Tomorrow another workshop starts and I can’t help but look back on the crazy turn my life took when I stepped into Gloves Club in London. I walked out like Neo unplugged from the Matrix. Like him Something just never made sense in what the medical establishment had told me. In running circles, it was the same. Too much disagreement. Too much contrasting advice. Had I waited for the established professionals and experts to fix me, or teach me, my running career would have been long over by the time the solution to my problems became mainstream practice.
“What you know you can't explain, but you feel it. You've felt it your entire life, that there's something wrong with the world. You don't know what it is, but it's there, like a splinter in your mind, driving you mad.” – Morpheus, The Matrix
Believe in “skin in the game”
The ChampionsEverywhere dream was a simple one – to try to recreate what Arthur Lydiard achieved – even if the journey would take us 50 years. No funding, no facilities, no official backing, no cherry-picking of the finest talent in the country. Just grass-roots and widespread derision just as Cerutty and Newton had faced before him. These were men to emulate.
We looked around and thought of Einstein’s world "insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results”. I prefer to put it this way: “do what you’ve always done and you’ll get the results you’ve always got.” Every coach has to take the best ideas and step into a new environment and try to make major changes.
Jason and I believe in “skin in the game”, a theory from Hammurabi’s code* which states that if a house collapses and the owner dies, then the architect or builder must be put to death. In modern terms: don’t trust anyone who do not walk their talk or who do not have something to lose in the short-term from advice they give you.
Lydiard lived in a small local environment. In such environments you always have something to lose: your name, shame, simply put. But more than that, he went through everything he told his protégés to go through. He had skin in the game. His athletes failure was his failure too. In big bureaucracies few can see who caused what and failure is generally passed around like the proverbial buck. Short-term results often benefit officials and managers and they move on before the price has to be paid for their lack of long-term thinking.
* In fact most good coaches go further than that. They take risks on behalf of others by first testing theories on their own bodies thus negating your need to take the risk. Coaches become the first line of defense. This is called positive asymmetry and is the opposite of being a politician or a banker in modern times (i.e. taking risks for which others will suffer disproportionately) while you benefit.
Use trial and error
Coaches such as he learned through trial and error and experimentation. From the time a coach or a group of coaches establish that something works until it becomes proven in scientific studies beyond a doubt and widely accepted, you can easily wait 20 to 30 years (or more, some studies from the 1930s remain widely ignored. Lamarck’s insights on evolution as a cooperative process between organisms has been derided for almost 200 years and is only now being vindicated by a few visionaries). My morning message to you is this: DO NOT WAIT. Science will catch up with the practitioners but if you wait for the consensus before making a decision you will always miss the boat on the latest advances in coaching methods. If you want to find out if something works or not look for results – or even better EXPERIENCE IT. Nothing beats personal experience to test a theory.
Had I waited I know my athletic career would be over before it had begun. Now all bets are on, even for a 34-year old. We live in the information-age, with as much noise as quality. To deal with this treat articles (such as this!) as entertainment – but do your education in sources that can explain complex concepts in detail – books, lectures, talks and by seeking out coaches and TALKING to them.
That’s it for now…