How to Teach Your Brain to Run – Part 1

When we talk about fatigue in running, we always think that it is the muscles and perhaps your stamina that are the two biggest factors that can let you down. Obviously to run competitively your body needs to be up to scratch physically for the ordeal. So at no point are we stating that physical prowess and training are not needed, but it is the brain that is the ultimate determining factor in how much training and running you can personally cope with. That is why in your physical training you must also include teaching your brain.

The Importance of Your Brain in Running

When you are running it is your brain that ultimately determines how much your body can take, it also monitors your fuel levels, how much hydration is in your body and if you have any tissue damage. It will then shut down parts of your body when it feels there is damage taking place.

Fatigue

Fatigue is one of the biggest obstacles to overcome in running, especially in long distance running. There are dozens of theories what brings on fatigue, and the leading one for years is that muscles start failing when there is a physical problem and you eventually slow down and stop. A rather new theory is that fatigue is little more than an emotion, that is generated in response by your brain signaling your body needs protection. This emotion comes from an acute sense of impending danger to your organs.

However, most experienced runners seem to agree on a third theory, which is that your running pace is dictated by a combination of subconscious regulatory messages and also a conscious evaluation of your physical state.

How to Teach Your Brain

Sports scientists held two studies, one in 2004 and the other in 2009 to see if your brain could be fooled into thinking that your body was in better shape than it actually was. In both studies, runners were divided into two groups. One of the groups were told that they were to drink a performance enhancing sports drink every minute or so and the second group were just given water. In both studies the results of the first group were far superior to that of the control group, and the conclusion by the experts was that the brain had altered the physical performance of the runners based on the information that the drink enhanced performance.

Taking the conclusion further a development program of how to teach your brain to make you run longer and faster was put into place. And the following five simple strategies have been proven to teach your brain that all effort can be controlled and is manageable.

  • Race Repetitions
  • Down a Pint
  • Extending Your Runs
  • Split Runs That are Negative
  • Tuneup Races

In part two of this blog we identify each of the five strategies and see exactly how to implement them in your normal training regime.