Sunday, January 26, 2014

(Over)Thinking: An Athlete's Biggest Obstacle?

So, it is technically race week for me in earnest starting today. Although the Texas 10 (for me 5) mile College Station race is really just a checkpoint, I do want to have a positive experience and execute within -although pushing- the boundaries of my current fitness level. Notice I say current fitness vs. ability. More on that in a future post.

Being a mental training fan, of course I have thought about how I'll break the race down, what I'll say to myself, process goals, and I have a pretty broad outcome target of where I'd like to finish. I'm trying to think through all of it now, so I can just go run next Sunday. I'll report back on how the strategy goes!

In preparation for sustained effort, this weeks's workouts have been decent. While I've been doing some sort of interval work for the past few weeks, I set foot on the track again for a fun, (relatively) fast ladder workout. I do enjoy breaking up the monotony of distances while pushing the pace. I'm not big on giving splits since it's just a workout, let's just say I was happy with what neuromuscular adaptations I've made to date and didn't feel necessarily slow or out of shape. Why did it seem so successful to me? I think it is because I put little to no thought into what I was doing. If I was running and 800, then that was the task I was on. When it was a recovery interval, I just focused on getting rest, and so on. I knew it would burn in some spots, but getting through it was plenty motivation. Present focus. In my world, that seems to be the key to running well-or doing anything well, for that matter..

The problem is, I tend to be a bit of a dreamer and think big. Which means I want to think about the future-where I'll be, how long it may take to get there, and so on. I think this is helpful, if you do it outside of workouts.

Along with the track workout, I did a progressive 10-miler Saturday morning. The goal was start out really easy, go down to mid 7:00's, then throw a mile in of what I hope to be close to race pace. I have written about my mixed opinions of wearing a GPS, but had one on for the purpose of this run.

What I found a bit annoying but kind of funny was that when the auto lap switched into the next mile's data; I was feeling strong and smooth-unintentionally at goal pace. With that, I casually corrected it, slowed it down and noticed how fluid and easy it felt. Until the mile came up where I was to purposefully drop the hammer. I won't lie, the effort felt considerably harder or at least I thought it did. Of course, this was at mile 8 and not 4, but I found it interesting that I may have been experiencing a 'central governor' reaction. I was able to hit the pace but with more 'chatter' (afterward, I did feel pretty tough given it was 30 degrees out!).

For more info. on the Central Governor Theory, check it out here.

What my nerdy brain keeps working on now is how I can run the same pace, but if I think about it, it becomes a 'work' instead of 'play'. I showed this video clip of the Coach Kliff Kingsbury (perhaps one of the more famous graduates from my alma mater, New Braunfels High) to my sport psych class last semester about "playing without thinking". Tackling, brawling, and x's and o's aside, perhaps there is some generalization to endurance sport here.

Maybe I'll try altering perception in the race next weekend. Anyone else ever have this happen to them?

A quiet mind makes a faster body.

Stay the course.


Raina R. said...

It's pretty funny how the brain works! You might have the green light to go fast, but perceptions are so key to a workout.
I actually had the opposite today. I ran with my son at first- two miles- 2 minutes slower than I think I should run each mile.. Then he dropped off and things started to click. I realized how helpful just getting in a slow warm up is for me.

Cory Reese said...

I think the Central Governor theory is fascinating. Been reading more about that too. Thanks for the info.