I recently read an article by one of my favorite strength and conditioning coaches, Eric Cressey. His article, titled 6 Mistakes: Fitting Round Pegs into Square Holes and posted at t-nation.com has the following as one of his 'mistakes':

Summer is upon us, and here in New England that means plenty of folks with big fat rumps have taken to the roads with their bikes and their horribly inappropriate Spandex shorts.

fat boy in spandex

Oh, so wrong.

If you're a competitive cyclist, triathlete, or volleyball player, then by all means, rock 'em. Also, if you're an attractive female and you have the inclination, regardless of the activity, you can rock 'em.


Oh, so right.

However, if you're using cycling to shed some pounds, you need to be as non-aerodynamic as possible — for your sake and ours. Having to stare at your supersized posterior chain when we drive around you is like living under power lines. We know something's wrong, but we can't put our finger on the extensive damage it's doing to us until it's too late.

Although a fan of Cressey, I strongly disagree with his opinion on this one.

A problem I see with amateur triathletes and with "out of shape" looking trainees is that they let their appearance become a self-inflicted handicap.

Imagine a hypothetical 45 year-old Mary comes to Aquacrest pool to start a swim program. Out of shape from birthing and actually spending time raising three kids, Mary tells herself it's time to get back in shape. Mary keeps it to herself, but she knows it would be incredible to race a triathlon like some of those fit-looking ladies down in lane 1 and 2. But, looking at herself in the mirror in her size 40 speedo, she imagines the subtly degrading comments from her friends and family if she were to declare such a brazen goal. So, based on what she sees in the mirror, she cages her triathlon goal, telling people, "I'm too slow/fat/old to swim with the masters program, I'll just do some kickboard work down here in lane 12."

Based on what she sees, Mary protects herself from imagined criticism by limiting her explicit goals. Because she judges herself unathletic-looking, she falls into a self-fulfilling cycle of remaining relatively unathletic.

Were Mary not victim to people, such as Cressey, judging amateur trainees spilling out of their spandex, she would more freely and confidently express her seemingly out of reach training goals. Viewing herself as an athlete, Mary would then put in the necessary work to be an athlete, training with more discipline, prioritizing her health, eating and resting appropriately.

Specific to Cressey's article, out-of-shape looking people wearing spandex should be commended. These trainees have taken the bold step of being an athlete, no matter what they may look like. Wearing spandex while cycling shows the athlete that there is nothing seperating them from Lance Armstrong. Once the trainee becomes at athlete, they stop finding excuses (I'm too old, This knee won't hold up, I don't deserve a good bike, etc.).

Attitudes follow actions, so wearing the spandex leads to believing in ones limitless capabilities as an athlete.

When people make fun of their appearance, especially when respected coaches such as Cressey do this, it cuts that process off right at the roots. It kills the action, so the self-confident attitude will never develop.

Overdue quote of the week:

"Without belief, we would be left with nothing but an overwhelming doom, every single day. And it will beat you. I didn't fully see, until the cancer, how we fight every day against the creeping negatives of the world, how we struggle daily against the slow lapping of cynicism. Dispiritedness and disappointment, these were the real perils of life, not some sudden illness or cataclysmic millennium doomsday. I knew now why people fear cancer: because it is a slow and inevitable death, it is the very definition of cynicism and loss of spirit."



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