Smart Athlete Podcast Ep. 24 - Christie Aschwanden - GOOD TO GO - Part 2 of 3

Yeah, you kind of touched on a lot of different things. So, I read back through the book yesterday. I was writing down different thoughts for you. And one of the thoughts I had is, if we have enough anecdotal evidence that something's working, and it's not hurting anybody, whatever it is, is it necessary to debunk it.
Smart Athlete Podcast Ep. 24 - Christie Aschwanden  - GOOD TO GO - Part 2 of 3

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JESSE: Yeah, you kind of touched on a lot of different things. So, I read back through the book yesterday. I was writing down different thoughts for you. And one of the thoughts I had is, if we have enough anecdotal evidence that something's working, and it's not hurting anybody, whatever it is, is it necessary to debunk it. And it kind of seems like you've already said, like massage, you talk about massage not really having the whole lactic acid thing is bunk, but it feels good. So, that seems to be good enough, right? CHRISTIE: Yeah. So, here's my take on it. So, I agree that if something's helping people, and it's working and it's not harming them, then that's fine. I don't want to take that away from people. But I do think that it's worth still debunking pseudo-scientific explanations for things because they sort of distract us. But they also sort of promote this, almost like sciencey, the notion of things where you just sort of slap some scientific terms on something and it makes everyone that it works. I think it's also okay to acknowledge sometimes that things can work in ways that we sort of have this idea that if we can quantify it, or like there's a data or some sort of thing that feels sciencey that that's more legitimate than things like putting you into a better mood, or even just sort of the feeling of like, oh, yeah, it feels good. That's something that's very hard to quantify, feeling good. I mean, you can ask people, you could have these qualitative measures. But we have this idea that measuring something in my blood or like finding some level that we can absolutely quantify with a quantitative scale somehow makes it more true. And I think that that sort of can distract our attention away from the things that in this case are really important. I'll just give you an example of that. There has been a lot of work that's been done to sort of look for what is the best measure of recovery because this is a really important question. You want to know if you're recovered and be able to track this and figure it out. And it turns out, I mean, people have looked at everything under the sun every kind of measure that you could take in the blood, all kinds of physiological measures, heart rate, heart rate variability, hormone levels, blood level, everything you can think of, and nothing, absolutely nothing trump's mood, which seems really counterintuitive. And this is a result that's been replicated and like there have been meta-analyses that have looked at this and that really that subjective feeling of well being is really the best measure of it. And I think any athlete who's ever like toed the line near overtraining, sort of knows this. I mean, when you're at training camp, and you're going really hard and you're really tired, you're moody, you're cranky, you don't feel good, you don't feel like training it's all-- These are things we've all sort of experienced, and yet somehow it's,we don't trust that. People will trust some measure on their watch, or they want some number on their app that will tell them this. When in fact, I think seeking that number or sort of relying on those sorts of things can actually be really dangerous because they can take athletes away from the most important skill that they absolutely need, which is the ability to read their own bodies. And so-- JESSE: Oh, sorry, go ahead. CHRISTIE: Yeah. And the more that you can learn to understand your own body because this is very individual. So, the other thing about these measures of recovery is there's been a lot of research on this where they're looking at, there's no one thing that I can measure on every athlete that will tell me, okay, they're becoming overtrained or they're not well-rested. On the other hand, every individual will tend to have something or another that sort of fills this role. So, for instance, for me, I have come to realize that if I wake up in the morning with just this little hint of a scratchy throat like a sore throat coming on, I know that that's a sign, that's my own body sign is saying, look, you're overextended help, we need some rest. And I've learned this through trial and error and I can't tell-- that may not be the same for you, it may be that the only time you ever get a sore throat at all is when you're actually getting the flu or something. But I know that for me, other athletes I've talked to, I have one friend who when she's starting to feel overtrained, it's always this particular heaviness in her legs that she feels. That's something that I haven't experienced, but I know that for her, it's really effective. And so every person has their own thing. I talked to one, I talked about this in the book, one coach that I interviewed, who like to make friends with his athletes, roommates or spouses. And he had one athlete who, when his wife said he was cranky, he knew it was time to scale down the training. It’s like getting to be too much you know. JESSE: Yeah, when you talked about the sore throat, I read that I was like I have very similar thing where I actually end up skipping my A race for this year because I was getting a sore throat that week, and I was like, I knew I could probably race and be okay, but if I did, then I would be worse for - the following week, which was the time I'm supposed to go on vacation. So, I was like all right, I'll skip the A race. But I have another show that's just me I called Runner's High where I just talk about long distance running and kind of help people learn how to do things involving long distance running. And one of my big things I talked about is RPE or rate of perceived exertion and trying to learn RPE because, for me, it's like the most important measure of figuring in, really dialing in every workout and the weeks in terms of making sure you're maximizing load, but not going over that cliff. Because I think it was Chris McCormack, who is a long distance triathlete, if you don't know, you probably know who Mac is. But I think it was his advice. He says something along the lines of like, if he doesn't feel like getting in the pool when he goes to the pool, gets in, he does one lap and if after one lap, he still feels like he doesn't want to be in there. He just gets out and goes home. So, it's like always this kind of gut check in terms of how do I feel today, versus let's just focus on heart rate training, or let's just focus on these objective measures that we can look at. CHRISTIE: Absolutely, absolutely. And I think that that's good, but it also takes some time to realize because I’ve had people ask me about this. Yes, some days you wake up and you just don't feel like training and is that just because, yeah, and most of us think, okay, what's wrong with you? I must be really, really terrible today. I better double down because I should want to train and if I don't, something's wrong with me. Well, yeah, something's wrong with me. My body's saying I need a rest. But at the same time, I think we've all had experiences where you wake up and you're not feeling it, or you just don't feel like trading but you go out and you have one of your best days. And that may not happen till after you sort of warm up or something, but can be hard to distinguish. I think that's where you're really paying close attention to RPE, paying close attention-- keeping a training diary, and this can be on paper. It doesn't need to be you know, one of these fancy things. But just keeping close track of how you're feeling so that you can also sort of look at patterns too. Because on any particular day you can make that call, but you want to be looking at it in terms of the course of a season and all that too. Because it may be on sometimes you think, okay my plan this week is that today, I really need to do some hard training. But it may be a part of that part of the season where you've been training a lot, you're pretty fit and it may be that the better call is-- because it's always a better decision to do too little than to do too much, always. I mean, if ever the question’s between one or the other, you want to do less. But you know, at the same time, sometimes you want to push through. And so, so much of this is just learning to understand your body and to read it and to keep sight of sort of those patterns too, so that you don't want to ever do something just because it's on your training plan for that day. JESSE: Right. It's kind of an unfortunate reality of RPE and the whole subjective measure of how do I feel that it takes experience because I've been competing or 18-19 years now. And it's like, oh, if I knew now, back then but you can't have known because you didn't have the experience and it’s catch 22. That's why I try my best to relate, okay, if you this pace feels like this to me. And these are the kind of physiological indicators I'm feeling for and try to share some of that stuff, but I know there's going to be other things that other people notice. And yeah, trying to put it all together is just terribly inefficient to say, I feel this way. Do you feel that way? And there's only so much empathy that can be shared verbally, you know? CHRISTIE: Yeah, definitely, absolutely. I think it can also go the other way, sometimes where it's not only that some days you're feeling tired and you need to rest. It can be that some days you're feeling really good and you want to push yourself a little bit harder and you want to be tuned in to your body to know whether that's the right decision. Yeah, I need to do more because sometimes you're feeling really good and you need to stop. It's better to stop while you're feeling good. But you're keeping track of how you're feeling and how you're feeling sort of over shorter and longer periods will help you make better decisions about this stuff. JESSE: Yeah, I know in my log, it has to be like a series of I feel like crap today, I feel like crap today, I feel cap before we make a decision to say okay, here's an extra rest day if it's like, just didn't feel it today. It's a single blip then, and you know, no big deal. We'll probably just continue forward as plan. My coach and I are pretty dialed in by now. Go to Part 3 Go to Part 1

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