Hope everyone’s hanging in ok. One thing I’ve been thinking about this week is grit and endurance. Timely, eh? Basically, what gives us the strength and energy to persevere when things are hard?
There are many theories about this, as well as what causes some people to “quit” when things get hard while others seem to have some undefinable thing that keeps them going. In Navy Seals training, nobody is kicked out – the people who don’t make it through are the ones who self-select out by quitting. And it is impossible to know from the start who those people will be. The best ultra-endurance runners are not the strongest or fastest or better by any measurable quality in a gym. These people have just figured something out that allows them to keep going.
I was listening to a very interesting podcast which offered some insight as to what this thing might be. Back to neuroscience. When we do hard things that require effort and focus, our brains release noradrenaline. This is a chemical which builds up over time. Eventually, enough noradrenaline builds up that our brain shuts down cognitive control and we quit. This can be the result of anything from enduring being in cold water, running mile upon mile with little sleep, practicing a tricky musical passage, … really anything that’s hard.
But there is a way to tramp down this noradrenaline to give ourselves more gas and mileage – the ability to endure and not quit. That is with dopamine. Dopamine is our brain’s reward mechanism. It makes us feel good. It is our brain’s way of telling us we’re on the right track. Keep going. So how do we get a hit of dopamine in the middle of enduring something hard? That is the brain hack trick that the grittiest people have figured out.
Basically, we have to self-reward with our own internally generated sense of accomplishment. It’s growth mindset in action. This is not just positive self-talk though. If I am bonking and slowing down in a race, I’ll know I’m lying to myself if I say “you’re doing great!” It’s not delusion. It’s really acknowledging and making a meaningful connection with your milestones. Remember, it’s just chemistry – your brain is a generalist and is designed this way to keep you going when you’re on the right track. YOU decide what that track is. If it’s running a marathon it might be making it to halfway, then 30K, then looking forward to racing the last 5K. If it’s staying in cold water it might be making it until sunrise, and then to lunchtime. Every time you hit a milestone your brain surges with dopamine and pushes back that quit response. The milestone could even be “I’ve fallen down this ladder, but my god I’m still holding on!” Dopamine surge. You can keep going.
On that note, I think we’re all doing awesome and look! … we’ve made it to almost mid-January in a pandemic! Once we make it through February we’ll be able to see spring and things will get much easier. We got this.
Onto workouts for this week:
- Hills! Lest we forget these. I think it’s been a while. Any combo – long, short, a mix of both. So good for our strength and power.
- Tempo: 3 x 10 min w 3 min easy – keep the tempo pace in check. We’re still mid-winter base building. No need to go red line.
- Fartlek: 3 sets of 5 x 1 min w 45 sec rest; 4 mins bw sets
And here is an update from Monica on our Power Hour!: (hint: this might be next Wednesday’s workout)
LES Power Hour: Next steps
- We’re looking for ONE MORE runner to fill out Team #8. Please connect with Monica if you’d like to be added
- Step 1: Find your team below
- Step 2: Run as hard as you can for 15 minutes…like, 15 minutes exactly.
- All legs to be completed between January 18-24
- Step 3: Once you’ve run, submit your distance
- Submit your distance in KM’s
- Step 4: The distances of all your team members will be added together to get your team’s total distance
- Step 5: The winning team will be the team that covers the most distance
Thanks all and chat soon!