What’s your bias?
There’s an interesting phenomenon that occurs when we start discussing what is important to a particular outcome, which is very much a result of our innate psychological need to value our knowledge and our selves. As someone who has his hat in many different areas of sports performance and who recently has been venturing outside the confined world of endurance development, I’ve got to see this effect first hand.
On the training side, if I were to ask a group of traditionally trained strength coaches what they see in the training of endurance athletes, the group would most likely go on about the frustrating resistance of endurance athletes to incorporate strength and conditioning practices, plyometrics, and power work into their regime. If I was to talk to a speed/sprint coach, they’d lament the lack of pure speed work in the program and how endurance coaches were obsessed with “mileage” and have their athletes spend much of their training time using “bad movement patterns.” The endurance coach would counter with the importance of aerobic development and most likely quote the dearth of performances in the 1990’s in American distance running as evidence against the too low mileage phenomenon.
If we brought sports scientists into the fold, we’d hear about evidence based workouts, perhaps Billat’s 30/30, or the importance of tracking, measuring, and improving parameters like running economy, VO2max, and lactate threshold. While the physiotherapist might say that the lack of foundational movement and dysfunction, or in other words the chassis of the car and not the engine, in most distance runners is what is holding them back.
If you spread yourself around and go to different conferences and engage in quality conversation with different coaches, athletes, and scientist, these themes will come up again and again. It’s not limited to the world of distance running, or even sports, but applies to almost any situation looking to maximize some endeavor.
Some 40+ years ago, athletics coach and author of one of my favorite books "The Mechanics of Athletics" summed up similar thoughts on how different people see performance.
“In his study of athletic performance the modern coach stands at the crossroads of several sciences. Thus, to the physiologist, athletic performance is a phenomenon of cells, humours, tissues and nutrient fluids obeying organic laws. The psychologist sees the athlete as a consciousness and a personality, while to the physicist he suggests a machine unique in its organization, adaptiveness and complexity. To the imaginative coach the borders of these and other specialties are seen to overlap; the techniques of one science become meaningful and illuminating in others.” Geoff Dyson
The point is, the reason there are so many different opinions, reasoning, and justifications, should show how complex performance in any endeavor actually is. But beyond that, it displays a particular fault in human nature, our innate bias towards what we know, do, and experience.