Sunday, 6 May 2018

Very Stable Idiot Week 18: April 30 - May 6 2018


“All mankind is divided into three groups: those that are immovable, those that are movable and those that move.” — Benjamin Franklin

From Naval’s recent Periscope:

“The education system “was developed, and still is this way to some degree, to breed obedient factory workers” 

“Intellectual curiosity is an important trait to cultivate … if you’re just curious as to how things work and are more concerned with figuring it out correctly than being right, then you put yourself in a very powerful position”

This definitely feels like it is decreasing over time; each generation less curious than the one that preceded it.  

“Your mind isn’t unfocused. It’s just focused on something that another part of your mind wants it to be focused on. This creates self-conflict … your mind is doing exactly what you want it to do at all times”

“The trick to doing anything is first cultivating a desire for it”

The best way to learn how to learn is to read a lot and read things you like”

On Mechanics

Position and mechanics come first; treating the symptoms is your second priority.

Don't chase symptoms. Don't be distracted by them. 

In teaching mechanics, we have two objectives:

  1. Understand, and teach towards, the most efficient biomechanical model of the task
  2. Understand, and teach towards, the most efficient biomechanical model of the individual 

Number 1 comes first.  
Number 2 comes second.  

All athletes will develop, over time, their own individual, idiosyncratic movement solutions. 
Generally, however, the closer an individual solution is to the most-efficient mechanical model, the better the athlete will be.  

How many true outliers have successful, sustainable careers?  

In any sport?  

The best almost always have a solid grounding in basic fundamental technique.  

Individual differences do exist, however.  

One of a coach’s jobs is to determine if this difference is significant enough that we should step in and attempt to make a technical change, in an effort to close the gap to the more ‘appropriate’ model.  There is no doubt that this is a multi-layered, complex question to ask.  

A few heuristics to help us answer it:

  1. If the athlete is young - i.e. still growing - then we source the root of the discrepancy, and attempt to make the change
  2. If the individual solution is asymmetrical, this should not be addressed through a technical tweak; rather, we need to understand the source of the asymmetry and address that
  3. If the individual solution is so far from the most-efficient mechanical model that it is having negative effects on athlete health - then we source the root of the discrepancy and attempt to make the change

“Efficient mechanics is our best strategy for maintaining health.  

Better than strength; better than fascicle length, better than movement prep; better than massage ...

… I’m a big fan of posterior chain strength, but no amount of Nordics - or otherwise - will bulletproof an athlete with poor mechanics.  Until we better understand that as an industry, injury rates will not significantly change”

I posted the above on Twitter this week.  One question I expected eventually came from Adam Scott - basically, what about ‘team-sports’?:

“Maybe we need to bracket this as especially important to track? We must remember also, that in a team sport setting you’ll find many running styles and compensations that a multifactorial approach to maintaining fitness will likely be more effective.”

My response:

Yes - it is especially important to track, as the performance is almost entirely dependent upon efficient mechanics.  


What is it exactly about team-sport athletes’ bodies that allow them to disobey the laws of physics?  As I stated - good mechanics are good mechanics; this is 100% independent of sport.  I understand - and fully accept - that there will be sport compensations; but generally, in a sport that requires sprinting, the athletes should be able to sprint.  Once an athlete has a grounding in the fundamental understanding of efficient sprint-technique (knowing the rules), then they will be better able to make necessary adjustments based on task and environment (‘breaking the rules’) if-when necessary. 

The bottom-line:

The number one reason that team-sport athletes suffer soft-tissue injuries is poor technique.  

Coaches involved in working with these athletes should take a first-principles approach to solving this problem: i.e. as “what is the root cause of injury”, and honestly and accurately answer it. 

The solution then is easy: ensure that your coaches understand how to coach sprint technique (or bring in someone who does).

"Mechanics are the heart of every legit/complete S&C program. Fitness, strength, power, etc are all SIDE effects." - Kelly Starrett


How to get better?

There's not a blueprint that you just use, and it works in coaching all athletes. 

Athletes are not a building or a meal - where you can just follow a recipe, and at the end - voila - you've got something great.  

All athletes are individuals, and they have to be trained that way. The coach’s job is to try to understand what it is that makes an athlete special, and train them in this way. 

How to individualize the organization of training:
  1. Understand the athlete’s ‘gift’ - i.e. what makes them good at what they do
  2. Organize training in such a way to best take advantage of this gift.

That’s it …

This requires an intimate understanding of how the athlete responds to LOAD. 

So first - what is load? 
Second - what is the response?

Load - non-specific nature of stress. All things are cumulative. 
Distractions are load - they take away from the overall pool available. 

Second - how do we adapt to the load?

Through Feedback - subjective and objective

It is increasingly difficult to get objective feedback from athletes - especially on the track when chaotic environmental factors play such an important role

Thus - the importance of subjective feedback - the ability to communicate how you are feeling in an accurate and meaningful way 

As a developing athlete, most of the reason you get better is innate - it is simply a matter of time. You can do a variety of programs, under a variety of coaches, in a variety of different situations, and you would have performed approximately the same. 

Your limiting factor is generally your parents - your genetics. How hard you worked, the quality of your training, your coaches, your teammates - none of that really matters. 


As an elite athlete, you get better by one of three ways:
  • More volume
  • More intensity
  • More efficiency 

All other things allow for one of the above to happen:
  • Mechanics
  • Nutrition
  • Regeneration
  • Lifestyle

Understand that it's not just TIME. What makes an athlete better is the same as what makes ANYONE better: a mixture of the above. First - the innate ability, and second the volume, intensity, and efficiency of their experiences over time. 

It's not just practice - it's DELIBERATE practice. 

So - how do we improve - SPECIFICALLY?

Communication underpins all of it.   


This week’s lesson from a past master:

In 1959, British philosopher and mathematician Bertrand Russell sat down with John Freeman to shoot an interview for the BBC Program Face to Face.  Russell was asked if he had a message for those in the future.


“I should like to say two things, one intellectual and one moral:

The intellectual thing I should want to say to them is this: When you are studying any matter or considering any philosophy, ask yourself only what are the facts and what is the truth that the facts bear out. Never let yourself be diverted either by what you wish to believe or by what you think would have beneficent social effects if it were believed, but look only and solely at what are the facts. That is the intellectual thing that I should wish to say.

The moral thing I should wish to say to them is very simple. I should say: Love is wise, hatred is foolish. In this world, which is getting more and more closely interconnected, we have to learn to tolerate each other. We have to learn to put up with the fact that some people say things that we don't like. We can only live together in that way, and if we are to live together and not die together we must learn a kind of charity and a kind of tolerance which is absolutely vital to the continuation of human life on this planet.”


”There are no two words in the English language which stand out in bolder relief, like kings upon a checker-board, to so great an extent as the words 'I will.' There is strength, depth and solidity, decision, confidence and power, determination, vigor and individuality, in the round, ringing tone which characterizes its delivery. It talks to you of triumph over difficulties, of victory in the face of discouragement, of will to promise and strength to perform, of lofty and daring enterprise, of unfettered aspirations, and of the thousand and one solid impulses by which man masters impediments in the way of progression." - Orison Swett Marden


"I don't do more, but less, than other people. They do all their work three times over: once in anticipation, once in actuality, once in rumination. I do mine in actuality alone, doing it once instead of three times." - Henry Ward Beecher


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