Sayings That Don’t Make Sense

Being a pretty literal thinker and rather logical there are some sayings I often hear that make me cringe. I’m hoping this months column will go some way to my hearing them less.

Quality Not Quantity

This is regularly said without thought but with many knowing nods. I’ve had it said or implied to me on numerous occasions I presume because of my high volume reputation. I hate the phrase as it’s classic “unspeak” in that it “sounds” profound but is actually nonsense since something isn’t quality OR quantity.

In the triathlon world it is generally used to describe training sessions. Clearly every training session has a quantity and a quality (I assume by this we mean how appropriate the session is to what you are trying to achieve). My experience of it’s use is that what is really meant is intensity not volume. Said like that it seems less globally applicable since clearly someone training for a ultra triathlon will need volume and as such a high volume training session would be a “quality” session.

Lets try and stamp this phrase out by all challenging anyone that uses it.

Repeat The Same Training Get Same Results

This is probably derived from a quote, often mistakenly attributed to Einstein, of the sign of insanity being repeating the same thing and expecting different results. Who-ever said it was referring to a well executed and repeated experiment not a triathlon training plan. The use of the phrase in reference to training plans is actually totally inaccurate since the benefits from training come from consistency, which means on some level repeating the same thing. I think the problem for many people is they don’t stick at it long enough, if there are no quick results they change to something new where just sticking with the same thing for longer (possibly many years) is how the benefits will come.

No Pain No Gain

Jane Fonda probably doesn’t realise what she set loose when she uttered this phrase in the 80s aerobic videos. There is no need for pain to get fitness benefits. In fact I would argue that pain should be avoided, as there is a distinction between “pain” and the appropriate feeling you get in your muscles when doing a workout. That feeling is what you want whereas pain can be a sign you’re doing something wrong or causing an injury and should be avoided.

Calories in vs Calories out

A self-evident truth due to the laws of thermodynamics but adds nothing to the obesity / weight loss debate as it offers no explanation for why the bodies natural mechanisms to keep calories in and out in balance are not working. It implies all foods are the same in terms of helping you keep this balance, which is just not true. Some foods promote fat burning which means you can be in balance without eating what you’re using (hence you lose weight) and some foods promote fat storage which means your body can be out of balance despite eating more calories than your body needs (hence you put on weight).

This continued belief that calories in verses calories out is some sort of explanation for weight gain diverts attention from exploring the real reasons. If a sink is overflowing and you ask me why: “Because more water is being put in than being taken out” you’d think I was being a smart ass. The explanation is something else eg – the tap was left on, the drain is blocked. It’s precisely the same with weight gain / loss – calories in vs calories out offers no useful explanation.

Giving 110%

Is that really possible? Perhaps if it’s 110% of sleeping effort level or perhaps 100% of aerobic threshold. But that is not what’s meant, the way it is said is that 100% is absolute max and somehow more was achieved.

It would make me smile if some sportsman in an interview said they gave 99.9% and felt that was as much as anyone could expect to give. I’d love the ring of truth since giving 100% would imply more or less dropping dead. It does happen, if Julie Moss said that after her crawl or Paul Newby-Fraser after her “I think I’m going to die” moment on Ali’I drive then I’d give them it, they probably did.

A little tongue in cheek so here’s another

Once in a lifetime or best ever

In interviews or acceptance speeches there’s often this sort of phrase. Now, if it’s your first Championship then perhaps at that point the phrase is ok but when someone is a multiple champion and used it previously it never feels quite right. It would make me a very happy man if an athlete on winning their 5th world title said “This is a five times in a lifetime experience” or on some amazing victory declared it “my fourth best experience in my life”. If only I was better at this sport of ours I could but this one right myself.

I’ll finish with a phrase I have used a lot in my working life and is kind of like the first phrase above: Work Smart Not Hard. I used it a fair bit and for years it was never questioned until one boss replied “Work Smart AND Hard” – now that’s a phrase to apply to your triathlon training.

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