Sunday, 7 October 2012

The 30 day challenge - Day 6. Testing the Governer

I went out early yesterday in the Autumn sun and clocked what I call a wind-up run. This is a sort of stripped down tempo run of 5 or 6 miles, where you start at jog pace and then increase the pace at mile or time intervals. In this case, I did a couple of 7.5 minute miles then upped my pace ever quicker each consecutive mile home along one of my regular runs (see here: I was mulling over  in those first few miles what I could write about, and thought about what I'd heard and thought about the 'Central Governer' theory that I'd discussed the previous day.

I focused in on what Noakes and the presenters on the first Marathon Talk interview had described in terms of the feeling of fatigue and what makes you slow and how endurance athletes have to 'fight against' this temptation in order to post personal best times. For the next couple of miles I decided that I'd try an ever increasing speed each mile and see how I felt and whether I could sustain the effort I was giving. Of course, in interval sessions this is normal behaviour, but I was looking to try and rate how I subjectively felt and just how uncomfortable I found it.

I know this was highly anecdotal and unscientific but given I was a bit sluggish yesterday and hadn't planned for the run, I thought I might find it tougher. In reality, it wasn't an absolute cakewalk, but it wasn't as bad as I imagined I'd feel, and I did feel great by the end of the run.

The best advice I implemented in my thinking came from Martin and Tom earlier in their Marathon Talk episode where they talked about techniques to push on when you feel that pace may be beginning to flag. Some are based on psychological research findings, others are just ones they adapted. What worked for me was:

1) Put on your 'Man suit' - This is a self talk strategy to really 'Zip up your mantra' to deliver the time you want to be running at. A call to 'man up' and not let the pain or fatigue affect your cruising speed. They mentioned how Bruce Tulloh had used a technique in his running where he would ask himself on a scale of 1 to 10 how he was feeling and whether he could continue. If the answer was anything less than the 10 where everything would be ok, he would push on! I tried this and it definitely made me realise near to home to keep at it. The logic that this approach takes is: Pain is temporary, deal with it.

2) Thinking ahead: (Or in Psychological terms: Visualisation). If you try and think yourself ahead of where you are currently running and seeing yourself achieve your goal, how will that make you feel? Think about the reasons why you're pushing yourself to do the activity you're doing. In both of my PBs for marathon and 10k, I've really spent the time the night before the race trying to visualise how I will feel. Usually, when I've come to run those races I can say that the reality of the running wasn't as bad as the visualised race I ran through in my mind the night before!

3) Tune in/tune out - Association again. Are you counting from 1 to 100? or in Paula Radcliffe's case 1 to 200? Also, are you wasting mental energy overthinking your performance? If you take a mindful approach to your work (staying in the moment; renegotiating non-judgementally your race with yourself), then you should actually end up thinking less about your race and actually just focusing on your running. This I definitely need to practice, and think it is very powerful.

Overall, I was trying to challenge how I felt physically and just saying to myself, "well this isn't as easy and comfortable as the first mile. But its not that hard," and in so doing was able to gently up the pace and relax into my run. Again, though I try and work on the mental side of performance, I think the take home I would say from the run is, practice more on the mental side. I've got the sessions per week in a regular routine now, in this off season before Christmas, I'm going to sit down and work on these and other mental strategies more methodically. I'll share these as I work through them and find out more from research.

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