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Tuesday, October 10, 2006

The zen of running


GRASSHOPPER, BE YOUR SELF. AND NEVER FEAR THUS TO BE NAKED TO THE EYES OF OTHERS. YET, KNOW THAT MAN SO OFTEN MASKS HIMSELF. THAT WHAT IS SIMPLE IS RARELY UNDERSTOOD. THE DUST OF TRUTH SWIRLS, AND SEEKS ITS OWN CRACKS OF ENTRY. AND A TREE FALLING IN THE FOREST, WITHOUT EARS TO HEAR, MAKES NO SOUND. YET IT FALLS - Master Po from the original Kung Fu TV series.
I get a nasty headache whenever I hear some expert advising athletes that they must eat so many grams of this and that per hour and drink xyz Mls of water with various ingredients added to make it completely indigestible.
Sure there are some basic rules of thumb for how much to eat and drink on a run or ride and in certain conditions; but this this is almost as bad as trying to paint a masterpiece by numbers. Training and competing are as much an art as it is a science. Gosh! Why don't we just turn off our senses and hook oursleves up to intravenous drips, open the tap, turn up the iPod and run mindloessly until we drop!
Even though I have worked my way through the academics of sports nutrition (An excruciating experience) I have never gotten off on measuring how many grams of this and so many mls of that - I have always gone by the philosophy of learning to listen to my body and this is what I teach athletes to do. This is something I learned early on from my sister, Lorraine, who applied the concept with artful precision to have lasting success when running marathons very fast in extremes of weather.
Would you know it! - Humans have two little known sensory feedback systems that outperform the best of modern rechnology hands down - one is called thirst and the other is called hunger. "Now, little Grasshopper, listen to your body". This is something the modern urbanised human has long forgotten and since replaced with fancy machines, mathematical formula and white-coated experts. Thirst and hunger are extremely sensitive mechanisms that tell us what to do well before there is a decline in performance - if only we would sensitise our minds and listen and respond early enough to the subtle signals.
Listening to our very own in-built feedback systems has served us well since time began, enabling man to survive and even fluorish on next to nothing in the harshest environments. Our problem today is that we are forgetting how to use them.

2 comments:

wayne said...

thirst is a bit different when you're exercising, , if you're thirsty you're dehydrated, given how fast you use up water when exercising you need pt pay serious attention to drinking, with intense exercise like running you will need at least 400mls of water an hour sometimes up to double on a hot day.

Gary Moller said...

Agreed, Wayne. However; the point remains that athletes need to be much more sensitive to their bodies and this is a skill that can be learned. Lack of sensitivity means that dehydration, for instance, is advanced before the conscious connects with the thirst signals. Too late! Its pretty sad when there are adults who are unaware of their breathing or even know how to take a pulse! I was surprised at how common this was when working ion the gym industry.

Hyponatraemia is the result of being oblivious to body signals, relying on set formulas for drinking causing dangerous overhydration that kills more runners nowadays than dehydration.
So, yes: on a hot day, start drinking early; but listen to the body signals.