I found an interesting article in the NY Times, titled "I'm Not Really Running, I'm Not Really Running..." It's about how the mind can interfere in your athletic performance, and how to use meditative and disassociation strategies to overcome mental blocks.
Here are some excerpts:
BILL MORGAN, an emeritus professor of kinesiology at the University of Wisconsin
, likes to tell the story, which he swears is true, of an Ivy League
pole vaulter who held the Division 1 record in the Eastern region.
His coaches and teammates, though, noticed that he could jump even higher. Every time he cleared the pole, he had about a foot to spare. But if they moved the bar up even an inch, the vaulter would hit it every time. One day, when the vaulter was not looking, his teammates raised the bar a good six inches. The man vaulted over it, again with a foot to spare.
When his teammates confessed, the pole vaulter could not believe it. But, Dr. Morgan added, “once he saw what he had done, he walked away from the jumping pit and never came back.”
After all, Dr. Morgan said, everyone would expect him to repeat that performance. And how could he?
The moral of the story? No matter how high you jump, how fast you run or swim, how powerfully you row, you can do better. But sometimes your mind gets in the way. “All maximum performances are actually pseudo-maximum performances,” Dr. Morgan said. “You are always capable of doing more than you are doing.”
But since most people can do better, no matter how good their performance, the challenge is to find a safe way to push a little harder. Many ordinary athletes, as well as elites, use a technique known as dissociation.
Dr. Morgan, who tested the method in research studies, said he was inspired by a story, reported by an anthropologist that, he suspects, is apocryphal. It involves Tibetan monks who reportedly ran 300 miles in 30 hours, an average pace of six minutes a mile. Their mental trick was to fixate on a distant object, like a mountain peak, and put their breathing in synchrony with their locomotion. Every time a foot hit the ground they would also repeat a mantra.
So Dr. Morgan and his colleagues instructed runners to say “down” to themselves every time a foot went down. They were also to choose an object and stare at it while running on a treadmill and to breathe in sync with their steps. The result, Dr. Morgan said, was that the runners using the monks’ strategy had a statistically significant increase in endurance, doing much better than members of a control group who ran in their usual way.
That, in a sense, is the trick that Paula Radcliffe
said she uses. Ms. Radcliffe, the winner of this year’s New York City Marathon
, said in a recent interview that she counts her steps when she struggles in a race. “When I count to 100 three times, it’s a mile,” she said. “It helps me focus on the moment and not think about how many miles I have to go. I concentrate on breathing and striding, and I go within myself.”
The whole article can be found at http://www.nytimes.com/2007/12/06/he...tml?ref=health