Of Yogurt, Yoga, and Yoda
Americans are a shopping people. Cars, stereos, clothes, videos, you name it, we’ll buy it. Or, as my mother likes to say (frequently): When the going gets tough, the tough go shopping!
Runners are shoppers, too, and not only when it comes to shoes, shorts, Gore-Tex suits, and the like. As a species, runners always seem to be on the lookout for the most recent and greatest “deal” that will help them run faster, stronger, safer. They are constantly in the hunt for the newest nutritional “miracle”, the state of the art exercise that will prevent or cure injuries, or the most current philosophy and advice on training methods.
This search for the “Holy Grail” of running success is not unlike the quest for the perfect weight-loss diet. As seen monthly at the supermarket checkout counter, the multitude of magazines continually touts the newest fail-safe method to drop those unwanted pounds in no time at all! Of course, this begs the question – if any one of these sure-fire techniques worked, why would there have to be a new one every month?
Runners, too, will often go to great lengths to find a food or supplement that will give them an edge, or a boost, if not longevity. Mega-vitamins, lecithin, brewer’s yeast, wheat germ – these are just a few of the gastronomic gems that have at one time or another curried favor with athletes looking for the “secret for success”. Yogurt, of course, has been a popular standby of even the more sedentary set ever since those geriatric Georgians were discovered to have supposedly attained a post-centennial existence on a routine basis. And let us not forget bee pollen, so popular in the 70s, though you may well have suffered a memory lapse; after all, when was the last time you came across someone who still ingests it?
Supplementary exercise programs that purport to improve running performance have also come and gone over the years. Calisthenics were de rigeur throughout my high school and college track career. How often do you hear that term today? Yoga became popular in the 60s and remains popular today, although its following has waxed and waned every few years. The most current “big thing” is the Pilates Method. I’m willing to put some serious samoleans on the table that says this will not even be a Trivial Pursuit (Running Edition) question in a few years.
Coaching wisdom over the decades seems to constantly move from unconventional to conventional to pass. What at one time seemed like sound, sure training methods almost always becomes replaced by newer, even more sound and sure ideas, only to be supplanted in turn by some re-invention of the original approach. Lydiard to Cerutty to Bowerman – if there is not a wholesale revolution in thinking from one to the next, there is at least enough modification in methodology to warrant attention and approval, though only until the next advancement consigns the prior school of thought to obsolescence.
Progress does indeed come only with innovation and inspiration. There is nothing inherently wrong with listening to new ideas with an open mind, nor is there harm in the pursuance of potentially beneficial techniques, therapies, medicines, etc., no matter how unorthodox they may appear. But these endeavors should always be approached with a healthy dose of skepticism and caution forged by an appreciation for the fleeting favoritism that limits the lifespan of so many “real deals” time after time.