"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, April 9, 2010

Giving Up: Neuromuscular Safety Mechanisms (Part 2)

Giving Up: Neuromuscular Safety Mechanisms (Part 2)

(If you haven’t read Part 1 of this post, it will be helpful to do so before continuing on with this post).

I’m currently working my way through another piece of Dr. Marcora’s work which looks at the effect of mental fatigue on physical performance. As with his perception of effort study results and conclusions, I find these ideas fit well with what I’ve been reading in Running Within. I’ve posed the question in this space previously, but I think it’s worth restating: what could we accomplish if we removed our self-imposed barriers and allowed ourselves to perform closer to our actual potential rather than our perceived potential?

I’ve seen this in my own running over the last few weeks. The negative thoughts I once struggled with have all but been eliminated in a matter of weeks. In that time I’ve broken barriers in the pace of my runs—I’m consistently running anything 10k or shorter in the 7:25-7:35/mile range and my longer runs are now consistently under 8:00/mile—and my previous PR’s are now simply average. I don’t feel any more tired or exhausted at these faster paces. Quite the contrary actually. I finish my run, drink a smoothie, take a shower and continue on with my day.

An increased level of fitness is certainly helping. Improving my overall fitness was very obviously the first step and I’ve been working on this since I first laced up my 10-year old tennis shoes and ran a (very) few miserable laps around the track last June.

The second step was deciding near the end of January to focus on eating a fruit predominant diet. Also noticeably helpful. I don’t require any recovery time more than a night of sleep, I feel light on my feet and have an abundance of energy to run, work, garden, play with my kids, root for the Blazers and Blue Devils (though the championship game versus Butler took a lot out of me) and do everything else that needs to be done.

The most recent step has been to strengthen myself mentally. I had to limit and eliminate my negative and self-defeating thoughts. Lest you think I now fill my mind with a bunch of rah-rah “you’re the best, no one can run like you” thoughts, I’ll tell you that while I run I’m mainly thinking about my goals, picture various parts of my upcoming races, who will be cheering me on and other, minimally stressful things going on in my life—the layout of my garden for instance. Combined with the first two steps, adding the mental component has generated the biggest improvement in distance and pace over the last 8 months.

We’re now just 8 weeks from the Newport Marathon. I’m pleased with where I am physically and mentally. The next 5 weeks will really be the gut-check part of my training, but I’m happy with my improvements and accomplishments to this point and confident in what I will do in the next few weeks.

I appreciate you, the readers, for checking in on me from time to time. What started as me simply keeping a log of my experiences for my own personal benefit and accountability has become something more than I thought it would be in a relatively short time. I hope that you will continue to find this site useful as you work towards your own goals, running or otherwise. My commitment to this site has gradually shifted from focusing entirely on my own experiences to also providing content that I feel may be useful to others. I thank you for your support as well as for your comments and questions. I will try to respond to them as I am able to.

Happy running.

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