During my stint as a Peace Corps Volunteer, I lived in a remote village in the Kingdom of Nepal. Sure, the scenery of the surrounding Himalaya was great, but it wasn’t nearly as memorable as the people whom I lived with for 2 years. I remember how some villagers would put fresh manure in their wounds, claiming that it helped to stop the spread of pain. Two weeks later, when they still had festering wounds and were confronted (by me!) about how stupid that cow-shit-on-a-cut idea really was, they said that it was part of the process called life. It was a rite of passage to be able to live through the cut and the corresponding recovery. Lastly, they just got used to it.
Sure, they didn’t know any differently, as science was not a mainstream idea used in decision making, as it is in the West. That said, it pointed out some fundamental flaws that all of us have when it comes to enduring something that hurts us. It is called Redneck Thinking (with Capital Letters).
- We believe that the way we have been doing things is an effective way. It may or may not be the best way, but it is a safe way, because we survived it.
- When confronted with better ways, we will occasionally change. Most of the time, though, we don’t.
- When our ways cause us to suffer, we look to make sense of it all, saying that it is good for us…we say that it builds character and toughness.
- Here is the real kicker. The older we get, the more we fall victim to the “old ways work, why change it?” sort of thinking.
No place does this happen more that during conversations with people who are interesting and show leadership. I can’t count the number of times someone has said, “this is a great recipe. You ought to try it!” I agree with them, both in heart and in mind. The conversation ends, often with a recipe in my inbox, only to sit there until I delete the idea. I redneck it.
I KNOW that if I had just cooked it and tried it, there is a good chance that the dish would have likely to make it to our dinner table repeatedly. I KNOW that I would be better off for trying something new. But, more often than not, I don’t.
Truth is, we are all rednecks. We generally do what we did the last time, even if it wasn’t that great of an idea. What really seals the deal with our hard-earned title of redneck is how we view our poor results as “part of life.”
As an athlete, this is measurably true! Often, I reject good ideas backed with good science. Yet, this last weekend, I went out on a limb and tried a new idea to address an anticipated pain from an upcoming event.
Last weekend’s event was a 103-mile bike ride up Mt. Mitchell, NC. The ride is much like a day in the Pyrenees in France, with a bit more climbing. Like most bike rides that include both more volume and more intensity that I am used to, the expectation was that I would be both tired before I was done and I would HURT the day (or two) following the event.
Science has a name for this hurt phenomena-Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness, or DOMS. You know what it is-that feeling you get the first time you play basketball as the start of a new season that makes you think that in the two days afterwards it would have been more pleasant to have been hit by a truck.
Part of the dread of DOMS is knowing that it is coming. Knowing that you will be hurting the next day. It is not just a physical phenomenon; it is also mental. Knowing that what you are about to do is going to hurt will prevent people from trying.
A few days before the Mt. Mitchell ride, I heard an episode of The People’s Pharmacy, a syndicated radio show where a married couple helps take complicated medical studies and learnings and simplifies the learnings so folks like me can understand them.
This episode currently on the radio as I drove down the road was titled “What is the science behind fabulous foods for health?” The first segment of the show was about the effects of foods on either delaying or eliminating DOMS. The researcher being interviewed took a very complicated question and simplified it. He had heard that cherries and cherry juice (but not cherries from concentrate, mind you), could reduce if not eliminate DOMS if eaten in correct volumes, over the right period. The science sounded solid, and he had enough unanswered questions to convince me that he was still humble enough to do more good science.
Wanting to tackle my Redneck crown and take it off, I decided to try out his idea. Cherries and cherry juice, 2 days before the event. Cherry juice the day of and 2 days after. I hit the grocery store and bought both fresh cherries and juice.
The big day came. 103 miles of riding later, no pain. The next day, no pain. The following day, 80 minutes of running and still no pain. I am currently on Day 4 after the event, I haven’t had to miss a workout. I never felt the slightest bit of pain (although I was tired after expending 8000 calories in about 7 ½ hours). Last year, after this same event, I was fighting to reach down far enough to tie my shoes. This AM (day 4), I woke up early and did a 10K run as if the event had never happened.
Just this AM, I thought, “what other clever ideas have I rejected that have led to a pain that I just didn’t need to experience?” What other cherry juice alternatives are out there that could give me power, speed, endurance, flexibility and strength that I have been missing?”
The only thing that has prevented me from learning them is my addiction to redneck thinking. I suspect that I have already either read or heard many great ideas that could help me perform at higher levels, but I have rejected them in favor of the items that I perceive as my source of comfort.
Getting used to pain is often deemed a rite of passage for an athlete. Push through the discomfort and you get better is the mantra. So, so glad to learn that isn’t the truth.
And one day soon, I hope to get this redneck hat off of my head!