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What do you think when you run?

12 October 2011 No Comment

Running is the most basic of all human movements. Swimming and cycling are skills that have to be learned. Humans have been running down their meals since before we began measuring time.

It’s such a natural movement it should just happen while we travel from A to B. Triathletes are great at complicating things. Analysis – paralysis is an easy affliction to catch. We have heart rate monitors, GPS watches and pedometers measuring every step we take.

In long distance endurance races controlling what goes on in your head can be the difference between a great race and an unsatisfying experience. The mind will wander if you leave it idle.

What did primitave man think of while he spent long lengths of time chasing an animal. Studies have proven that man is better suited to long endurance events than most of the animals he would have hunted. So it is possible to run down a much faster animal, by working as a team and constantly running the animal to exhaustion. Man is able to dissipate heat much more efficiently than most of his prey.

A primitive man only has one thing on his mind, the process of keeping the animal moving until exhausted. He’s not monitoring his heart rate, he’s doing that unconsciously by pacing himself. He’s smarter than the animal he hunts, he works with other team mates to cut off the animals escape routes, constantly turning the prey to keep it moving.

Eventually he wins.

What can we learn from our primitive ancestors? Firstly we are from hunter, gatherering stock. Our ancestors lived on lean meats and vegetables, with a small amount of grain when available. Secondly, we were born to run. Not in shoes with raised heels, but either bare feet or thin sandals made from hide. No cushioning, just protection from the prickles.

Third lesson, we are endurance animals. We can turn on a sudden burst of speed when we need it, but it is not sustainable like lower efforts spread over a long duration. Fourth lesson, we would tire quickly if we were calculating, how far we’ve been?  How far we have to go?  What pace we’re travelling at? What someone else is doing? The primitive hunter had simple thoughts in mind, keep moving, stay loose, never take your eyes off the prey.

If we could leave our GPS and heart rate monitor at home on race day and simply stay in the moment. Simply do what we have to do to get there as quickly as possible. We could release ourselves of all those controlling thoughts which restrict free movement. We could go faster without trying any more.

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