Wednesday, January 28, 2009

The lure of recipes

People love recipes. Detailed, step by step recipes. Recipes to cook, to lose weight, to gain muscle mass, to get faster, to get more endurance, you name it. Recipes and lists of recipes. The seven habits of successful people, 10 things that will make you run faster, swim faster. These are the headlines that sell books, magazines, CD's and the like.

The ostensible reason is to save time. It is said that modern humans have precious little time. They are busy creatures, too busy really. Busy working their jobs or raising their families. Too busy to take time out and learn something new. Unless it is fed to them in bite-size, ready-to-consume pieces. Preferably illustrated with pictures, photographs, and diagrams. Not too much reading material because we don't have time for all that. Can't slow down now. Yup, there goes my cellphone! Got to take this call!

Lazy is perhaps a better word. Not one we like to hear but probably one that is closer to reality. Too lazy to read, we need a shortcut. Someone who read it for us and now feeds it to us step by step. Too lazy to try something new. God forbid that we would waste our time on something and not get results. Too lazy for hard work and always looking for a shortcut. A secret formula. A magic potion.

We are eager to believe that those who make it have some secret sauce. They know something we don't. There must be some ritual, some incantation, some drug, some gadget that these guys know about that I don't. Maybe it is the power meter?

Coaches often take advantage of these trends. They shroud themselves in secrecy. They adopt ritualistic routines. They force athletes to do bizarre drills. Much like doctors who prescribe special diets for some people. The magic of placebo is not to be underestimated. Drink 10 glasses of water a day. Eat five servings of fruit. Do this seven times, not six, not eight, seven! You got to do it right otherwise the magic won't work!

Today's workout: a 3,000 m swim. All freestyle, non-stop.

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