Thursday, February 23, 2006


That sound you hear is me STILL knocking after mentioning not getting sick in yesterday’s post. The first thing Amy did after arriving home from work was throw up. She said she felt better after that, so I went for my run. Upon returning she said she threw up 2 more times. Then she proceeded to sleep for the next 12 hours. It’s “interesting” that the 3 people in our family that got the flu shot have all been sick. Not sure if the flu shot has any affect on the 24-hour bug or not.

Not sure if just mentioning mental toughness was enough or if other factors like running later in the day, warmer (35 degrees) temps, etc. were involved, but I had a great run last night. After taking Bailey for a mile, I proceeded to run a new “10 mile” loop in 71 minutes. This is the same loop I ran in 84 minutes last weekend when the windchill was minus 17. It might be a little short, but not much considering I ran the last 4 (certified) hilly miles into a headwind in 28:40. The 4 miles before that were mostly downhill with a gentle tailwind. In any case, it was a nice run. The pace was very similar to my last marathon-paced workout, but this time it just felt like a quick training run, not some special workout that I had to get pumped up to run.

While at home yesterday, I took the opportunity to start re-reading The Total Runner: A Complete Mind-Body Guide to Optimal Performance by Dr. Jerry Lynch. He’s also the author of Running Within and Thinking Body, Dancing Mind. Reading some of the statements below, it’s hard not to get excited about the possibilities;

  1. Most people rarely utilize more than 10 percent of their physical and mental capabilities.
  2. Elite athletes invariably state that 80-90 percent of their performance is attributed to their level of mental fitness.
  3. Belief in limits creates limited people…both history and experimental data show that humans possess vastly larger capabilities than those they now use.
  4. Don’t limit yourself in any way. Let go of the past. Get off your beliefs. Give yourself the space to become everything that you are capable of being. You are the only one that can fulfill your imagined potential.
  5. Being mentally strong is a learned behavior. The more you practice with the mind, the easier it becomes and the better you will get.
  6. The inner powers you discover are not new; you already possess them – you just habitually fail to use them.

I could go on-and-on, but I think this story sums things up nicely.

Prior to Roger Bannister breaking the 4-minute mile, over 50 reputable medical journals throughout the world claimed that such speed by a human was not only impossible, but unthinkable. Once Bannister transcended that “limit,” the sub-4 mile became commonplace as over 50 athletes mimicked his performance over the next 18 months. Once Bannister lifted the barrier other athletes could mentally “see” that it was possible.

Quote of the Day:
“Beliefs are limits to be examined and transcended.” John Lilly


Duncan Larkin said...

Good stuff. I need to get this book. Good post Chad.

Anonymous said...

Great job with the training, but a lot of the motivational stuff is wrong. It's not true that 50 people broke the 4 minute mile 18 months after Bannister. Bannister and Landy were the only ones that year. The other stuff is mostly wrong too, but I won't labor the point.

I liked the "here's what I do" and "new focus" posts. Here's a thought -- doing aerobic runs in itself is a sort of mental exercise. It's just uncomfortable enough to keep you alert, but steady enough that you're not distracted. If you tune into your breathing, it really is a form of meditation. For me, the mental aspect of racing is being physically ready for the race so that the adrenaline kicks in when it needs to, and feeling calm, and not afraid of anything. I don't find slogans or "motivational" reading much help for this, but you know, different strokes for different folks and all that ...

brent said...

great post.

Chad said...

Miler, I did a little research on letsrun and it sounds like the myth of 50 guys breaking 4 within 18 months is everywhere.

Here's a list that shows it took 10 years to get 50 sub-4 guys.

So I apologize for believing this myth. You'd think an author/runner would check his facts.

I'll also agree that the point about using only 10% of our physical and mental capabilities sounds too good to be true. How would anyone measure them.

Curious what else you think is "mostly wrong."

I agree that strong aerobic runs can be a form of meditation. The run I did last night sure was.

I think some people "just know" how to do things like relax, visualize and stay positive. Others need to practice these things just like they practice running.

Anonymous said...

Well, OK... but it's going to be kind of long. Sorry. (-;

The 50 medical journals bit is also wrong. There aren't that many studies on the limits of running performance (see Noakes). In fact, for a given specialised topic, there are not 50 prestigious journals that cover that topic. There is usually one "top" journal and a hanfdul of first tier journals.

A more interesting observation is the elite athletes attibuting 80-90% of their performance to "mental fitness". This may well be true (that elites make this misattribution), but if so, what does it mean ? It certainly suggests that elite athletes are not very good scientists, since there is plenty of data to show that these guys are simply quite exceptional physiologically. But I find it interesting that they make the attribution anyway.

The rest of those statements are just not very meaningful. Advising someone to "let go of the past" sounds good, as does advising someone to "practice with the mind". But what do these things mean ? And where is the demonstrated link to athletic performance ?

These are complex and difficult problems that have been keeping philosophers and psychologists busy for at least a few thousand years, and they won't be solved overnight by a pep-talk from a pop-psychologist jock. I think top athletes actually struggle with these issues as much as anyone else.

They are actually very important questions for improving our mental health, so I don't mean to say that it's not important -- in fact I think it's very healthy to integrate ones running into a complete and consistent framework for dealing with life. I really admired Herb Elliot's approach to running (incidentally, I watched the video and he absolutely destroyed his competition in the Rome olympics) -- he was heavily inspired by the ideas of the stoics. But I view running as a vehicle to further a quest to become a better person, not the other way around.

Anonymous said...

here's another myth busted. not really any such thing as the "24 hour flu."

Many cases of "24 hour flu" are food poisoning in some form.

Real flu--not food poisoning, not a bad cold--is a nasty, nasty illness.

miler, have you ever thought of getting your own blog? You have good stuff to say.

Chad said...

Evan, I guess I was just really full of shit yesterday.

It's funny you mentioned if Miler thought about blogging. I've had the same thoughts too. Then when I read my emails this morning, someone else suggested the same thing.