A Runner’s Guide to Adaptive Dissonance Training

Wednesday could not be more different from Thursday. Wednesday is all action: hikes, building campfires, setting a tent up blindfolded.

Thursday is all textbook.

Dewey’s three-step process explains the cyclical nature……but, Kolb uses a four-step cycle that is an interpretation of Lewin’s work….Pfeiffer and Jones’ model has five steps….Priest’s has six steps….

Good lord, they have analyzed the bejesus out of how we learn and teach in the great out-of-doors.

In the midst of this hurricane of words comes along one singular phrase that intrigues me: Adaptive Dissonance.


noun \ˈdi-sə-nən(t)s\

:  lack of agreement; especially :  inconsistency between the beliefs one holds or between one’s actions and one’s beliefs (Source: Merriam-Webster.com)

The sum of our efforts this semester may center around this phrase. It has become our goal to learn how to place clients/students in situations in which they choose to overcome a dissonance we have created for them by adapting their behaviors to meet their intended objectives.

If you have run a marathon, you understand adaptive dissonance. How many have stood at the starting line, looked down the course and wondered how on earth they could survive 26.2 miles – regardless of their training, or the fact that runners all over the world have indeed finished the distance before us. And yet, the gun fires and step by step we convince ourselves, adapt ourselves and our minds to finish this race….. we realize we can run this distance.

The topic took a different direction for me this week. Catching up on my reading one day, the latest Runner’s World dropped into my email. The cover story was Lauren Fleshman’s challenge.

All Images Courtesy asklaurenfleshman.com
Courtesy asklaurenfleshman.com

The background:

imageLauren, a Pro Runner, was captured in a photo during NY Fashion Week in the Oiselle show. She was stunning. The dissonance between that photo and what she knew to be real life, however, bothered her so much that she stunned us again with a post that showed her true “off-runway” postpartum figure. For me, that was a very brave thing to do.

I admit. I enjoy seeing beautiful models – their clothes, make-up, the walk down the runway…their style. They inspire me.

That picture was what we all want to feel about ourselves, myself included. I spent my teenage years looking at fantasy photos like that and feeling inadequate. And now it was my body in that photo. 

Lauren Fleshman, Runner’s World

“Let’s Keep It Real About Our Bodies”

A fashion blogger wrote a post this week on how the Au Naturel look comes and goes on the runway. Her point was that achieving the natural look is much more complicated than one might realize. I agree.

So many things in life – sports, make-up, theatre, writing – can look effortless when in fact this thing has taken great effort and practice. 

When I saw Lauren’s reveal I wondered, how can this be? This is not the look I expect to see in a professional athlete. Then I asked myself, what if I viewed her as a runner and a mother of a 3-month old?

It changes your view. She is a beautiful mother. She has also run the marathon in 2:37:23.  In the 5000 meter final of the 2011 IAAF World Championships, she finished 7th place, equaling what was at the time the highest ever finish by an American woman in that event (in 2013 Molly Huddle finished 6th). Lauren is an accomplished athlete.

Blame the Puritans, blame Glamour, blame Photoshop if you want, but at some point we have to stand up and own the body we’re shakin’. We have to make a statement that “THIS IS REAL” and move forward.  Lauren Fleshman

I can attest that having a perfect body is not a prerequisite for running. I can also attest to the fact that running, in and of itself, will not create the perfect body (unfortunately), and things only grow more challenging as we get older. It doesn’t matter. After all, we can be pretty darn spectacular just the way we are. THIS IS REAL.

2 thoughts on “A Runner’s Guide to Adaptive Dissonance Training

    1. I know, right? In her original post reveal, she said, “… in real life, people don’t walk around spray tanned and flexed. Out of the thousands of photos taken at the runway show after all that tanning and primping and posture-holding, one or two of them looked good.” She treated the runway like a race and gave it her all. I give her credit on so many levels. It truly is a peek behind the curtains of the runway.


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