“Every rebel alliance will eventually become the empire. Dogma has a way of creeping in. “
- Michael Blanchard
It took some time, but I finally got the response I was looking for. A few days ago, I addressed the issue of barefoot running coach certification. I expected a lot of people to agree, but I also expected A LOT more people to disagree. I was surprised it took so long for somebody to disagree with my opinions. After all, it directly challenges the idea of meritocracy in our society.
We love our experts. Even more, we love our science. Drew posted the exact response I was waiting for. Thanks Drew! This was the comment:
I think the Vivobarefoot Program is top notch, based of hard science, human anatomy, and practiced coaching principles. May want to pick up a copy of Peter Cavanaghs Biomechanics of Distance Running. He doesn’t talk much about “feeling” in there. There are numerous sources and information regarding the subject of proper running biomechanics.
I think free-exploration and experimentation can be a good thing, but at what cost? Serious injury? Most people run improperly for dozens of years, only to take off the shoes and “feel” around. That’s alot of faulty movement pattern reinforced with repetition. Having a properly educated coach may help considerably. Or you could just take off your shoes and hope for the best…
I look forward to the NYC Barefoot event panel hearing you go up against some top notch educators in this field.
The Vivobarefoot program he references is led by Lee Saxby. I’m very familiar with Saxby’s credentials, methods, and the program itself. It is top-notch. If there were a perfect barefoot running coach program, this is it. It is infinitely better than the jokes that are the RRCA and USATF running coaching programs, and more thorough than both Pose and ChiRunning (Note- I really like both Pose and Chi… I just think Lee’s program is better.) As an added bonus, Saxby is working with Terra Plana. I know these cats; they’re serious about barefoot running. They are one of the VERY few companies that REALLY gets it. I like them.
Here’s the problem. Based on the tone of Drew’s response, he probably has went through or is considering going through the program. Like most people that go through such a program, they lose a bit of that skeptical edge when they come out the other side. They believe they’ve found the way. Worse, they believe they found the way because of “hard science.” We have a tendency to put tremendous faith in science.
Why is that bad?
There’s still A LOT of medical professionals out there defending the use of overstriding with a heavy heel strike because it’s based on science. Odds are, you probably think that’s as big a load of bullshit as I do. But they believe it. They believe it because they have lost the ability to question their own beliefs. They are such strong believers in their position, they cannot fathom another paradigm.
Let’s apply this same idea to the BFR coaching certification. Can we be absolutely certain that any BFR certification is 100% correct? Are we willing to put ALL our eggs in that one basket? What happens when contradictory research comes out down the road? Will we be open to that? Probably not, especially if it is rejected by our certification method.
My point is simple- losing skeptical objectivity is just plain stupid. History has taught us this lesson again and again. What we determine as infallible fact today is laughed at twenty years down the road. Gnomes used to cause belly aches. Bumps on your head could be used to determine personality. Smoking was good for your lungs. A diet high in whole grains led to exemplary health. See where this is going?
Could barefoot running coaching certification be more realistic down the road? Maybe. Until then, let’s hold off a bit. Let’s allow communities to develop, grow, experiment, and discuss. There are wonderful things happening among the members of the Runner’s World Barefoot Running Forum, the Barefoot Runners’ Society, Barefoot Ted’s Huaraches Group, Birthdayshoes, and the other online communities. Groups like The Natural Running Center combine the best of the research world with the practical application of barefoot running, education, and theory. Haven’t we learned the value of open communication versus the limited voice of a few ordained “experts?” Isn’t that supposed to be the true value of the Interwebs?
I will always trust the collective experiences of tens of thousands of passionate people from a wide variety of backgrounds over a handful of experts with meaningless credentials. Over the years, I’ve met an awful lot of average people like me with some pretty revolutionary ideas. Doing anything to silence the masses is a travesty.
I think the ideas and theories of barefoot running are the correct theories. I buy into them. I use them. I teach them. However, I’m not too naive to dismiss the fact that all of us could be wrong. Anyone that touts the power of science should be well aware of the necessity of skepticism and independent thought.
Certifications lead to homogenized thought and the dismissal of competing theories.
Open community dialogue leads to the development of sound theories and progress.
We need less of the former and more of the latter.
Oh, and Drew’s last comment regarding the NYC panel- that’s why I don’t like the idea of certification. It encourages competition and “my way is the best way” thinking. It’s not about me “going up against” anyone. It’s about all of us coming together to share ideas to gain a greater understanding of the ideas behind barefoot running.
Community = Progress.
PS- I stand by all the points in my original post. Now I have to get back to writing about more serious topics like ‘Preparing for the Zombie Apocalypse Part Two: Encouraging the Zombies to Wear Hokas.’