Why I have a rubber duck on my desk.

A rubber duck is one of your greatest resources. Seriously. Apart from being bathtime entertainment and useful for science experiments (investigation of currents at sea and glacier movements, mostly) they are a firm favourite of software engineers. In this context, rubber ducking is short for “rubber duck debugging” and is a method of debugging code. Basically, engineers can explain the code they are writing to the rubber duck, line-by-line, and as they do so, they can break down the purpose of the code and find the underlying problem. By forcing the issue into words, and explaining it to something that can’t interrupt, often a solution will become clear without having to do any extra work.


Why is this relevant to you? Or me? 
Explaining something in detail to an inanimate object (it doesn’t have to be a rubber duck) distances ourself from the problem (coding, homework, understanding complex mathematics, relationships… whatever the problem may be) and allows an opportunity for self-realisation and helping you to find your own answer. Effectively, by explaining the problem to yourself (or your rubber duck), you are able to remove the anxiety and emotion around issues, step back and find perspective. This can help you reflect and resolve the issue.

“Learners who engage in explanation go beyond the obvious to look for broad and simple patterns underlying what they are trying to explain and in so doing…often make useful discoveries.”
Tania Lombrozo, Ph.D, Explaining to Yourself Can Be A Powerful Tool (https://www.apa.org/science/about/psa/2016/03/explaining-yourself)

Whilst talking to your duck, your mind also slows down your thinking, breaks down the information and can find new links or patterns. A chance for a fresh perspective.


Does it work with a friend / cat / dog? 
This can work, but there are some problems….they move, talk, give opinions (the friend that is), distract and you may end up petting them (cat or dog!). But it will work with another inanimate object, so don’t feel you need to have a duck on your desk, a fluffy pig will do instead (for example).


Using your rubber duck. Really, you want a lesson on this? Ok, here goes…
1. Get a rubber duck (obvious!)
2. Explain the problem. In detail. What is the purpose of what you are trying to do? What have you done to date? What have you achieved and what have you not achieved.
3. As you explain, make sure you fully understand where you are going.
4. Find the solution! It may be obvious once you’ve talked to the duck, but if not, try giving it more detail.
4. Do NOT argue with the rubber duck. It can’t defend itself.



How does it apply to my running? 

There are so many ways to apply this in the context of running, as a runner, or a coach. If you are not meeting your goals….If you are upset by a race result…if you’re not sure on a race strategy…If you are thinking of going off plan….not sure whether to signup for a race.

Any time you want to think about a problem logically, dig out the duck…


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Martin Hulbert

Running Coach & Personal Trainer Leicestershire

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