The gift of failure
First of all, huge congrats to Steph who ran the Georgina Marathon, crushed her PB, came 2nd in her age group and got a BQ! And Congrats to Carol and Zoe who ran the half, and Chris R, Gillian, Dave K and Eleanor who ran the Scotiabank 10K! What an amazing weekend of RACES BEING BACK!!!
Speaking of races. As so many of us know, races are 90% mental and the other half is physical.
The anterior cingulate cortex is an area in the brain which is in control of internal conflicts: ie the battle between wanting to slow down and wanting to keep pushing in a race. Endurance exercise is known to strengthen the ACC. Presumably bigger ACC’s provide a greater ability to “stay in it” and not give in to the voice telling you to hit the brakes. Interestingly, a larger ACC is also associated with having experienced adversity. In a study where students were tested on pain tolerance by holding their hands in cold water, those who had experienced the fewest adverse experiences growing up pulled their hands out earlier. But students who had experienced a lot of trauma didn’t do well either – those who faired the best had experienced difficulties, but nothing severely traumatic. Top athletes who have had difficult childhoods or have experienced some suffering credit those struggles with their ability to endure. They have built a strength and resilience within the structure of their brains which helps them to “ride it out”.
HOWEVER – if you have so far been blessed with a trauma-free life, don’t fret for your endurance capabilities. This is where the gift of failure comes in. In many cases, top athletes associate their repeated failures to achieve their goals as actual painful suffering. Therefore the main element they were lacking in order to truly succeed, can be built through repeated failure. Psychologist Robert Wicks has termed this sensation “sweet disgust”. This is the opposite sensation of defeat. When you don’t perform as you’d like, instead of feeling defeated and walking away, you become fed-up and channel that anger into a healthy inner fuel. This in turn enhances the maximum perceived effort and intensity you’re willing to endure. It is a flip-switch in your brain that can be brought about by failure.
I have definitely experienced this in workouts and races. Sometimes when confronted with the question “how bad to you want it”, the answer to myself is “not that bad”. And then I’m disappointed with my performance. If this happens enough times in a row, I can become fed-up with myself, and find I can really tap into a new level, just to avoid the pain of defeat.
If you don’t experience pain or suffering when you don’t perform well, you are free from all of this and you vibrate on a higher plane than me. If you do experience pain or suffering from a poor performance – that is your gift. Don’t sugar-coat it. Allow yourself to be upset. And turn that healthy wrath into a super power for the next one.
Lakeshore workout for tomorrow:
3 x 1200 w 1:30 rest, 3 mins, 4-6 x 400 w 1:15
If you ran the 10K on Sunday, take a break or just do the 1200’s if feeling ok
If you ran any distance in Georgina, no workout (and absolutely no running yet if you did the marathon)
If you ran Boston, you can come and jog, but no workout
If you’re just coming back to workouts, consider doing the 800 of every 1200
6:15 am GO TIME. Come earlier if you need more time to warm-up.
See ya in the am!