Science-based training vs. research-based training

Is there a difference? Maybe — and here is why it matters….

You could sum up the last 2.5 years with the phrase, “Follow the science.” There’s probably more than one presuppositional apologist out there who would be willing to make the argument that you could actually sum up every societal ill over the last 350 years by that phrase, too, but lest I be misunderstood, I won’t chase that rabbit.

On a somewhat related note, I now present the topic of “science-based” training.

As someone less than a month away from having some actual ‘research’ potentially join the scientific literature, it might come as a shock to you (or…maybe it won’t), that I really loathe this phrase. And no, it’s not because I’m still bitter about SPSS software, MLA citation rules, t-scores, the phrase “statistically significant” or the search for the true meaning of ‘correlation.’ Let me explain.

In our modern vernacular, the word “science” has become erroneously synonymous with objective truth. Thus, when someone simply utters “the science says” before explaining anything, it’s as if they’ve protected themselves from bias or arbitrariness. You, on the other hand, are a fool if you even question their premise or conclusion. The problem is that only objective truth gets to actually be objective truth.

Science, on the other hand, is a process — a good and noble process, by the way — by which infallible humans seek to acquire knowledge about the universe. A universe, I should point out, that came into existence without any human witnesses present. Now, the latter part might seem pointlessly pointed out, but there is a poignant epistemological consequence. Technically, we could be wrong about anything because we don’t know everything. Believe it or not, this bleeds into research …specifically sports research.

At this point, I should probably redirect our attention back to my most gripping question: is their a difference between “science-based training and research-based training?” and if so “does it matter?”

Well, the objective truth (like what I did there?) is that there is no difference. The reality, however, is that there seems to be a massive difference, and it has to do with what was said in the previous three paragraphs. When someone says the Norwegian National Ski Team is doing OR the USST (or Billy’s Pee-Wee team) needs to be doing “science-based training” the misleading sentiment is there is some sort of objectively proper (based on “science”) way of doing something.

But, anyone who has ever actually conducted research …oh…sorry…. ‘science’ ….knows that the very nature of conducting scientific research (oh my gosh) makes such a pursuit impossible.

First, every research project ever completed is littered with limitations and inherent difficulties. i.e.:

“time trials were not conducted on snow….”
“participants didn’t all have the same technical ability” (like honestly…this one! How on earth would you ever be able to control this?!)

“The results might be different with (different ages, genders, political affiliations, etc.)

“One should note that this study was actually done with rats, not humans (has anyone done a ski-study with rats?)

“Researchers didn’t control for training history or nutrition intake…”

“One participant was unable to complete the time trial because he was scolded by the researcher,” (ok, I’ve never actually read this before…)

“This study contained a set of humans, which, surprisingly, were not identical clones of one another.” (this is, ironically, what should be noted in every single study ever conducted on human performance….)

You get my drift. Even though in theory, the scientific method should allow for the acquisition of truth, the nature of actually conducting science really hurts our chances. But that’s just a part of it….

Even if there was some data collecting utopia wherein every.single.thing. could be controlled perfectly, it still wouldn’t allow us to know — with bullet proof certainty — whether or not we were actually drawing 100% accurate conclusions OR just inching a little closer to some type of possible knowledge BECAUSE, again, we can literally only do that if we have comprehensive knowledge in the first place. Otherwise, and this is just philosophically an objective truth (save your emails, I know you all hate me at this point), we could technically be wrong about anything.

So, because the word “science” has been hijacked to mean the same thing as absolute truth, I think a more accurate, or at least ‘fairer’ phrase is ‘research-based’. A research-based approach is one which aspires to follow the conclusions drawn by researchers. (Again, this is what people who say they are following a “science-based” approach are actually doing, but because science …nevermind)

It might seem like I’m stating the obvious here, but conclusions drawn by researchers are just that: conclusions drawn by researchers. There might be a strong correlation to absolute strength and flat DP performance, but before you go and bulk up in the gym and order three Big Macs, you might want to 1) look up what correlation means and 2) investigate the nature of the research which came to that conclusion.

In this specific example, you might want to remember that a high VO2 max isn’t ‘correlated’ with high-level World Cup performance, but that’s because everyone in the World Cup has a high VO2 max, so the slope for a study with a bunch of World Cuppers as the participants isn’t going to be a nice rise-over-run of 1. We all know, however, that having a high VO2 max is an obvious prereq – or at least important – for world-class endurance performance, and that is demonstrated by the same data.

The second consideration in the above example is that this study could have been conducted by someone who literally started his undergraduate studying trumpet performance and moonlights as a podcast host who pretends he’s talking with a made-up co-host…whom he also voices.

From here, I think we basically have two choices: 1) go back to Research Gate and start reading OR 2) just go with your gut

Actually the real point might be that a prudent athlete considers both.

Then again, what do I know? Heck, what does anyone know?

It’s interesting — back when I was first became fascinated by the science of training (around high school and then again in college when I went all-in on running) I remember sometimes talking with my Dad. His sentiment was basically, “it’s not that complicated.” My response was basically, “No, it’s super complicated.”

Now, I can basically see that we were both right.


Published by rsederquist

My name is Ryan Sederquist.  I am a man of many passions and dreams, and this website is the outlet for many of them. I am currently teaching 5th grade remotely in the Adams12 school district in Colorado. I have been an elementary music teacher in Alamosa, Colorado, as well as a 7-12 band director at Lake County High School in Leadville, Colorado. I am also in the final, final stages of acquiring my M.S. in Exercise Science from Adams State University. In 2018-2019, we spent a year in Presque Isle, Maine as I coached the UMPI Nordic ski team. I currently live in Leadville, Colorado with my wife Christie, a special education teacher, and our border collie-German shepherd mix, Ajee. Even though it is not my full-time job, ever since I was a child, I had the desire to do one of three things professionally - pro sports, writing about pro sports, or being a radio talk show host. This website is where I pretend to do the latter two, and when I'm out pretending to do the former, I listen to podcasts, think about topics, and pursue my wild dream of someday, at some event, in either running, biking, or skiing, wearing a team USA uniform. This website contains articles, podcasts, pictures, and journal entries that have to do with my passion and involvement in endurance sports. Our flagship project is the Seder Skier Podcast, which talks mostly about nordic skiing and attempts to interview influential individuals in the ski world. I also rant about the Big 4 sports, with a lean towards Minnesota teams (Vikings, Twins, Twolves, and MN Distance Running). I sometimes try to write Sports Illustrated like 'feature' articles about athletes as well. In addition to a focus on sports, you will find the occasional article or show that discusses the intersection of theology and society ...which is ...obviously everywhere. We place these in our Skieologians podcast. The heading at the top of my homepage reads, "Search for Truth. Play with purpose. Strive for success." It is the underlying theme for my coaching philosophy, which can be downloaded from this site. Basically, I'm always looking to search for the truth in my pursuit of knowledge, whether that is knowledge regarding the best methods for waxing skis, training a quarter miler, or defending my Christian apologetic. Searching implies a dedicated pursuit for knowledge, and that is what I'm about and what this site is about, even if it is simply for providing viewers with an accurate description of a product. Play with purpose has to do with living out our passions because they are fun. I ski because its fun. I play music and teach young kids because there is joy in it. This blog is about celebrating the joy and fun that inherently exists in the pursuit of excellence and in the activities themselves. Finally, strive for success is built on the principle that true success is the realization that we gave 100% effort to become the best that we could possible be. It requires 100% in preparation, competition, reflection, mental effort, etc. If something is worth doing, I believe it is worth doing with that level of effort. Someday, I hope to race the Visma Classics - the entire season, wear a Team USA singlet, and have a job that involves writing or talking about sports or theology all day. If you know of any body I can reach out to to help me accomplish these goals, please email me at

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