs as end-all-be-all training facts. Read blogs (including this one!) for interesting topics and then do your own research.
Often its not what an article or person says but rather what they DON’T say. Cherry picking information for the purpose of making a point does not do anyone any good as you’re not getting the whole picture. As such, be very wary when a source (i.e., article, person, certification) makes a definitive standpoint with no other information. Similarly, while not all ‘systems’ are a bad thing, in the world of sports performance, it’s rare that a singular system or template will apply equally to everyone.
In our UESCA certifications, it’s rare for a definitive standpoint to be stressed. Rather, we understand that there is a lot of data out there that may be applicable to you and your clients. Therefore, we provide all of the requisite training information so that you are fully informed and then leave it up to you to determine what is best for you and your clients.
This means that an individual seeks out information that confirms their beliefs, rather than exposing themselves to information that may contradict their beliefs. In regard to politics, an example of this would be a Democrat that only watches CNN or a Republican that only watches Fox News. I’m not here to debate which news channel is better or worse, however, its important to note that the information that they choose to post, where the news is posted and how the news is discussed is largely based around what they perceive their readership/viewership wants to see.
The same goes for the endurance sports community. If I think that long steady distance training is total BS and a waste of time, I’m likely to seek out a resource such as CrossFit. Or if I’m a vegan, it’s highly unlikely that I’d ever check out a Paleo-based website.
Even though it’s in our nature to have confirmation biases (I certainly do), I challenge all of you, myself included, to get outside of our comfort zone and truly be more open-minded to other methods of training, diet, biomechanics, etc… By only seeking out one perspective, you won’t grow much as a coach, athlete or as a person.
Don’t pigeonhole yourself into believing that there is only one right way to train or coach. Read blogs-listen to podcasts-scroll your Facebook feed-check out peer reviewed journals-scour magazine articles… but always think about these following areas:
- Is the information evidence-based and statistically significant?
- If it’s science-based, does it have a real world application and has it been proven?
- Does it make sense?
- Where can I find more information about this topic?
- Is it applicable to me and, or my clients?
- Is it safe?
- Am I only seeking out information that I already believe in?
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