We often discuss mining the answer to the question “why?” I believe in this concept wholeheartedly and can’t overstate it.
I’m also fascinated by human behavior. You know my distaste for small talk by now, but I love to learn about the people I meet and connect with. I want to know why they do what they do. This is especially interesting to me when a conversation partner hasn’t answered the question for themselves, and we get to explore the query together.
Recently, a friend sent me a picture of a contraption she uses to recover from running. She noted “I love this thing!”
My teasing reply: “suckkkeeerrr”
I set out to bust her balls and playfully discredit her device (I’m easily entertained). She fell for the slick marketing and the fact that a few of her girlfriends had used it. I couldn’t wait to dig up the studies proving this machine scientifically ineffective. Ultimately, this device is designed to make it easier to achieve the benefits of foam rolling. Colossal backfire.
FR substantially reduced muscle soreness at all time points while substantially improving ROM. FR negatively affected evoked contractile properties with the exception of half relaxation time and electromechanical delay (EMD), with FR substantially improving EMD. Voluntary contractile properties showed no substantial between-group differences for all measurements besides voluntary muscle activation and vertical jump, with FR substantially improving muscle activation at all time points and vertical jump at POST-48. When performing the five FR exercises, measurements of the subjects’ force placed on the foam roller and perceived pain while FR ranged between 26 and 46 kg (32%-55% body weight) and 2.5 and 7.5 points, respectively.
My friend noted what she felt after a race she had that morning. “I came in 3rd place!” Try saying that shit in a clubhouse. Hahahaha.
“It’s massaging my poor legs that I beat to hell. Hurts and feels good simultaneously. It honestly makes my legs feel better.”
She didn’t need the science studies to know that it was helping her, and she was right.
The most important findings of the present study were that FR was beneficial in attenuating muscle soreness while improving vertical jump height, muscle activation, and passive and dynamic ROM in comparison with control. FR negatively affected several evoked contractile properties of the muscle, except for half relaxation time and EMD, indicating that FR benefits are primarily accrued through neural responses and connective tissue.
This was a strong reminder to question my own assumptions. Turns out, just because something has a slick marketing campaign (which this does) doesn’t necessarily mean that there isn’t some substance behind the glitz. Perhaps sometimes, “because it feels good” is the most important and worthwhile answer to “why?”
As baseball players, we are continually making adjustments. Perhaps we add a leg kick or lower our back elbow. We might stand up tall like Longo at the plate one week, then bend at the waist Andrew Toles-style (Google him – he rakes) the next. We are perpetually seeking more knocks, and we strive to strike the baseball with more authority. Ultimately, we’re aiming to “feel it.”
An extremely well-educated hitting coach can show us a mechanical cue. He can beautifully articulate why that adjustment will produce more power. He might even pull scientific literature which supports his claim. I had a hitting coach who used to tell me “do it like Manny.” Manny Ramirez was perhaps the best right handed hitter I’ve ever seen. I didn’t need anything other than my own eyes to tell me that “doing it like” him would be valuable – if I could execute. Unfortunately (for me), what felt good to Manny didn’t feel right for me. It landed as awkward when I implemented it. If we, as athletes, can’t feel it, it’s nearly impossible to buy in until we do. The sensory experience in this case may be more critical than the science.
Conversely, when something feels strong in my body as a hitter, I’m more successful with that approach – even if my mechanics aren’t optimized. My mind and body working in concert leads to confidence. The confidence leads to swag. Give me that drug when I step in the box, and I can hit. Anecdotal? Sure. But I challenge you to find a hitter or pitcher who won’t agree that “feeling it” gives us a good chance to succeed.
This should not be taken as a blanket endorsement of gimmicks or pseudoscience and quackery. Failure to maintain a skeptical attitude towards claims leaves us exposed. We become sheep led by industries with less than savory intentions and a goal of profiting off our gullibility. As part of our investigation, however, we should be asking ourselves “how does this feel for my body?” Understanding that something feels good and gives us athletic confidence allows us to gain additional insight into our systems and performance. Try being powerful, athletic and fast when you don’t “feel good.”