Oh the things I’d know if I were a long distance runner….

17 Dec

I had so many things on my mind at 2am this morning I had to get up. Rather than lying in bed wishing I could go back to sleep, I put on a pot of coffee, had a bite to eat (stomach was rumbling– actually, that may have been the reason I awoke so early), and made a list of all I wanted to accomplish today. If I had a treadmill I’d be on it right now. When I’m exercising it’s like my brain is on overdrive- thoughts pinging this way and that, bouncing from the lobe to lobe. Sometimes I can catch them, other times they are gone in an electrified flash.

I’m on a quest to better my 10K time. A challenge was thrown out recently among a group of friends, and of course, I had to take it. Monday I just set the treadmill for 60 min to see how far I could get in that time. I ran 6.19 miles. I was pretty proud of myself. Barely under a 10K and didn’t really feel like I was trying. It’s not my heart that will fail me. It’s my knees, leg fatigue, and the thoughts in my head….

Yesterday I was ready to give it another try. The group was posting their times, and I knew I had to make it to 10K this time, and my goal was under an hour.  Competitive? Not at all. When a friend of mine had texted me a photo of the treadmill readout following his run at 8pm on Sunday night before my first trial, I went immediately to my room, put on my running shoes and shorts, and then ended up standing there looking at goofy self in the mirror and saying, “Kori, what the heck are you doing? It’s 8pm. You can run in the morning!” I put my pajamas on and quelled my anxiety as best I could, but I know if I had a treadmill here at home, I’d have been on it in an instant!

But yesterday morning I did it. Despite feeling like I was coming down with a cold, I did it. I wanted to fly. Fly I did. (For my purposes!) I managed a 10K in 57 minutes and 34 seconds and met my goal.

This time wasn’t nearly as easy, however. I could blame it on my scratchy throat and heavy eyes. I could say it was because I didn’t have any caffeine. And perhaps those played a role, but more than anything I was really in my head!

I always read when I’m doing my cardio each day. This is something I look forward to every morning. My days are so full, that reading for pure enjoyment outside of work related materials and the research I have to devour for my PhD studies, is hard to come by. So I had my Nook positioned perfectly on the treadmill. At times it would be slightly to the right of the timer. Other times I’d slide it to the left to view the speed. But it was always there, the words drawing me in.

Yesterday I was engaged in book about heuristics. “Fascinating!” you’re thinking.  And it is! This is just a fancy term used to define how we make sense of things, problem-solve, or make decisions or judgements.  Yes, I read this stuff on the treadmill! On this particular day, however, I know I wouldn’t have had an opportunity to get nearly as cerebral if my run had only been a quick 20-30 minutes. With an hour to spend, I really got to rummage around in my brain and watch my thoughts and get a sense for the directions my mind was leading me.

I want to share what I noticed:

“Hmmm, I’ve gone 3.4 miles in 28 minutes. Okay good…”

“I hope my knee doesn’t start hurting.”

“What am I thinking right now?”

“You have to meet the goal you set for yourself.”

“I feel like I’m on an incline….but I’m not.”

“Joe must have fixed the treadmill. It was a bit unstable last time.”

“What if you don’t make it to 10K under an hour?”

“You don’t have a choice but to make it to 10K under an hour.”

“Gosh, I have a ways to go…”

“Can I keep up this pace?”

“How am I applying the visionary heuristic?”

Are you tired yet?! 😉 My thoughts were everywhere. Yours are too, but we rarely take the time to just watch them.  I want to share with you what the visionary heuristic is though because the next time you start doubting your ability to accomplish something, you can take this with you!

PERCEPTION BECOMES REALITY.

Remember this one thing. I did not say “perception IS reality.” The objective (what is fact based, right here, right now, present and in front of us) meets subjective (our cognitive biases, emotion, thoughts, values, feelings, etc. that color our worlds) to create our reality.  Here are some examples:

  • “Micky Mantle, baseball extraordinaire, when asked about his uncanny ability to blast home runs, the Hall-of-Famer famously replied: “I never really could explain it. I just saw the ball as big as a grapefruit.” It’s not surprising really that Mantle couldn’t explain his experience in the batter’s box. What he was describing was one of the fundamental mysteries of human perception. His comment goes to the heart of heuristic thinking, in particular the way the human mind comingles vision and emotions like confidence and fear of failure” (Herbert).
  • In a small informal experiment,  “volunteers were asked to estimate the size of a softball. They were not asked about inches or centimeters, because he didn’t want them to overthink it; he wanted to tap into how the brain actually “sees” the ball. So he had them look at several discs of different sizes, and choose the one that best matched the size of a regulation softball. Then he took these perceptions and compared them with the players’ batting averages from the evening. When he ran all the data through the computer, the findings were clear and interesting: The bigger the softball players perceived the ball to be, the higher their batting average that evening; the smaller, the lower. Like Mickey Mantle, the most talented Charlottesville softball sluggers (or at least the hottest hitters that evening) saw the ball as bigger than it actually is. ” (Herbert)
  • And finally a golf example: “Just as Mickey Mantle saw the baseball as the size of a grapefruit, many professional golfers report highly distorted perceptions of the hole depending on how they’re putting. It can be as big as a bucket or basketball hoop, or as tiny as a dime or an aspirin, according to reports from the sports pages. Golfers who played well on the day of the study consistently saw the hole as bigger than it actually is—and bigger than the less successful golfers saw it. But handicap was unrelated to perception. In other words, both accomplished golfers and hackers saw the hole looming large if they were playing well on that particular day.” (Herbert).

Having the hour on the treadmill, pushing myself in a manner that was at times slightly uncomfortable, gave me opportunity to view my perceptions and their impact on my performance.  You can apply this principle to anything in your life -business, career, education, and any goals you are working toward.  The treadmill of life gives us many opportunities to pay attention to what is working for or against us….if we’re willing to listen.

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4 Responses to “Oh the things I’d know if I were a long distance runner….”

  1. jamikotera December 17, 2011 at 7:09 AM #

    I love reading your blogs in the quiet of the morning while I’m having my first cup of coffee. I have no distractions and get to absorb the words so I can hopefully apply them to my day. Today is the “difficult” family get-to-gether that I have to face every holiday season so your timing couldn’t be better. Will it be a tiny ball that is impossible to hit (letting myself be miserable & anxious waiting for those snide remarks to come?) or will it be the size of a grapefruit (so I can enjoy myself, stay in the moment, and get through the event unscathed?) I guess that’s up to me, isn’t it? Thanks again for the “readjust” of my brain!! Always, Jami

    • Kori Propst December 19, 2011 at 12:44 PM #

      😉 Your reply made me smile, Jamie. I’d love to hear how your family gathering played out. Facing what have been difficult situations before can be viewed as a wonderful opportunity and challenge to become what we know we can be- thoughtful, intelligent, wise, and in tune. Even if you come out of it feeling bruised and battered, that doesn’t necessarily mean something negative happened. You may be tired from working on “responding” and “paying attention” rather than being impulsive. But the effort it takes to do this will results in much less blood-letting than what might occur as a result of being impulsive and reactive!

  2. Donloree December 19, 2011 at 7:13 AM #

    Grapefruits and watermelons, not peas or brussel sprouts! I’m a working on this and my 10k time….wondering if I can do under 50 this week. 😀

    • Kori Propst December 19, 2011 at 12:46 PM #

      I’m trying to think of large fruits that I actually like. I’m not a fan of melons. I do enjoy grapefruit but haven’t had one since high school. I think I’ll go for a head of cauliflower or broccoli, or cabbage. Yes, that sounds great! 🙂
      Under 50?! You’re an animal, DL. I’ll kiss your feet when you’re here in March if you get it. I’ll wait to try when I’m not wishing I could cut my sinuses out of my head!

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