• Ken Caputo

I Was Wrong

I was wrong

I just got back back from a long, zone 2 run, and the whole time I was thinking about cycling. I wasn’t thinking about it because I wanted to be on the bike. I love both disciplines for different reasons. I was thinking about how I had been pedaling wrong for twenty years.

I’m reading a book called “The Midlife Cyclist” (I definitely fall into that category lol), and I had reached a point where he was talking about pedaling mechanics and a commonly held belief about how to pedal efficiently.

I had learned to think of pedaling in a circular motion. When you are clipped in, you can both pull up as well as push down on the pedal to create a smooth, unbroken motion. Makes sense, right? I never really questioned it, although I was also never particularly effective at doing it.

So the author, who has been cycling and fitting out pro riders for almost forty years, pretty effectively debunked that commonly held belief. In short, he explains that our legs are designed to push down for power, and apply minimal force as we lift up for the next downward motion. He referenced how we run as an analogy. We don’t yank our legs up hard when we are driving ourselves forward. We do enough to position our leg for the next motion of pressing down and forwards.

Now I had already tested this on my trainer by trying two timed rides and measuring the average watts generated by the two pedaling styles. I went farther, faster, and generated more power by focusing on pushing down on the pedals and letting the back of the motion take care of itself. It was more fun too :)

So there I was today on my run. I was being a good boy and keeping my DFA alpha 1 under .75, which can be a little boring, and I’m thinking about the similarities between a good running stride and good pedaling mechanics. It makes sense, this author has the data to back up what he’s saying, and it certainly feels true from testing it.

And then I started thinking….

I’ve been telling people how to pedal wrong for years. In fact, I’ve often used it as an analogy when teaching martial arts as well. Whoops. For all of you that have been a recipient of my ignorance, my apologies!

I guess what it got me thinking about is how we respond when we are presented with information that refutes what we have been lead to believe is true. And THAT got me thinking about something a dear friend shared with me just recently.

We were talking about dopamine, and the different things that cause its release in the brain.

They’ve known for a long time that that likes and comments on social media are almost as addictive as cocaine. (They can actually quantify and measure dopamine levels to determine this)

Now they are finding that confirmation bias can release 2 to 3 times that amount. So basically we become addicted to people telling us what we already believe to be true. Every time someone confirms our belief about something, we get a little feel-good kick.

This was a sobering thought. I actually reflected on the process I had to go through before accepting that what I took to be true was not. Do I ignore it? Do I refute it? Do I dismiss it as just one guy’s opinion? It was interesting.

It was also kind of scary.

Think about what this means on fast-moving information platforms like social media. Since social media algorithms just feed us more of what we give attention to, does that mean we can become chemically dependent on having people tell us what we want to hear?

And how the heck do we recognize it when it happens?

I was also reflecting on the positive side of this. When we make a brave, difficult choice, and someone validates it, we get that feel good kick. When someone in our circle is trying to make a positive change, and we encourage them, and share success stories of others who have faced similar things, that could help them keep going in that direction.

I’m sharing this without having fully thought it through yet. I think mostly I have a new sense of compassion and understanding for how hard it can be to have deeply held beliefs challenged.

Knowing what to let go of, what to hold on to, and when to fuse it all together into something new seems like a daunting task.

I think being curious can help. Asking genuine questions that get bigger and better as our understanding expands makes sense. Testing it objectively could be helpful too, although I’m not crazy about anecdotal validation.

I don’t know. Guess I’ll just keep asking questions.

Oh and I fully plan on enthusiastically mashing those pedals on my next ride :)

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