Challenge conventional wisdom

minimalist running

Not so conventional running shoes

I just started reading Waterlogged, by Dr. Timothy Noakes, a fascinating look at how the conventional wisdom of endurance sports has for many decades had the hydration concept all wrong. Noakes, whose credentials are longer than my arm, makes a very strong case for dialing back on how much we drink during training and racing, even with our electrolyte replacement drinks. It has my brain spinning thinking about it all…I’ll have to give you a review when I’m finished.

Reading the book got me to thinking about how radically I’ve changed my mind on several aspects of training and racing over the years. I know plenty of people think I’m a bit of a crackpot for trying some of the methods I’ve come across, and that’s usually because these methods challenge conventional wisdom. I don’t stretch any more, for instance. I wholeheartedly embrace the natural running approach. I don’t believe in controlling inflammation with NSAIDs. And I’m currently tweaking my diet to add in more high-quality fats in hopes that it will help my body become a better fat burner and avoid the early bonk I’ve experienced of late in my marathons.

I’m not telling you to go out and make any of these changes. We are all an experiment of one. But what I am suggesting is that you do challenge conventional wisdom from time to time. Just because everyone else is doing something doesn’t make it right. Don’t be afraid to experiment with your training approach, your recovery approach, your diet, and your race-day nutrition. There’s a lot of heavy-duty marketing that goes into many approaches. There are also plenty of doctors–good ones, even–who just don’t have the time and energy to devote to staying on top of the latest developments in sports medicine. And so they continue to preach the ways of old, even when increasing research shows otherwise.

Be your own advocate. When someone, or lots of someones say x, and it just doesn’t feel quite right, consider y. Read, read, read, all that you can get your hands on. I’ve been at this for 15 years and I am amazed at how differently I do things today than when I first started. There’s so much to gain through knowledge, and so much to lose by failing to have an open mind to new ideas and approaches. After all, there was a time when most thought the world was flat, when some believed smoking had health benefits, and when the shoe store down the street had clients put their foot into an x-ray machine for a fitting.

Have you ever gone agains the grain when it comes to your running? Why or why not? 

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  1. says

    On the hydration, I’ve had more than 1 nurse tell me that the reason I have headaches almost every day may have to do with the fact that I’m over-hydrated (I drink LOTS of water every day!). I’ve done some reading on the whole hydration thing but I still don’t feel like I have any answers.
    Maybe I will check out Waterlogged soon.
    Kim recently posted..Winner WinnerMy Profile

  2. says

    Interesting to think about water/hydration especially as the weather gets warmer. It is something I never get right, but never work too hard at figuring out. Anyway, I like the ide of being your own advocate. Runners are very intuitive in many ways and I think we can figure out what we need. It is nice to read on the internet about what “experts” say, but so many times we are our own experts and just need to listen to ourselves.
    Amy @ Writing While Running recently posted..More LAMy Profile

  3. says

    It’s always so interesting to hear different perspectives about running. Right now I feel like a sponge trying to soak all of it in. I’ve recently given myself permission to think a little bit for myself in the running department. The way you describe your approach to running is a little bit the way I approach parenting. No one way is the right way and just because everyone is letting their kids do something doesn’t mean I’ll let mine! recently posted..The Wind has NOT Died Down Up Here!My Profile

  4. says

    I’m so curious to hear more about the hydration theory and waterlogged. You are absolutely right – it’s so easy to just take other people’s word and go with the theory/practice/brand/etc. that everyone is talking about or that has the biggest flashiest marketing campaign. It’s easy because we don’t have to think about it and we often don’t have the time to look into alternatives (or maybe are too lazy to do it?). It is so important to be your own advocate and I do often find the best nuggets of experience and information when I challenge conventional wisdom.
    Christine @ Love, Life, Surf recently posted..What would you tell your parents?My Profile

  5. says

    One size does not fit all is so true. We’re all unique individuals. Whenever a new study comes out, it’s easy to jump on the band wagon and say YES that’s the answer. In reality, the study was probably on mostly middle aged men (the typical study participant). I’m not male and I’m not middle aged so why would the findings apply to me? Do your own research and find what works for you. Great advice!
    Angela @ Happy Fit Mama recently posted..Marathon Monday Week 9My Profile

  6. says

    Great advice to keep reading and keep experimenting. I am a bit unconventional in some of my training and fueling, and have actually never used electroytes. I try to stick with natural foods/water as much as possible and have never used a gu or gel. It works for me, but there are some convenient things out there as well. Interesting that you mentioned the fat vs carb loading- I read that article on the “new rules of marathon nutrition” and found it so interesting. Makes a lot of sense!

  7. says

    Very interesting. While I’m not running anymore, I found that when I was and did speedwork, my time and pace improved dramatically. Now, this goes “with the grain” (opposite of what you’re saying), but I suppose it went against the grain from everything I had done previously!
    Linz @ Itz Linz recently posted..Healthy WeekendMy Profile

  8. says

    I challenge conventional wisdom all the time when it comes to my running, and so far, it’s yielded great results. I don’t do this because I think what I’m doing is better, it’s mostly because I can’t do the conventional stuff, or I’m to tired, lazy or what have you. I think that it’s important to know your own bodies and what you are capable of doing, and then fit it within the lifestyle that you have. Great post!
    Robin recently posted..Ice in AprilMy Profile

  9. says

    I have definitely been open to more experimentation as far as running goes this year. I feel like running and endurance sports are changing so rapidly. What was conventional one month, might not be in a couple of months. I love reading new articles and seeing what works for other people. I know that not everything will work for me, but I tend to keep an open mind. I am interested in hearing what you think about Waterlogged when you are done. I think that I often over hydrate. I actually think that is why sometimes on long runs my arms and fingers swell up.
    Tasha @ Healthy Diva recently posted..Week 13: A fantastic long runMy Profile

  10. Cami says

    I read Noakes’ book last year and found it fascinating especially his exposure of the research that was either misinterpreted or completely ignored. I never was one to drink a lot during training and racing. I seemed to get that “sloshy” feeling pretty easily and always just drank to thirst. But before reading the book, I wondered if I was hindering my performance. Now I know that I was probably doing it right all along. I too love to read and try things that may be considered outside the norm in the running world – it’s my subtle way of bucking the system :)

  11. says

    I haven’t done anything drastic in a while. I stopped stretching long ago, have done the natural/barefoot thing, never thought too much about hydration and fueling. I like to think that I run much like humans did in the 1970s. Jim Fixx is my copilot. Cheers!
    Viper recently posted..Of Wrong Turns and Speed BumpsMy Profile

  12. says

    I definitely think that everyone is different and has different needs. I know I need major electrolytes right after just about any run. It took me a while to figure out that it wasn’t food I needed to get in, it was electrolytes. While my husband needs food. I try to pay attention to how I am feeling too. So I may or may not take a gu/gel during a long run even. Water, for me, is a pretty big one. With my blood clot situation, dehydration is a big fat no. So I probably over-drink now just because it scares me. And sorry for that ramble LOL
    Heather (Where’s the Beach) recently posted..Fun for Friday – Vacation DreamingMy Profile

  13. says

    I completely agree with you on we’re all an experiment of one. Everyone’s bodies are so different and I think that it’s tough on the blogging world because we see people try ever sort of diet under the sun. Some people post picture perfect meals that they make it seem we should all be eating but truth is, that’s just not THE TRUTH :) I got caught up in it as well. People would talk about bad carbs and dairy but I function better with the right types of carbs and especially milk. Go figure :)
    Coy recently posted..Never met a hill I couldn’t push my bike upMy Profile

  14. says

    I totally agree with this. I think everyones bodies are so different that you almost have to experiment to find what works best for you. Since I have stomach issues I’ve really had to go through trial and error to find what works for me and I feel like I’m constantly adjusting to find the best balance for me.
    Amanda recently posted..Workout Recap and Workouts 4/15-4/21My Profile

  15. says

    Good on ya. I think we all have to test these theories in our own situations. Open minded is the best approach. Love that science is so dynamic.

  16. says

    I feel like I am always going against the grain with my training. I have learned what works for me, I still read a TON of running books. I might try something I read, but if I don’t like it or don’t find it working, I’ll scrap it. I’m always willing to take advice and look for new ways to do things, but I also know to stick to my guns and advocate for myself. The people writing books, didn’t write those books specifically for me, only I can do that
    Laura recently posted..Boston: Through the Looking GlassMy Profile

  17. says

    I tend to stick with what has worked for me, though I love to read alternate theories (and sometimes I am persuaded). I will be interested to read about Dr. Noakes hydration theories. As someone who drinks what feels right, and prefers water over flavored hydration products, I would love to hear that I’ve been doing it right, if only by accident.
    Debbie @ Live from La Quinta recently posted..Week 12 Training Recap and London Bridge Half Marathon ReportMy Profile

  18. says

    Really great post – we discussed this book a bit in my recent RRCA class. I have actually toned down my “methods” at the start of this marathon training because I was starting to really crave fueling as much as possible naturally. I just do some regular chocolate milk after a long run, no big supplement powders other than a little Ovaltine for flavoring. I only drink on a run when I feel thirsty, which was something we talked a lot about – drink more for thirst because your body will tell you what it needs. I’m still fine tuning things, I do use gels and am using some EmergenC this week during taper to ward off a sick germs my kiddo might bring home from school, but it’s probably more placebo effect in the long run 😉 All in all, my fueling has really gone mostly more natural with only gels and water. I did crave Gatorade at mile 20 on my last long training run though. Tweeking still! :)
    Christina recently posted..Why I runMy Profile

  19. says

    I totally agree that we are an experiment of one. What works for one person doesn’t always work for another but it’s good to keep an open mind to new ideas and to give things a go just to see if they work for you.
    Char recently posted..Just One of THOSE DaysMy Profile

  20. says

    Totally agree. You need to find out what is best for you body. I hardly ever take water on my long runs of 14 miles or less. But my running buddy usually has some water for all long runs. Just depends on the person. I think we are so focused on doing it one way that we get judgmental when someone else does it another way (this is also an issue with lots of things not just running).
    J recently posted..AM Treadmill vs. PM OutdoorsMy Profile

  21. MJ says

    I’ll be interested in your review of the book (my library doesn’t have it yet) – have heard Noakes on a number of running podcasts recently and found concept interesting. I drink to thirst b/c I have a touchy tummy that doesn’t like to have much in it.

    Re adding fats & becoming a better fat burner – you might be interested in podcasts w/ Sunny Blende (trailrunnernation and ultrarunnerpod) and some similar topics on Endurance Planet w/ Ben Greenfield podcasts, and book/articles on concept of Metabolic Efficiency Training – I’m finding them interesting

    Re shoes/orthotics – have been reading/listening to Jay Dicharry and Sock doc but as a Masters runner w/ past injury who’s had the safety of MC AND orthotics for several years now, I want some improvements in strength & muscle control so maybe I can back off the orthotics and into stability shoes…but I wouldn’t try much further than that for running (do hang out in Altra Provisions or yogatoes sandals sometimes which helps until it doesn’t)

    I like a quote from Dean Karnazes: “listen to everyone, follow no one” – we are indeed all an experiment of one, and it’s what works for you….

  22. Sharpie says

    My philosophy too is…..drink when your thirsty. I’ve ran many halfs without drinking a drop and fulls with drinking about 8 oz. of water.

  23. says

    Amen to that! I actually don’t listen to a lot of the research (which maybe I should); I just do what feels right to me and so far, its worked. However, there are probably things I should be doing to get faster or be more efficient. Right now I do drink during a race, but I don’t really fuel (food/electrolyte). I took a salt tab once because someone said I “needed it!!!” and I almost pooped my pants (TMI?). I wear whatever running shoes are on sale (bad?). I eat Indian food the night before a race (or whatever is being served). We are all an experiment of one!
    Travel Spot recently posted..Take Five: SnacksMy Profile

  24. says

    Everyone is different and needs different amounts of water. You have to experiment and find out what is right for you and your training routine. Regarding inflammation. I take tumeric every day. Its a very powerful anti-inflammatory and is totally ntural with no side effects.