Monday, October 24, 2011

2011 Streak Day 285 (Saturday Oct 15th): Mind body

2011 Streak Day 285 (Saturday Oct 15th): Walk 1 mile Time 20min Weather beautifully sunny October day warm enough for T shirt
The role of the mind in running is is fascinating because it is not a neutral observer of the feedback from the body - it conditions those messages.
You can see this when you have good and bad days. There are times when you go for a run when you feel weary from the first step to the last, even though there is nothing physically wrong (i.e. you are not sickening or injured). Your mind is tired and so are your limbs. 
That is a fairly common example but fascinating nevertheless. 
What causes a bad day? I have never been able to isolate an answer but I keep on trying. I always start by looking for simple physical explanations: was my nutrition or hydration good, was I still tired from previous sessions? I rarely think about my mood or mental outlook. Perhaps I should. 
But if my outlook is wrong is there anything I can do about it?
Another simple example of the way the mind can affect you performance is the difference between running on your own and running in a group. With a group you are often stimulated to run faster or longer than you would normally because of the others. You adapt to the norms of the group and your expectations change.
When you are by yourself you often head the signs of distress earlier or you just fall into your normal comfortable pace. You more easily stay within fairly soft mental boundaries.
This leads to an interesting question. If your mental outlook is limiting how fast you go what can you do to change it. Would fooling yourself work?  This article from the New York Times suggests it might.
P.S. The practical response to a bad day is not to worry about it and try to find a cause. You should shrug your shoulders and carry on, knowing the general statistical rule of 'return to the mean' will apply. So if you have had a bad run the chances are your next one will be better but sadly if you have a good day it is likely the next will be worse.