A lot of the information on this website starting from October 2015 goes against “the conventional wisdom,” or the established set of attitudes held by a culture or individual(s) and in general, turns upside down things that “have always been done that way.” As such I am aware that it might raise a lot of questions and of course (fervent) criticism. In a preventive measure I am putting down the five premises that drive the ‘Why?’ of every piece of writing on this site and the five points you should read before asking a question.
1. First Principles, Clarice
First principles, Clarice. Simplicity. Read Marcus Aurelius. Of each particular thing ask: what is it in itself? What is its nature?
-Hannibal Lecter, Silence of the Lambs
To begin to understand something, anything really, you must look at the fundamental idea behind it. Why did it happen in the first place? More often than not the focus falls on what is happening or being said rather than what is the reason behind it. Many times the why is not obvious and it is further not made easy by the fact that many concepts/claims are formed because of a combination of various cultural, personal, trivial and sometimes even irrational details. Therefore distinguishing fact from fiction and seeing the big picture requires looking for the simple beginning across a diverse landscape. Even the above quote made famous by the brilliant acting of Anthony Hopkins is a paraphrase.
This thing, what is it in itself, in its own constitution? What is its substance and material? And what its causal nature [or form]? And what is it doing in the world? And how long does it subsist?
-Marcus Aurelius, Book 8, Meditations
2. Mythbusting of Fads and Marketing
Advertising is based on one thing: happiness. And do you know what happiness is? Happiness is the smell of a new car. It’s freedom from fear. It’s a billboard on the side of a road that screams with reassurance that whatever you’re doing is OK. You are OK.
Essentially the human race survived over couple of million years to come on top. From the African savannah to the north pole and back, through draughts and storms you have made it and yet you have let somebody selling you colored sugar water tell you that you are weak and without whatever it is they are offering, you will not make it and fail, 110% assured. They invented both the problem and surprisingly the only ones with the solution. Without even questioning their claims, because supposedly “they know better” you have given the full responsibility for your happiness, actions, life in the hands of somebody who will charge you dearly for it and put an air of success around themselves while keeping you constantly wanting more. It goes back to #1 and you need to take the responsibility back in your hands and ask What is its causal nature. More often than not it is to sell you something/making money. Which brings me to….
3. But Study X Shows Product/Method Y is Awesome.
Each science confines itself to a fragment of the evidence and weaves its theories in terms of notions suggested by that fragment. Such a procedure is necessary by reason of the limitations of human ability. But it’s dangers should always be kept in mind.
-Alfred North Whitehead
A good number of the scientific research in any field, blatantly misses point#1 hence only focusing on a (small) part of the problem and/or is research put out/sponsored in order to provide ‘support’ for the empty claims (look at #2) and it does not contribute to knowledge in any significant way. The good chunk of research left in most cases represents studies that are done short term on trained or untrained athletes. You can run almost anybody into the ground for 3-6 weeks even 6 months and get results. Whatever program/diet/intervals WILL work. In the long term it is usually detrimental. How many times a promising athlete has a breakout season to only crash and burn the year after to never be heard again besides in an interview about times past? Or that same person goes to “insert name of a country olympic/talent/development training center” where he/she is again run into the ground to become a physically and mentally destroyed resemblance of a human being. Ever wondered why it happened if whatever they were doing was really the best?
For the more inquisitive I highly recommend Ben Goldacre’s excellent and quite entertaining – [easyazon_link identifier=”0865479186″ locale=”US” tag=”thetalcyc-20″]Bad Science: Quacks, Hacks, and Big Pharma Flacks[/easyazon_link]
4. But the PROs, my Friend’s Uncle are Doing it and They are Better than You, Me, and Everybody!
If that was true he must have felt that he had lost the old warm world, paid a high price for living too long with a single dream. He must have looked up at an unfamiliar sky through frightening leaves and shivered as he found what a grotesque thing a rose is and how raw the sunlight was upon the scarcely created grass. A new world, material without being real, where poor ghosts, breathing dreams like air, drifted fortuitously about…like that ashen, fantastic figure gliding toward him through the amorphous trees.
-F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby
Jay Gatsby lived in glitz and glamour intoxicated by a dream – Daisy. Hiding behind that facade, in an (eventually) self-destructive desire, Gatsby wanted to relive a past long gone until everything he worked for suddenly became redefined, ultimately leading to his demise. We all have a bit of Jay Gatsby in ourselves – behind the ‘perfect exterior’ there is a tragedy hiding that we don’t want to bring into the light/admit. Athletes or cyclists are no exception. It also goes back to #2 and #3 above.
In addition, never ever fail to remember that in the words of Dr. Gregory House – Everybody lies.
Everybody went hungover and rode the best race of their lives, on a flat tyre, riding one handed without even training, for a year before. Yes I also saw Santa Claus riding a unicorn yesterday. You get my point.
5. I Might Be Wrong.
The greatest obstacle to discovering the shape of the earth, the continents, and the oceans was not ignorance but the illusion of knowledge.
-Daniel J. Borstin
My goal is to always look at the essence of the idea/concepts I discuss and show you that there is more than one aspect to every story. I might be wrong, I might overlook something by chance, it happens. I do not claim that what I am saying is the only truth and I accept and welcome criticism, because questioning is the best way to advance knowledge. Skepticism is part of science.
DISCLAIMER: In addition I only play doctor on TV, however, like I mentioned above, a job or any kind of title does not automatically give the person with that title understanding of the subject they claim to be an expert at. It’s your responsibility to ask why and educate yourself so you can make informed choices and decisions, rather than following the latest fad. Therefore my goal is to educate and I am not responsible for any ill effects of your interpretation of what I have said here on this blog.
6. Mistakes, Typos, Copyrighted Material, Etc.
Mistakes do happen, therefore if you find something that is not quite right/misspelled,etc. please let me know. Additionally I always try to give credit for information, images, publications that are not my own and as such if you are the author/owner of certain information and you have a comment on how it should be used please get in touch with me.
A lot of information and material for further brain teasing and education can be found in the ever-increasing Further Reading post.