Guest blog courtesy of Joanne Dowds MISCP

Barry’s post on accepting mediocrity annoyed the hell out of me. Firstly can I just for the record state that his sub 40min 10k time is far from mediocre. However I know he is unhappy with his failure to shave further time of it. There is a difference in asking ‘how can I explain being unhappy with stagnant performance’ versus ‘how can I justify failure to improve despite my best available efforts’.  The key words there are available effort, life gets busy, there are numerous competing prioritises, but accepting the you have a limited amount of time and energy to divide out into a busy life is different to describing any part of it as mediocre. Mediocre means ordinary, average, not very good. I struggle with several parts of using this word. Words are important. Actions are explained in words, others understand your thoughts and intentions from words.  Saying that you are accepting mediocre is acknowledging that given more effort that you would be much better a.k.a. you currently can not be arsed to commit more time and/or effort. There is a difference between this and saying other things are more important. lolly pop Prioritising work, family, donut time, whatever is truly important to you above exercise is what makes you a well-rounded individual. This is life, other things can be more important than sporting performance. Mediocre-It is so negative in tone, so soul suckingly safe, life lived within comfort zones. Tone is important when setting goals, rephrasing with a positive slant will make it much more likely that you will be successful. Trying your best with all that you have to offer at that moment in time is all you can do. When you have more time and or energy you can achieve more. That not mediocre, that’s life.

Back to the definition, average, ordinary, it makes the hackles on the back of my neck stand up, what part of anyone is average or ordinary. It is promoting the concept of comparing our numbers to others, that we can measure our value or worth in a few stats.  If we go with this definition I am (currently) a below average gym attender; most days of the week yoga/Pilates class attender; above average height (5’8); in the top 4% of physically active from my tracker data base; average dress size, though today it feels a bit snug, I blame the donut time I mentioned earlier; I work 40-45 hours most week, more than some, less than some- what part of this is mediocre/ordinary/not very good? It is just the sum of all the difference aspects of my life brought down to a binary system.  ‘Lies, lies and damn statistics’. Read then how you will, they are just numbers, they have the power you give them.

not mediocre

Joanne’s chart

Average, in the bland mix of all the individual is lost. The state of flow or mindfulness that we should strive for when exercising, when tasks appear seamless, when we are lost in the doing. It isn’t generated by comparing what we are achieving to someone else. Comparison is the thief of joy, comparing performance is only valuable if it is to your own previous or future performance. Analysing what went well and what could be improved are where gains are made, not accepting that there is no room to improve because it too hard and most people will lie in the average anyways-B*LLSHIT!

There are lots of things that I am not good, but it is because I have never put the effort into getting better. Other things, more important to me, occupied my time and energy. There is a difference. The grass is greener where you water it. (how many trite saying can you get in a 500 word blog!)

So I have many arguments with this concept of accepting mediocre but I will leave you with a little pep talk. It may mean nothing to you but it is unchanging and at some stage in the future you may find a time when you need it. It will still be true.

‘I believe in you, I can see your potential, it is infinite. You are only limited by your own thinking. You can achieve whatever you put your mind too. Hard work will get you closer to where you want to go than accepting that you are average.  Be the outlier, aim higher.’

 

But then I am a Belieber!

It feels uncomfortable, unnatural and strange. Most will resist but the reality is that one of the only constants in life is change. People, circumstances and things change. It can be small, big, subtle or sudden and it is often a consequence rather than a choice. New ideas are often smothered by complacency, inertia and fear. But the capability to change is not only critical, it is crucial not only in order to progress but to survive. Having the will to change is common but having the will power to drive transformation is rare – allowing the “status quo” to reign. change-it-upJust like in life, in running, allowing the status quo to linger untested causes stagnation and possibly even injury. We all have a very personal way of moving, each person moves in a different way, and running is no different. It is often possible to identify a runner in the distance from their running pattern long before their face is recognisable. But just like all things a willingness to change the way you run may be the key to improving the running experience.

Although our running gait is unique it is easy to manipulate and consciously change in order to improve performance and protect from injury. The easiest aspect of running form to change is the running cadence. Cadence is a measure of how often the feet touch the ground and it’s simple to modify.  Running at a 5-10% higher rate of cadence (than your norm for a given pace) results in a reduction of impact loading on the knee and hip joints.  It decreases the amount of vertical displacement (bounce), shortens stride length, and reduces the braking force at contact with the ground. Recreational runners typically have a cadence close to 160, which may put them at risk of injury because the longer strides necessitated by a slower cadence takes runners higher off the ground. This in turn means that each footfall is harder, and many running injuries are associated with the shock of landing (Heiderscheit et al., 2011; Schubert et al., 2014). However, beyond considering injury risk and impact forces, there’s a more basic reason to aim for a stride rate of 170 or above, and that’s the elasticity of connective tissue. In each running stride up to 50% of your energy comes from energy stored by connective tissue having been stretched by the previous landing – its free speed!! However the tissue won’t spring back very well if running cadence is too slow. At slower stride rates, below 170 and less, this benefit is lost the muscles are forced to generate more force and the free speed is lost. Injury is not the only reason to embrace a higher cadence. The top runners, the really quick ones maintain a stride rate of over 180 steps per minute and higher. While there is no exact magic cadence number, changing and increasing the leg turnover can help you become a more efficient runner. It might even save you from injury. if the cadence can be improved to 175-180 it should lead to quicker times without necessarily improving fitness levels. All you need to aim for is 30 steps with your right foot every 20 seconds; this corresponds to a cadence of 180. But “It’s not the progress I mind, it’s the change I don’t like” —Mark Twain

References

Heiderscheit BC, Chumanov ES, Michalski MP, Wille CM & Ryan MB. (2011). Effects of step rate manipulation on joint mechanics during running. Med Sci Sports Exerc 43, 296-302.

 

Schubert AG, Kempf J & Heiderscheit BC. (2014). Influence of stride frequency and length on running mechanics: a systematic review. Sports Health 6, 210-217.