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Is Periodization Dead?

It depends on how one defines “periodization”. If periodization is defined simply as a systematic training plan, then it is most certainly not dead. “No plan survives first contact with the enemy” is a popular saying in the military. In other words, combat is highly unpredictable and very difficult for which to plan. Consequently, mission plans are seldom followed to the letter. Nevertheless, military leaders who acknowledge this reality are not advocating that planning be totally abandoned. Some degree of planning allows one to improvise and adapt when unpredictable situations arise. Similarly, coaches need to be adaptable while also adhering to some type of conceptual framework or planning process to better respond to an athlete’s fluctuating readiness. The relationship between forecasting/planning and improvising is really a conversation about rigidity and chaos. The potential need to deviate from a plan does not diminish the utility of planning. Complete faith in one’s planning reflects an extreme degree of rigidity. Totally abandoning planning because life is unpredictable is succumbing to chaos, however, and is equally unhelpful.

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Tone and Message In Coaching

Recently, I’ve observed coaches from all levels sharing and celebrating the above tweet. On a micro level, Gerald McCoy should be commended for his mature, professional reaction to the manner in which his coach provided feedback to him. Understandably, many highly paid professional athletes exercise power over coaches and executives; fans don’t buy tickets to watch aged or unathletic people in suits play sports. The power pendulum has probably shifted too far in the athlete’s direction at the youth level, however, where children and their parents can coerce school boards into firing coaches on a whim without any kind of due process or reasonable standard. Athletes should be able to respond favorably to criticism, even that which is delivered loudly. McCoy’s response is a refreshing reminder to athletes of all ranks about the importance of personal accountability. The question on a macro level, however, is whether yelling at a player enhances the reception of a message in a way that betters outcomes. While I think McCoy’s conduct is praiseworthy, the above video does not make a definitive case that the tone can be totally separated from the message.

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Transfer of Training Is So 1960’s

The relative proportion of general aptitude and specialization required for high-level performance is a timeless question in virtually every discipline.  In the physical preparation field, most coaches believe that their training methodology “transfers” to the game or somehow influences winning on the field.  So many factors influence the outcome of the game, however, that it is difficult to determine if what one does in a weight room or on a running surface does indeed directly “transfer” to a court or field independent of other variables, mathematics and statistics notwithstanding.  To be clear, the challenge of quantifying transfer does not justify, as an example, running repeated three hundred yard shuttles to prepare for American football. Embracing uncertainty should not preclude one from applying that which is already generally understood.

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“Anti-Aging” Reexamined

Before “biohacking” was a thing, “anti-aging” was already alive and well in the medical community.  Like organized religion, science is a vehicle for hope.  Religion comforts us about the spiritual world, including what happens after we die, and science comforts us about the physical world by rendering everything seemingly knowable.  Both domains ultimately provide hope and guidance in the face of uncertainty.  Anti-aging medicine occurs at the intersection of science and religion where science seeks to prolong physical existence at the relative expense of the spiritual one.

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IYIs, Uninformative Medical Diagnoses, and Interventionism

I recently completed Nassim Taleb’s latest book, Skin In The Game, and its implications for medical providers are constructive, particularly the relationship it explores between interventionism and “intellectuals yet idiots” (IYIs).  Skin In The Game analyzes the interplay between risk asymmetry, ethical boundaries, theorizing, and tinkering.  When faced with a problem, even an ambiguous one, there is usually a compulsion to do something.  Intervening seemingly assures us that we are taking measures to rectify the matter.  The issue with intervening to “fix” a poorly understood problem is that the “solution” itself can be costly and difficult to quantify even well after the damage is done.

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