Your Brain Has No Idea What Your Body Can Do

I just talked to a friend who ran her second 5K this past weekend. She told me all about the race. How she had gone out a little too hard with bursts of speed to get ahead of strollers and runners with dogs. And how she took on a brutal hill in the second mile and it drained her stamina. And then about how she was in the final half mile of the race when her pace dropped and she felt like it was all she could do to hold it to the finish. But in that last quarter mile, she heard footsteps behind her. And from somewhere she never could have imagined or predicted, came an urgent desire to stay ahead of that person! She sped up, held it and blazed through the finish, beating her previous 5K time by more than 90 seconds and placing 5th in her age group. She was stunned and delighted.

This calls to mind a tenet of training that fascinates me: Your brain doesn’t realize what your body can do. It is in the throes of training and racing that you surprise yourself and up your game. In training we usually push your outside boundaries in small doses, letting your body demonstrate bit by bit, and over longer periods of time what it is capable of. But it can happen more dramatically in a race or adrenaline-fed event. You suddenly dig very deep and surprise yourself. In those moments you truly say to yourself, “Wow self, I did NAWT know you could do that!” And that’s where confidence is built. As Matt Fitzgerald says “Confidence is not some nonphysical quality snatched from the spiritual dimension and installed in the mind. It is the feeling that arises when the body’s knowledge of itself is in harmony with a person’s dreams.”

Congratulations to Keira, and to everyone who pushed themselves this weekend!

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