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manage emotion

Posted By: KP
Date: Thursday, 5 July 2007, at 5:08 p.m.

I am reading “Deep Survival” which was recommended to me (a second time) by gordo back in April during a phone conversation in which I was having a particularly visceral moment in response to an annual event in the USA (tax deadline). The g-man has been sharing some tips with me that have already defused April 15th, 2008 quite a bit.

The book gets to it early on and makes clear the relationship between a “high state of arousal” and decreased perception, cognition and memory. Emotion changes the way the nervous system functions, it alters blood, muscle tone, digestion and pours chemicals into the body. This all takes place outside our conscious control. Most folks can only be sure to complete basic tasks when under intense stress. If we consider that some athletes are highly aroused in the first two hours of an IM it is easier to understand how some inexplicable decisions are made in areas such as swim and early bike efforts, fueling decisions, hydration, etc. More than a few athletes have found themselves at 90k of the bike muttering “I know better, how the heck did this happen again”.

A couple thoughts come to mind: (1) if you train the way you want to race you are more likely to perform under stress in ways that promote IM success. You will be more likely to choose predetermined IM efforts and find it easier to ignore other athlete’s who are going too hard -- or are more fit (faster). Your fueling plan should be the only option to you on race day because it is the only fueling plan you use on long rides until fueling is second nature. (2) plan ahead to help yourself see IM as an event where you string together familiar training efforts. Defuse the emotion that may create an environment ripe for mistake. When I stand on the beach or tread water prior to the cannon, my HR is some where between 75 and 85. My swim and early bike efforts, along with digestion, are in line with Big Day Training experiences. I like the quote from the book, “The most remarkable discovery of modern neuroscience is that the body controls the brain as much as the brain controls the body”.

Learn to manage emotion. Trainer Cus D’Amato said, “Fear is like fire. It can cook for you. It can heat your house. Or it can burn you down”. Our bodies work in predictable ways. They instinctively react to emotion. What becomes increasingly clear is that instictive reaction, the kind your body makes in an effort to help you (survive), may hold negative consequences; and those negative consequences may not be enough to prevent that reaction from being repeated. Memory is frail under stress. This means that it is helpful to identify instinctive reactions and provide the brain and body experience that brings about predictable, desired reaction to stress and/or emotion. This reminds me of my pal, Will. I stayed in his home prior to IM Arizona in 2006. I had the pleasure of meeting his mom. As Will's mom and I talked about the fun challenges an IM provides athletes, she told me a story about Will (I don’t think he would mind me sharing). She passed along the fact that at one time Will wasn’t crazy about flying. So, he took lessons and became a pilot. Purposeful desensitization. This is the kind of guy that figures out Ironman execution very early. Being an Army Ranger didn't hurt either.

coach KP

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