But i'm getting a little let hectic now - still full schedule of activity but no more 18+ hour days (putting on a mud run is brutal work!) thankfully. I'm back to work on my e-book and last week managed to put in a solid hour of training. Woo Hoo! I'm also headed into a three month stint where i'll be racing each month - all 8-10 hour adventure races - so that should be fun.
But enough about me - i'm writing this post, my hopeful return to more active blogging, thanks to Aaron Schwenzfier, a trainer for the UND athletics department and a real explorer when it comes to ideas about human potential and it's limits. He sent me an article this morning from this month's runners world that addresses some of the thoughts that i've shared on here over the years and introduces some new research about 'brain training' for endurance. You can read it below:
The exciting part for me was an clear and accessible explanation of the core element of the Central Governor Theory, to which i pretty much subscribe when it comes to the role that the mind plays in determining our limits. There are a couple of great 'summing' quotes -
Scientists have since demonstrated that seemingly absolute physical limits are imposed by the brain—not the body.Which of course I already knew or suspected - particularly for long durations of activity... i'm not sure that my brain limits my ability to run a 4 minute mile, but it certainly does limit my ability to run fifty 10 minute miles, at least in my experience. The above quote doesn't mean that physical aspects aren't important - but that it is the brains perception of a number of different factors, some physical and some mental/logistical that ultimately applies the brakes.
This second bit got me to think about my own training and one reason i think it is effective for me, even as i employ it to compete in events that are hours or days long. In a sense i think it has effectively allowed me to turn that effort dial down. My training efforts and intensity is so extreme that they completely outstrip all race efforts i'm capable of sustaining by orders of magnitude. My Central Governor has been 'educated' as to what hard really is (albeit in very short lessons) and so knows that although there might be pain and fatigue during a longer race, i am proceeding at so far below my actual physical limits that continuing is (almost always) allowed.
...anything that moves the effort "dial" in your head up or down affects how far or fast you can run. All the usual physical signals—dehydration, tired muscles, a pounding heart—contribute to how hard an effort feels. Runners train their bodies to adapt to those signals, and over time the effort of running at a given pace gets lower. But less-obvious signals, like mental fatigue, also contribute to how hard your run feels—and trying to hold marathon pace for hours and hours is pretty taxing on the brain. This... leads to a radical idea: If you could train the brain to become more accustomed to mental fatigue, then—just like the body—it would adapt and the task of staying on pace would feel easier.
Brain training. Pic borrowed from the article linked above