September 18, 2009

You must not love the bear

"Yes, there was a depression. But how came it? Who devised it? The 'bears', sir. The depression of our stock was solely owing to the growling, the hypocritical growling, of the bears." (Melville, The Confidence-Man)

The times have shown us that, just as faith in stupid stuff makes a fragile bubble, faults in faith will keep us down. The bleak illusion of doom, be it the counterbalance to earlier delusions of eternal windfall, is still an illusion. It brings hard times on a system and the bodies that make it up.

But things are what they are. Never trust a bull. Never trust a bear.

Some recent exercise science espouses the "central governor theory", in which it is an involuntary faculty of the brain that decides when the exercising body tires. That is, it's not some chemical reaction in your muscles sending a message to the brain about fatigue, but just the opposite: the brain tells the muscles to get tired. Why? Just because.

If the theory is valid, then training is at least as much about the mind as the muscles or the lungs. The central nervous system must be convinced that the myo-fascial system has untapped reserves.

Basically the brain must stop being such a pussy. Somehow the squishy little fellow must be conned into trusting you.

In that spirit, here is my stimulus package for my bearish brain.

  1. Long tempo runs, executed with patience, toughness, and playfulness. Last night's 9 miles of tempo was faster and stronger than any training I've done in several months. I kept up with a group who dusted me last week. The air was cool and sweet. Trust your training.
  2. Bounteous training table. My wife writes about food for a living, and we've been getting on the Michael Pollan bandwagon, so pretty much everything we eat is organic, local, and delicious. I drink a big fruit smoothie every morning, with a bagel and a Clif Bar. Dinner always comes with salad. I eat a ton of good calories. Trust your training table.
  3. Recovery days after every quality run. Whether it's because I'm a rookie or an old dude or both, I need full rest days between workouts. I do light cross-training, mostly core, a few times a week. I stretch a lot. But total rest is OK too. Most the chronic problems I had earlier in the year when I ran more often have disappeared. So that's my recovery package: trust your rest.
  4. I've been training with others who run more consistent and tougher paces that I normally would. I push harder because there's someone up ahead of me, and that's annoying. Trust your training partners.
  5. I'm meditating again to help focus myself. Being able to focus on form when I'm tired has sped me up immensely. If I can meditate for an hour, I can definitely focus on the road for about that amount of time. Also, being relaxed is good. Trust your inner zen master.
  6. My wife and baby daughter have sacrificed time with me for a few hours for 4 or 5 Sundays while I do my long runs. The baby teaches me the value of patience and the big picture all the time. Trust your outer zen master.

There's more, but those are the main planks. They're what I'll think about 43 days from now, at mile 16 or so, to override the slowdown. My message to my brain is pretty much the same as my message to big, timid institutional investors - man up, engage with the system, and STFU.


  1. ///Basically the brain must stop being such a pussy.///

    So, the take away is... don't love the bear, but nor should you love the pussy.

    WAIT! Er.

  2. Ahem.

    Well, let's just say everyone deserves lovin'. Just not the bear.