Tag Archives: boneyards

Unseen Boneyards

There’re unseen boneyards out there containing the people who didn’t survive situations that favored other people. Since we usually only see the people who make it through and not the ones who don’t, there’s a tendency to think the process (or activity) is producing or causing a result – when it’s really also favoring certain individuals over others.

For instance, swimming competitions favor certain types of bodies that are the most efficient for a certain event. By the time you see the last heat of an olympic swim race most of the racers look pretty much the same. So you might think “If I swim a lot I can look like Micheal Phelps because he swims a lot.” He does swim a lot. But so did lots of other kids who didn’t thrive in the pool but swam a lot. And so you wind up only seeing the “cream of the crop” when you’re watching the olympics and none of the shorter, stouter kids who maybe swam as much and were as enthusiastic but never wound up with a “swimmer’s body.” That shorter, stouter swimmer is part of an unseen boneyard of swimming.

When Arnold Schwarzenegger claimed he ate a particular supplement or did a particular exercise in a novel way, we tend to think that’s what makes him a champion bodybuilder. He had the genes and drive (and steroids) that allowed him to respond to a high volume of training that put other people in an unseen bodybuilding boneyard. I think he’d have done just as well missing a supplement or not doing curls using a barbell with a special shape.

Or consider the training Navy SEALS aspirants go through before graduating. The majority of the guys who try don’t make it. While the program they endure is tough, the ones that make it through are really more genetically suited to that workload. Most people who tryout will wind up in a SEAL boneyard that we never see. It’s important to realize that there’s a selection process going on that favors a certain set of genes – it’s not just the training.

One of my nephews, Ben, is a high school senior who’s keen to play college football. About a month ago, he injured his knee playing basketball and is rehabbing it. He’s still planning on playing football, but he’s in a boneyard at the moment. While looking for some  helpful info for him, I came across this talk by Doug McGuff, MD. Doug’s one of the sharpest guys in the health and fitness area. He has a good book, that I read about a year ago, called “Body By Science.” He discusses the boneyard idea in regards to workouts, basically saying that your workout should minimize any chances of winding up in a boneyard by overtraining or training in a potentially dangerous way.

About auto racing, someone said that to finish first, you first have to finish. If you wind up in a boneyard, you won’t finish. So take care in choosing the activity you want to pursue by checking out its boneyard as well as the folks at the top of the heap. Did they make it to the top because of what they do or despite what they do?