Trail runner

Athletes & The Frequency Illusion

<10 Minute Read

Athletes LOVE to research their sport. Today, we have access to virtually unlimited resources to learn new training principles, workout techniques, nutritional science concepts, etc.

On one hand, this is great! Being able to study the sport and consume so much content around our passion is partially why we can learn to love it so much. Of course, there are also drawbacks.


The Baader-Meinhof Phenomenon

Have you ever learned something new, be it a new training principle or some nutritional science concept, and once you hear it, you begin noticing it everywhere, in everyday life?

The Baader-Meinhof Phenomenon, also known as frequency illusion, occurs when you learn or notice something new, and suddenly, it seems to pop up everywhere. As athletes, this phenomenon can play a pivotal role in our journey, offering both advantages and potential pitfalls.

In the world of running and training, the Baader-Meinhof Phenomenon manifests when athletes begin to grasp the intricacies of their sport. Once you understand the fundamental principles of training and nutrition, you may start seeing these principles reflected in various aspects of your life. Whether it's a snippet of advice in an article, a conversation overheard at the gym, or a podcast episode echoing training strategies, the newfound knowledge seems to surround you.


How it's Helpful

This phenomenon can be powerful for athletes. As you deepen your understanding of the science behind your training, the Baader-Meinhof Phenomenon reinforces these principles. The information becomes a part of your daily life, shaping your choices and actions.

Seeing these principles outside of your intentional learning reinforces your commitment to the sport, creating a seamless integration of your passion into various aspects of your life.

For example, pretend you are new to running. You've started building mileage (slowly, as you should) and, at some point, you first hear the concept of recovery weeks (or de-loading, if you want to be fancy). If this is not something you were previously aware of, you may not have noticed the term circulating around. But once you learn it, you begin noticing it everywhere - podcasts, articles, blogs, videos, etc. And you may think to yourself, "I didn't realize how important this was." In this example, the frequency illusion is a good thing!

Repitition is key for learning, and noticing the principle in more places allows you to grasp the concept fully - which should make implementing the information easier.


How it's Harmful

Like any psychological phenomenon, there is a flip side. Athletes need to be mindful of the potential drawbacks that come with the Baader-Meinhof Phenomenon. The danger lies in the risk of obsession. As you become more attuned to training data, nutrition guidelines, and performance metrics, there's a possibility of hyper-fixation. Every piece of information, every overheard conversation, may start to dominate your thoughts, leading to an unhealthy obsession that can impact mental well-being.

This may resonate with many of us: Remember before you knew what macronutrients were? Yea.... sometimes, ignorance is bliss. Knowledge can be powerful, when used correctly. But, if you begin hearing certain concepts over and over, and noticing them more and more, they can become controlling.

Imagine you hear someone say "carbs are evil" and gave you their scientific reasoning on why they think that. And, for arguments sake, let's say that it all sounds pretty convincing... you may start hearing and noticing this idea everywhere. Now, it becomes easy to obsess.

Reptation is key for learning, and the more we hear something, the greater we perceive it's importance. But be mindful. Does this topic deserve the importance we put on it? Maybe. Maybe not.


Using The Principle to Your Advantage - Best Practices

To leverage the Baader-Meinhof Phenomenon to your advantage, it's crucial to maintain a balanced perspective. Yes, being an athlete is our passion and our identity, but that does not mean we need to be controlled by the things we learn.

While it's empowering to recognize training principles in various contexts, it's equally important to avoid fixating on specific data points. Athletes are multifaceted individuals, and there's more to life than hitting specific mileage or adhering to rigid nutritional guidelines.

As you embrace the principles of your sport, let them enhance your overall well-being without overshadowing other aspects of your life. Use the Baader-Meinhof Phenomenon as a tool for positive reinforcement, a reminder that your passion for running is an integral part of your identity. However, be cautious not to let it consume you entirely.

To sum it up, this principle can transform your newfound knowledge into a constant presence, reinforcing your commitment to running. Yet, athletes must navigate this phenomenon with mindfulness, being aware that it can leads to obsession. Strive for effortless integration of your passion into your life, allowing the principles you've learned to enhance, not dominate, your overall well-being.

1 of 3

Fuel your passion