Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Listen to your heart

But then consult your brain.

Your REASONING brain, that is - not your FEAR brain. I've decided that I have two brains. Perhaps you do too.

A few runs ago, I noticed that my brain sends a constant stream of messages my way - a lot of which are total bunk - balderdash - phooey - baloney and let's just say it - LIES!!! They come from the fear brain - the part of the brain that really means well - it is trying to save me from imminent peril, but doesn't serve me well when I'm not being chased by grizzly bears, which is most of the time.

Messages like: "This is too hard", "I can't do it", "I'm not going to make it", "If I continue like this I'M GOING TO DIE!!!! WARNING, WARNING, WILL ROBINSON"

I have discovered that in situations like that, I should listen to my heart. I have developed an actual dialogue with my heart and two brains that goes something like this:

FEAR BRAIN: "This is too hard. My heart is beating too fast. I'm already tired and I just started. I can't run for long today".
REASONING BRAIN: "OK, maybe you're right; let's check with the heart. Heart, how are you feeling?"
HEART: "Doing well. I can make full use of oxygen and we can take a full breath. No gasping for air. So far, so good".
REASONING BRAIN: "OK, FEAR BRAIN? See, everything is OK. I'm taking care of you".

And so, I'm at peace for a few moments and I can continue. Then the cycle is repeated with variations. I can even push myself using this dialogue. As I approach a hill I can reassure FEAR BRAIN, that yes, HEART is straining but everything is ok, there's a top to the hill and then a recovery period.

Did you notice something interesting in that dialogue? I did. I have experienced much greater success with running since consciously giving voice to these three personas within me. The key has been listening to FEAR BRAIN. In the past I have just tried to ignore that voice, pretend it isn't there. Bad idea.


Remember, it's whole purpose is to SAVE MY LIFE. If I am ignoring it, it is obvious that I am either oblivious to my impending doom or I am too stupid to care so FEAR BRAIN will try other tactics which include various stealth attacks using the mind and the body as tools. It will not stop until I give up.

Listening to FEAR BRAIN, and then neutrally examining information that challenges its message has yielded such positive results in running that I am going to scientifically try it in my professional life. It will be especially interesting when I am moving through a hot pocket. I am excited to see what happens.

I had to throw in some pictures from the trail.

Keep moving forward, my friends. Have a wonderful week.


  1. This is a great post, but I also just had to add: you look great in that photo!

  2. What a wonderful post! I hope to take it to heart (and to my brains!) and see how my life improves. Thank you, my friend.

  3. A very good job on the post and now I know my problem. I don't think my heart can take a full breadth so that is why I can't run. And I just thought it was because I was lazy. ;)

    From a technical point of view, your use of color enhances the article, but hides your link.

  4. Norm - I have just one word for you: metaphor :)
    About the technical: point well taken. FYI there are two links - let it be like a treasure hunt - hover to find.