I was just reading a book the other day that discussed how the brain is rather conservative when it comes to how much you can push yourself during exercise. Basically, when your body’s core gets to a certain temperature, your brain tells it to stop or at least slow down. I suppose it is when you are pushing yourself to the max and don’t think you can get any further (similar to hitting a wall). Unfortunately, I don’t think many people even reach this point. I say “unfortunately” because folks tend to give up too easily and aren’t willing to push themselves to the limit. Hey, I don’t do it all the time, but I do it as often as I can. It’s actually a great feeling even though you think you are going to hyperventilate and collapse. Okay, I will admit that the “great feeling” usually comes after the experience is done and over.
After reading about the brain’s conservative nature, I went for a run on the bridges the other day and thought about ways to override the system. “Okay lady, you are going to get to the point when you think you are about dead, but just keep pushing through and keep those legs moving.” That seemed easy enough, right? Fortunately for me I was running with someone who moves at a faster pace. I often try to keep up with him and manage to for quite some time (the longest being 8 miles, but he continued on to 14 miles so I have to believe that he was just holding back). This is always a test for me and I force myself to work harder in order to keep up for as long as possible. Some days just seem easier than other days.
Well, it was one of those days where I really had to work at it in order to maintain his pace. As we started running up the bridge while the burning sun shined down on us, all I could think about was tricking my mind. My mantra for that long uphill battle was: “You are strong, you can keep going, don’t slow down!” It seemed to work because I was on his tail the whole way up. Then I made the mistake of thinking that there was still three more miles to go with 3 more uphills. It was all over as soon as I thought that. After another half mile I slowed down and told him I was going back for the other runners. Geez, that was a defeat. Okay, not really, because I worked my butt off during those first 3 miles! Then I made another mistake. I looked at my Garmin which told me how fast I was actually going. That doesn’t seem right… I only ran that fast! Who was playing tricks on me, my mind or this technology?
So, I am pretty sure that I didn’t outsmart my brain during that evening run. It still managed to get the best of me. I did learn something, though. Positive thoughts can drive us, while negative thoughts can slow us down. I have no idea what my threshold is if I were to fully apply myself, but I will continue to reach for it and someday I may find out (hopefully not the day I end up in the hospital… maybe having a conservative brain isn’t a bad thing).