"Now if you are going to win any battle you have to do one thing. You have to make the mind run the body. Never let the body tell the mind what to do. The body will always give up. It is always tired in the morning, noon, and night. But the body is never tired if the mind is not tired.”

- George S. Patton, U.S. Army General, 1912 Olympian

Friday, February 12, 2010

External Disassociation? Perhaps Not

I commented a week or so ago on an ARTICLE at active.com looking at a study done by researchers on mental strategies of non-elite runners in the 1996 London Marathon. You may remember the researchers broke these strategies into four categories: internal and external association, and internal and external disassociation. They looked at these four strategies in relation to when and to what extent non-elite runners hit The Wall.

I've been focusing on this during my runs the last few weeks, wondering what works for me and what doesn't (granted, I haven't run anything long enough to hit any wall yet). Yesterday, I crossed External Disassociation off my list of effective strategies.

I wanted a new route. I've been running the same stretch for weeks and it was getting old. So I planned a new one. Start at my office, run to the bridge, across the river, around the park, back over the other bridge and through another park before returning to my starting point. Should have been a great run Fairly warm, only a slight wind, over the Willamette river twice, through two riverfront parks, nothing to worry about.

Four tough miles later I got back to my car and quickly dismissed that route as a good one. What I didn't take into account was having to be mindful of traffic, wait for two stoplights (that seemed to last FOREVER) and just generally be aware of a whole host of things I don't usually encounter on my normal route (which is still along a fairly busy road, but it's different--I don't fear being clipped by some guy hoping to get to the Taco Bell drive-thru 3 seconds sooner).

I could never get into a groove. I never focused on my breathing. Looking at my Nike+ running graph, my pace was all over the place. And I struggled because of it. I'm sure that there will be some external disassociation thoughts going on over the course of 26.2 miles, but I'll certainly be aware of how much time I'm spending in that world of thinking.

Oh, and the researchers conclusions? External dissociation seems not to lead runners into the trap of hitting The Wall because it somehow puts the body on autopilot more or less, thus keeping a steady pace, anticipating hills, etc. Awesome.

(Additional analysis and application of the study can be found HERE as well).

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