We were doing cleans into a front squat, and I apologized for messing up. It just feels so awkward! Becky told me to put the bar down and do 5 burpees. Crap!
"You've got to stop apologizing. You have to just move on, " she told me. I'm a work in progress.
The Runner's Brain by Dr. Jeff Brown came out this fall, I moved it right to the top of the book club reading list, bumping a few books I had already scheduled. Sorry about that. I couldn't wait to read this one. I have read quite a few reviews on other blogs and was excited by the positive response. I've also read quite a few interviews with Dr. Jeff Brown, which is why I decided not to interview him myself. I'll post links to those at the end of the post.
Anyways, I thought I'd have a unique perspective on this book since for the last couple of years, I've been working really hard on getting out of my head. Because of the work I've done, there wasn't a whole lot of new information for me. Instead, I found everything he said to confirm the work I've been doing with Becky.
Dr. Brown starts off by giving a little anatomy and physiology lesson about the brain, talking about the reticular activating system. The RAS is the area of the brain that takes all the incoming information and decides what you need to pay attention to. The RAS can only hold a finite amount of information, and Dr. Brown says that you need to choose that information wisely.
"Before you build the confidence to respond with a 'heck yeah I'm a runner', your RAS needs to believe. And it needs to send a message to the rest of your brain that it, too, should believe. Your job is to throw the RAS as much and as many different types of information you can about your being a runner. This is how you can strenthen your identity as a runner."
Dr. Brown talks about setting goals, which help you define success and motivate you, and dressing the part, calling it "enclothed cognition". I don't know about you, but I sure feel more confident when I head out for a run in my tights and technical shirts than I would if I put on some baggy old sweatpants and sweatshirt. Not to mention how heavy those would feel. Same goes for life in general. If you are feeling down, doesn't it perk you up to shower and put on an outfit you know looks good on you? In the picture above, it was foggy and drizzly, so I put on my "RunHappy" shirt, just to give myself a boost, and had a great run! Corny? Maybe. But it works.
Goal setting should be realistic, says Dr. Brown, and there should be a backup goal. Kind of like what some people do, setting A, B, C, etc goals for a race. This year's Chicago marathon was the first time I made a backup goal and was I ever glad I did that. There was no disappointment on my part for not achieving my primary goal because I had the backup plan, which was successful.
Dr. Brown also talks about how we train our brains to respond to the run, the elusive runner's high, and the power of magical thinking. I laughed about that last one.
You get the point.
There's a section devoted to racing and the importance of the social aspect of running. Dr. Brown also addresses pre-race jitters and post-race blues. As he says, most trouble for runners occurs before and after the race. The majority of us do well during the race because running is what we do. We just focus on the task at hand. He gives some suggestions on dealing with pre-race anxiety.
"The moral of the story is that you should attend to the things you can control and minimize the things you can't..."Easier said than done, right? That's why he suggests visualization.
"Your goals should be to manage your anxiety by thinking confident thoughts. Try coming up with some canned mantras you can easily remember and repeat to yourself....Just come prepared and give the best effort you can give on that day....Stick to your rituals."The book finishes up with Dr. Brown's 7-Step Fit Brain Training Plan and some thoughts from elite runners.
This was a great little book with helpful tips that could benefit every runner. I liked that the book didn't contain a lot of superfluous information. For me, this book was confirmation of what I've been working on for the last couple of years. These things he suggests do work, but you need to practice them, just like you do your running. Because this book is more like a handbook, I'd recommend more in depth reading if you want to take your performance to the next level. Dr Brown also wrote The Winner's Brain. There must be a lot of runners struggling with mental toughness because I found a ton of books to recommend. These include Brain Training for Runners by Matt Fitzgerald, RUN: The Mind-Body Method of Running by Feel by Matt Fitzgerald, How Bad Do You Want it: Mastering the Psychology of Mind over Muscle by Matt Fitzgerald, Mental Training for Runners: How to Stay Motivated by Jeff Galloway (new edition coming out April 2016) and The Champion's Mind: How Great Athletes Think, Train, and Thrive by Jim Afremow.
For more information on Dr. Jeff Brown, Carly Pizzani, who writes the blog Fit Fine Day recently posted an interview with him. You can read this here. There is also a 2 part podcast interview on Marathon Training Academy.
Did you read the book? What did you think? Do you use mantras to keep you on track? Any special pre-race rituals that you must do? Do you use visualization to keep focused? Any advice you'd like to share?
I'd love for you to link up your review of The Runner's Brain or any other fitness/running related book. If you don't have a blog, post your review in the comments! And if you do link up, don't forget to link back to this post, using the image below.
Next month we are reading the scandalous autobiography by Suzy Favor Hamilton: Fast Girl: A Life Spent Running from Madness. I'm really interested in reading about how this Olympic athlete fell into a life as an escort before being diagnosed with bipolar disorder. Runner's World gives a little background information here. The review and linkup will go live on Friday January 15.
As always, thanks for playing along!