Episode 23- Accountability and Ownership-


In Episode 23 of the Magness & Marcus show, we talk about the importance of accountability and ownership. When success or failure comes, how you frame these outcomes can change not only each individuals motivation to succeed, but also whether they learn from their mistakes, and surprisingly how well the entire team does. We delve through a number of different issues, from how you handle failure impacts your willingness to compete, to the "checking out syndrome" that occurs when athletes feel they are entitled to a race result simply because of the hard work they put in. Getting away from goal setting, Jon discusses why he has athletes develop Minimum Performance Expectations to try and create a standard of excellence to live up to, and not just some pie in the sky goal to attain on a perfect day.

Adding some science to the mix, we bring in research on how the least fit individual impacts the team the most, and that behaviors are contagious, just like your generic sickness is. In the end it's about developing resilient, or Anti-Fragile, athletes and coaches who take responsibility for their performances and commit to learning from both success and failure.

Steve and Jon

Resources mentioned in this episode:
Nonsense: The Power of Not Knowing by Jamie Holmes
Connected: by Nicholas A. Christakis

7 Quick Thoughts on the IAAF Corruption and Doping scandal.


The Independent Commission investigating corruption of the IAAF and doping in Russia released a bombshell of a report today.

While others have summarized the findings better than I can, which included bribery, doping cover-ups, over 1,400+ doping tests destroyed, and much much more. I wanted to give a quick reaction to the report and some of the questions after digesting it:

1. Seb Coe needs to answer questions.

Let's start with the obvious:
-He's been a part of the IAAF since 2003, a VP since 2007.
-He lavished praise on Diack, a man who has shown to have run perhaps the most corrupt regime in Sports, which is saying something.
-He was the head of the FIFA ethics division while vast corruption was going on and reported nothing.
-He has refused to give up his Nike consulting agreement and somehow has convinced himself it's not a Conflict of Interest, despite the entire world, cognitive behavior research, and anyone with a half a brain telling him that is not the case.
-When faced with the reality of these allegations, he initially blamed the journalist, trying to take a holier than thou approach of defending his sport, when the reality is that the regime he was a part of may have single handily killed his sport...for good.


A. Seb Coe is the unluckiest man in the world and just happens to find himself surrounded by corruption. Which if that's the case, I'd suggest Seb do a better job of picking friends...
B. He is a horrible employee and the absolute worst person in the world to judge character, determine ethical violations, and should never have a job related to ethics ever again for the simple fact of so many scandals going on without him even sniffing a hint of it.
C. He has a lot of explaining to do.

It seems extreme, but read the above and ask if you can come to any other conclusion?

How in the world did Seb Coe find himself working with two of the most corrupt and scandal ridden leaders in the history of sport, Diack and Sepp Blatter???  That's impressive that he was able to cosy up to both, have high ranking jobs under both, and find out nothing while there...

It may seem like I'm being harsh, but if Coe truly cares about the sport as much as he says, then he owes the sport answers. He needs to admit to mistakes in judgement, apologize to athletes to journalist, to everyone involved.

The public, and the athletes he is now head of deserve an explanation.

Having "Space" in your training plan- Why Density is often the neglected variable


People love comparisons. It’s built into our nature to compare groups and note the differences. So it’s no surprise when I present at conferences, that one of the topics is often on looking at the differences between runners. Whether that’s from the high school to college to pro groups, or from different types of runners.

Traditionally, the question has focused on the interaction of volume (“How many miles does he run?”) and intensity (“How many speed workouts does he do?”). However, there’s an often neglected piece to the puzzle, that athletes and coaches might take for granted, that can be manipulated. The concept of space.

What’s space? How “dense” the training is, whether that’s within a workout or within the training cycle is how I like to define space. In other words how tightly packed is the training versus how much space do you have between workouts or training cycles.

As coaches, we tend to fall into this trap of cycling workouts and sticking to tried and true patterns. I’ll never forget my conversations with a very good coach when I was younger in which he stated “tempo or longer reps on Monday, shorter reps or hills on Thursday, long run Saturday. That’s the cycle. We change the workouts as the season goes, but it’s Monday-Thursday-Saturday.” The point isn’t to disparage this concept, but to point out that many of us, myself included, often get caught up into this cycle of training. The workouts themselves shift and change, but the “space” between them is held constant.

To me, this is concept prevails because of our human tendency to polarize and like patterns. As coach Renato Canova likes to point out, there are a myriad of intensities between hard and easy, yet we tend to simply classify and stick with these two dichotomies. We like nice neat, usable categories to make sense of the world, so we end up falling into this pattern of Hard/Easy with the variation being the number of easy days after hard workouts.

With this tendency to polarize set, we get stuck in thinking that the “space” between work should be similar regardless of athletes type or level. Instead of simply considering variation in volume and intensity we need to consider the space in between workouts.

Cigarette Smoking Enhances Endurance- The dangers of narrowing focus


If I had to pinpoint one skill that I'm good at in an academic setting, it's that of coalescing information. I love the feeling of sifting through all of the academic research available, making sense of it, and then connecting it to the practical world. The feeling of connecting disparate ideas is something that I'll never grow tired of.

So when Patrick Ward passed around this research review on Cigarette smoking enhancing endurance performance, I couldn't help but be drawn in.

So how does smoking some cigs improve performance?
Smoking 10 or more cigarettes per day is associated with an average hemoglobin increase of 3.5% compared with nonsmoking controls, a change which can be maintained simply by continuing the treatment regimen. In fact, older people with longer smoking histories have higher hemoglobin levels, indicating a possible dose-dependent effect. The hemoglobin increases may be further enhanced with add-on therapy of ethanol, which also appears to act in a dose-dependent manner.
So we start off with a steady and sustained 3.5% increase in hemoglobin levels thanks to smoking. But the benefits don't end there, instead Myers points out that smoking can increase lung volume as well as helping control and reduce weight.


Episode 22- Outliers and the average- Who do we pay attention to?


In this episode of the Magness and Marcus podcast, we take on the concept of outliers and averages. Research and coaching practices tend to focus on a select demographic, whether that's the WEIRD (Western, educated, and from industrialized, rich, and democratic countries) research or coaches focusing on the practices of those who speak English and publish books and articles. This focus on select groups shapes how we see the research and coaching world and impacts the conclusions we can take from it. It's the assumption we make, that these results/ideas will translate regardless of what group we work with, that gets us in trouble.

As always, we jump around a bit, focusing next on the idea of ingraining "being comfortable with being uncomfortable" as the key to running. Jon and I discuss the different ways to attack this, from trying to create mindfulness that translates into running workouts, to using outside stressors like ice baths to engender this mindset.

What we're ultimately trying to do is ingrain your reaction to uncomfortableness. Where you go in your head in training is where you will go when times get tough in racing.

Steve and Jon

Sciencyness- The problem with using science to justify what you're doing...


The heavy breathing, as I found my seat on the plane, must have seemed like an appropriate invitation to start a conversation, as the man sitting behind me quipped “Did you run the marathon today?”

It was an appropriate question, given that I was on my way back from the race, although the breathing was the result of my unintentional arriving at the airport 30 minutes before the plane departed and the mad 400m dash to the gate that resulted from it. I replied “No. I was there watching. I coached one of the pro’s who raced,” Dissatisfied with me not being a real marathoner, he shifted his attention to the man next to me who piped up that he had completed the race in four and a half hours today.

As the two gentleman hit it off, the conversation quickly turned towards what the original man did. He worked for Orange Theory Fitness, a new fangled interval training gym where they keep you in a certain HR zone for the majority of the workout. Passionate about his work, he was eager to tell anyone who would listen about the revolutionary new system and before I knew it there were 5 people throwing their voices into the mix on the glory of Orange Theory Fitness.

“It’s Science!” interjected a women across the aisle. “They use heart rate monitors, so you get the best workout scientifically!”

“That’s right! That’s what makes it so different. You can’t beat science!”

And that’s when I put my headphones in.

What is science?

If you’ve read this blog or my work long enough, you know that one of the themes is this push/pull between the science and art of coaching. It’s a constant challenge to find that correct balance and since I live fully in both worlds, it’s one I enjoy thinking about. But conversations like the ones above speak to a central problem in understanding what actual science is.

The gentleman and lady on the plane had fallen in love with the idea of science, not actual science. They’d decided that since Orange fitness used fancy technology like Heart Rate monitors and special zones, that it was on the forefront of science and technology.

And because of this connection, it couldn’t be wrong.

It’s this connection that is worrying, but not surprising.

People tend to believe ideas or concepts if they have a fancy explanation or are backed by science. What science actually is, no one ever asks. For well-read individuals it could be citing of a journal article, for others it’s the appearance of science that matters. The appearance is when technology or complicated words are thrown together to make it appear “sciency”

Even scientific research demonstrates this, as Ben Goldacre, author of Bad Science, explains “people will buy into bogus explanations much more readily when they are dressed up with a few technical words from the world of neuroscience." 

In other words, for most of the population, just like the folks on the plane, the appearance of “sciency” is all that matters. And once we have it, it’s a simple road down the path of believing that whatever gadget/idea/concept has to work.

Episode 21- We have no idea what we're doing- The Dunning-Kruger Effect and Coaching


In this episode of the Magness & Marcus show, we delve into the Dunning Kruger effect. You might not know the name of this cognitive bias, but it's something we're all familiar with. It refers to our inability to accurate assess our abilities. Novices tend to overestimate their abilities, while experts tend to do the opposite and underestimate their competence.  Or put in layman's terms, it's that friend who is 100% confident that he's right on a subject which he is only vaguely familiar with.

It's this inability to accurately assess oneself that is the central theme of the podcast. We begin with how this impacts athletes and their racing. Starting with the phenomenon of "clueless" athletes having break throughs because they don't realize who they are racing or that they 'shouldn't go with X athlete in the race. To the opposite effect where our runner who knows every stat about everyone in the race doesn't let himself believe that he can go to the next level because of this information overload. We talk about the power of not knowing using examples from Olympians such as Moises Joseph, who doesn't check entry lists to his races, to utilizing watch-less and feedback-less workouts and having the athletes guess how fast they ran each rep; so that they can calibrate the mismatch between their perceived abilities and their actual.

To end, we turn the spotlight on ourselves and discuss how we over/under estimate our own knowledge and how it plays a role in our own coaching. In what I think is a very honest appraisal, we end with declaring that we have no idea what we're doing. And it's not just us, no one actually does, or perhaps that's just us falling into the trap of the Dunning-Kruger effect.

"The more people think that you're really good, actually the stronger the fear of being a fraud is." David Foster Wallace

Steve and Jon

Resources Discussed:
You're not so smart podcast on The Dunning-Kruger Effect

Although of Course you end up Becoming Yourself: A road trip with David Foster Wallace: by David Lipsky

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