Thinking About Thinking
Good afternoon, Factoriamos! Have you ever thought about thinking? Kind of a weird idea, right? We usually think about things like ligers, liger chasing, what we want for dinner, getting our workouts in, hanging with our friends and family, and all sorts of other every day things. For many of us who are not only runners, but really really into running, we also tend to OVER think our running. Ever think about that?
In my younger days, I used to be a runner for Monmouth University. I wasn’t very good, let’s just get that out of the way right here and now, but I fought hard. All of my teammates were far better athletes than I ever was, many even better competitors, so when we all met many of them already knew how to over think things! Some were extra super fantastically good at thinking way too hard about something that is actually pretty simple: go out, put one foot in front of the other, and see who can get to the end line first! A coaching friend of mine, who also happens to be a restaurant mogul here in Jersey not far from the Pier Village store said something that was quite amazingly simple. Running, to paraphrase him, is beautiful because it is pure. You go out, I go out, we all go out, get on the starting line and see who can get to another spot in the park or on the track first. No other sport is like that.
I think my fellow coach, and former Harvard runner, is right- we are a pure sport. We have one goal, and that is to run faster than the last time we raced, and in the spirit of true competition, run faster than the girl/guy next to us. In every other sport (save for swimming and cycling) you are competing for the most points, goals, baskets, or runs than the other team within the confides of a specific time. We have no time- we have a line or oval to follow and a line to cross to win.
Often times, we look at this competition as being something totally abstract. We have to beat the other person in the mind game, trick him/her into losing to us, so we concentrate so hard on a race plan we develop in our heads and try everything we can to follow that plan. And what happens when the plan goes down the tubes because not everything worked out perfectly? The race goes down with the plan! If I have seen it once, I have seen it a hundred times in my short 11 year career so far. Two of the best races I ever ran I warmed up three times each for, and one time I was literally making silly faces on the line, and was wearing socks on my hands for! A total goof ball. BUT, the one thing I did do correctly, is when the gun went off, my instincts kicked in and instead of thinking about every last stride, and split, I looked at one thing: who is in front of me? I didn’t care who it was, I wanted to beat them (and I did beat a couple, but not many), but there was no one I wanted to beat more than myself. That attitude of “I don’t care what you have done before, I’m going to beat you today” fueled my fastest 5k to this day. My old roommate taught me that lesson after consistently beating a number of half milers who were ranked and seeded well above his times! Wild Bill, as he was called, once beat a guy with a personal record somewhere about 5-6 seconds faster than his own in a championship meet because Wild Bill said “I don’t care who he is or what he runs! Ya know what I’m gonna say to him?! RACE ME!” Then Bill went out and beat a guy who ran for the Ugandan junior Olympic team. It was not because he thought harder or more than his competitor, it’s because Bill understood that he could go out and race the shoes off of anyone near him just by DOING.
Sometimes our heads get in our way and we become our own worst enemies. This is not always the case- there are many situations where thinking and even over-thinking can wind up being beneficial to us. But all too often, competitive runners think too hard and too long about what they are doing rather than DOING what they are doing. Often times it is those that allow their body and their competitive instincts to control a race that wind up winning that race.
This is Dr. Love, saying do it, don’t just think it!
For further reading on the idea of spending less time in thought, I would suggest the book Blink by Malcolm Gladwell (and all of his other books which are incredible as well). It is a fantastic exploration into the idea of thinking in the blink of an eye.