This is all a long-winded way of introducing a third excellent piece from Scout7. I'll shut up now and let him have his say. I will be back in the country soon enough and hope to begin posting again on a regular basis.
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Now that things have slowed down with life, I took some time to read through the Philosophy Bro site. In my poking around, I came across his summation of John Searle’s Chinese Room thought experiment.
Quick overview: take a room with a man, a whole bunch of files, some blank paper and pencils; put them in a closed room with two slots on a wall. One slot is labeled “IN”, the other is labeled “OUT”. Slips of paper with Chinese characters drawn on them enter the room through the IN slot. The man takes the slip, looks up the symbol in the files, and draws a corresponding symbol on a blank piece of paper, which he then shoves through the OUT slot. Effectively, argues Searle, this room simulates how a computer works, and that the man in the room has absolutely no understanding of Chinese; all he is doing is following a set of instructions with no context.
So, what does this have to do with running? I bet you’re thinking I’m about to go on some sort of anti-technology rant. Well, I’m not.
Instead, I’m putting this back on you, dear reader. How many of us have looked at a training plan and said, “Hey, I think I could do this”, and then followed it? Probably quite a few, I’m sure. Now, in that situation, did you ever take the time to understand what the program was telling you? Or did you just follow the instructions without trying to comprehend them? If so, how are you any better than a computer? If the argument is that syntax without semantics does not a sentient being make, then are we exercising our understanding properly when we do nothing more than follow along?
Running is, to me, an opportunity to explore, to experiment, to learn. To do this, you have to be actively engaged in your running; that means you are focusing on your body when you’re out there. Sure, you can drift away when you’re doing an easy jog around the block, but wouldn’t it be better to try to pay attention to that twinge in your right knee, or perhaps how your breathing patterns changed when you crested that last big hill?
I see people asking about whether a training plan is “good” for them. Granted, we all start somewhere, and to paraphrase a wise man, newbies are cursed to be newbies. My question to you is what are you doing to move past that newbie stage?
Now, some people may say it looks like I’m telling people not to ask questions of others; nothing could be further from the truth, I assure you. In fact, I would encourage everyone out there to ask questions of other people, of themselves. Asking questions is how you gather data. Putting a context to that data is how you turn it into information. Figuring out how to apply that information to your situation is wisdom. In other words, you should be asking questions, a lot of questions, and then you should be taking the answers and fitting them into a context that you understand and that works with your framework. And finally, you should be taking that information and experimenting with it.
When it comes down to it, one of the benefits of training is learning about ourselves; we learn what we’re capable of, how our bodies respond to training and stimuli, what works and what doesn’t. It’s an experimental, iterative process. But we take away this benefit if we follow blindly the pathways laid before us, and fail to develop a context and understanding of why there’s a path in the first place.