Back in the old days (when I was a Young Budding Triathlete) if you wanted to find something out you would go straight to the people who knew what they were talking about, generally they were the guys and girls who won the race, or you always saw performing quality training sessions at the pool or track, or who at races seemed to be constantly answering questions from other YBT’s. This was waaaay back in the 90’s, where our only source of information was asking these demigods of the sport or waiting each month for the Triathlon magazines to make it to the bookshop shelves. My mates and I used to get sent old Triathlon videos (VHS) by someones American uncle and we would watch these videos over and over again to see what equipment the pros were using, what they would say in the interviews, what colour their speedos were, what sort of elastic laces they use, whats in their drink bottles. We didn’t care what the information was, we knew it was legit because it was coming straight from the source – Mark Allen, Dave Scott, Simon Lessing, Rick Wells, Greg Welch, Wolfgang Dietrich, Lothar Leder, Dirk Ashmoneit, Brad Bevan, Cam Brown, Scott Molina, Hamish Carter, Ken Glah (I can name many many more). Some of these people are still on the scene and 25 years on I still study what these icon’s of our sport are doing and saying, because they know what they are talking about, time and experience has made them experts. I’d like to think I’m becoming a source of information too, many steps below the aforementioned, but I am constantly learning more and more as the days go by. As long as I never stop learning, then I know I am getting better and better at my job.
The presence of the internet and the social media channels, chat feeds, forums, groups, newsletters, blogs, youtube channels, podcasts, message boards etc etc etc has clouded our sources of information significantly, and I guess my own blog just adds to the mess (I won’t apologise about that quite yet). These days the quality and reliability of information available to us is diluted to a point where a lot of what you see, read and hear just becomes information that is put out there without meaning or has very little relevance to what you actually want to find out about.
The skills I learnt (when studying to be, and later practicing) as a Sports Podistrist, and more recently as a Triathlon Coach gave me a slightly sceptical approach to claims and beliefs I have read in publications and forums. I am sceptical until I understand the information I am reading, and have been able to make an informed judgement on it myself. Often times things with grandiose claims of making one significantly faster, recovering better, remarkably curing injury and case studies of amazing results just come across as ‘Snake Oil’ or ‘Pixie Dust’. I might be a bit slow on the uptake with some methods in training and sport physiology, but that is because I like to sit back and watch something unfold and develop before implementing the method. I like to wait for version 2 or 3, when many of the blips or bugs have been erased. Now I haven’t always been like that, and I admit to in the past having made some terrible decisions on equipment, training, tactics etc but we only learn by making these mistakes, and I have been able to erase those mistakes and find something that works better – I won’t go into the terrible equipment decisions I have made quite yet, but perhaps will have a bit of a ‘cleansing’ in a future blog post, just for a laugh, and to risk a lawsuit.
I follow a lot of website forums, Facebook groups, read articles, listen to Podcasts and talk to experts in various fields. I probably spend more time doing this than I should, but I am always looking for new, interesting and practical ways to move ahead in the sport, as a Coach and an Athlete.
I cringe when I come across some information, particularly in some of the Facebook Groups or Online Forums. Sometimes this information is so far removed from what the topic is discussing that it needs to be on it’s on post. Sometimes I feel the contributors are just flexing their own muscles a bit and showing off how much they know, perhaps they do know a lot, but to the reader it just comes across as a jumble of facts, figures and words and doesn’t really help. Generally if you ask a question on these media the answers come back very quickly and definitively, but without an explanation of how it might work for the person answering the question. Just because it works for one person so well, and is the BEST THING EVER it doesn’t mean that everybody else should be using it too. If someone answers with a response such as that then go back to them and ask for more information as to why it might work for you too. I’m guilty of doing that, and am now going to start providing some supporting information as to why I came to a certain conclusion.
There is no harm in doing a bit of Google stalking on some of the people who are contributing answers. Find out who they are, what their background is, are they similar in ability to you, do they have some affiliation with certain brands and therefore are likely to endorse that product more? There may be nothing wrong with the information they are providing, but you just have to wring out some of the information around what they are saying to see if their opinion is one to follow.
The great thing about these online sources of information is that these days professional athletes, elite level coaches, researchers and experts are all very accessible and it is in their best interest to be. So instead of walking up to a local pro at a race and asking a question of them, you can now send off a direct message or tag them in a post and get the answer straight back, hopefully with additional supporting information surrounding it. So in that regard, when used correctly the internet is a wonderful thing.
I guess the take home from this (and you may have formed your own opinions of what I have to say already, which is cool with me) is that whilst you can easily find information on how to train, race, recover and accessorise better you have to do a little bit more homework on that information, and who gave it to you. I like athletes and coaches to ask questions of me, there are some things I know that others don’t and I think it is important to be comfortable sharing information through the community in various ways (which is why I have started this blog), so if you have a question please ask away, and if I don’t know the answer I promise I won’t make something up, I’ll just pass you on to someone else who might know more about that subject.
In youth we learn; in age we understand.
Marie von Ebner-Eschenbach
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