Friday, 5 October 2012

The 30 day challenge - Day 5 - Tim Noakes

I think this post carries on what I've been writing from my review of the Bristol half marathon and my analysis of Simon Freeman's account of the same race. Early today I had the time to listen to Martin Yelling's Marathon talk podcast, where I sought out the 2 episodes with Professor Tim Noakes. I listened to the second episode first, which was informative and talked a lot about diet and the role of carbohydrates that Noakes is exploring in relation to endurance events. The first episode (number 47 in the series) that I then listened to was where Noakes discussed the Central Governer theory, which he is most associated with.

First of all, I'm glad I made the time to properly listen to Marathon Talk. I've been recommended by lots of other fellow runners to listen in, have followed them on Twitter, but till now not really followed their episodes properly. My mistake! One listen and I was hooked, and also inspired! How a running nerd lik e me, who chastises others for not making time to go running, can have not found the time to listen to Martin and Tom is beyond me! Secondly, hearing Noakes expand on his thoughts and research was great.

To those who don't know, the Central Governer theory is a "model of exercise in which the brain is the primary organ that dictates how fast, how long, and how hard humans can exercise." Further: "the (Governer) process in the brain... regulates exercise in regard to a neurally calculated safe exertion by the body. In particular, physical activity is controlled so that its intensity cannot threaten the body’s homeostasis by causing anoxia damage to the heart." In the first episode, Noakes clearly explains how (mostly) runners don't just drop dead at the finish of an endurance race after hours of exertion. The Governer can be imagined as a safety mechanism that the well trained runners/athletes can push to its limit to perform ever more quicker and personal best times.

Whilst I certainly wouldn't advocate pushing yourself to the point of exertion, I've been exposed to this theory previously, and Noakes' life in research has shown that running success isn't purely physiological and down to hours of endless training. At this point, I could understand what Simon was saying in his post about sheer bloody mindedness in determining running success, compared to strict adherence to a complex training plan.

Anecdotally, I know that I take comfort in my running from following a schedule closely. I'm definitely a runner who tends to perform better when I've put the hours in. At this point I feel challenged to answer, is this due to the fact I'm in better condition? (and thus perform better because I'm in the best physical shape); or is it because my self-efficacy (see yesterday's post to understand this concept) is enhanced due to doing all my training like a good boy? Would I have got the same time in one of my better races if I just believed in my abilities to the same degree?

The role of coping is essential to help address this. When you are on your game, you keep your pace up because you feel good, stimulated and know you can keep going. When the pain bites in such a race or run, you can bat it off. Obviously if you are out of shape, or haven't trained at all, it would be very hard to sustain the required levels of energy and stamina to succeed, but I am now piqued to investigate further.

I've not done full justice to Noakes findings or theories in this post, but if you want to know more, I advise listening to the two podcasts and I promise I will go into more detail in later posts. If you have any specific questions, please ask away or post in the comments section. Either way, I felt suitably inspired for my next upcoming runs! 

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