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Thursday
Feb262015

What would you wish you had changed earlier? 

It’s the day of the return appointment. Deep down this day has been on your mind for a long time. You know something is wrong but you aren’t exactly sure what it is and what the implications are for you. You sit in the doctor’s waiting room, as always they are running late and there are two more people in front of you to be seen. Every time you see your doctor come out to get the next client you are looking for clues in their facial expression, while the doctor’s thoughts may be on something other than you you conclude that the way they moved their eyebrows means it’s bad news.

You sit there and read a mindless magazine article and then you watch the clock, every tick drags on and time is passing very slowly.  After what seems like an eternity the doctor calls your name, again you are looking for clues but the doctor is giving nothing away, although you do read into the fact that they haven’t been too friendly. You go into their office and take a seat, as you sit down you notice that there’s comfort in being in your doctor’s room. The family photos, the pictures their kids have drawn, their qualifications on the wall all give you a sense that you are in trusted hands. These thoughts get interrupted with your doctor saying words that you hope you wouldn’t hear, ‘Sorry to say this but I have bad news’ they go on to tell you that you only have one month to live. 

The above situation would be a horrible one to experience and hopefully it’s one that you will never have to face. While it must be the worst thing to have to go through it’s interesting to explore what thoughts would happen after this moment. Let’s say that the doctor talked you through your illness and explained that your sickness may have been - in part - caused by certain lifestyle choices that you had made over the years.  

If you were in this situation what choices would you instantly regret and would have changed a long time ago had you known they would cause this much damage? Would it be the way you drink? A smoking habit? Your nutrition choices? Your stress levels? The lack of exercise in your life? 

For many of us, there have been times in our lives where we know that our behaviours are damaging and we should change them, but we don’t.  But when the failure point hits us we instantly wonder why we haven’t done anything about them earlier. While we are maintaining these behaviours we can live in denial of what the cost could be of having them, then when that cost hits us we wish that we had addressed the behaviours a lot earlier.  

Do you have any areas in your life that if you were hit with that failure point you would wish you had done something about it a lot earlier? If you do it might be a worth spending time trying to find the motivation to change. What’s interesting is that often people who go past their failure point suddenly, and easily, find the motivation to change their behaviour. It’s the smoker who has smoked for years that gets told by their doctor that they will die if they don’t stop. Often this person can give up smoking straight away. The failure point can lead to the change in motivation. While it’s good that the change happens at that time, wouldn’t it be better if you were able to shift the behaviour before it became a failure point that could have a massive cost in your life? 

We can always point to people who have overcome bigger problems than the ones we have experienced in life. While everyone has a different way of dealing with this the one thing these people all share is the motivation to shift away from what was holding them back. No change will happen if you aren’t motivated to create it but any change can happen when you have the right motivation driving you. 

If you have behaviours that you live with but you know will eventually come at a cost that is extremely high, maybe the first step in you creating a shift is to devote quality time to finding that trigger that will give you the fire of motivation. By doing this you will be leading yourself away from your failure point and towards a healthier life for yourself and decrease the chances of that doctor’s visit - that one that would definitely change your life. 

 

This piece orginally appeared in The Press

 

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Monday
Feb162015

What is the Central Governor?

If you ever want a comprehensive reference guide for running you should buy the book by Dr Tim Noakes - Lore of Running. This encyclopaedia sized book is one of those books that many people own but not many have read it from cover to cover as it’s so in-depth. Dr Noakes is a world leading sports scientist from South Africa who has created a lifetime body of work which has had a massive influence on not only the world of running but other sports as well. 

In 1997 Dr Noakes introduced The Central Governor Theory. The basic concept is that your brain will restrict your physical body during intense exercise once it gets to a point where it feels you maybe damaging yourself. Here’s a more detailed explanation of this theory from wikipedia: 
‘In particular, physical activity is controlled so that its intensity cannot threaten the body’s homeostasis by causing anoxic damage to the heart muscle. The central governor limits exercise by reducing the neural recruitment of muscle fibres. This reduced recruitment causes the sensation of fatigue.’. 

In interviews I have listened to with Dr Noakes he expresses that he does wonder and question whether our Central Governor is the biggest limiter to performance. He talks about how once a top level runner gets to a certain point of intensity their brain starts working against them to preserve their body, this preservation is represented in pain. Their running becomes extremely hard, harder than most of us could ever imagine. It is at this moment where the runner who can delve the deepest into their inner motivation to stay in this place of pain will be the winner. Noakes feels that the person who wins is the one who needed it the most, they had more on the line so they had more motivation to push through this extreme level of pain.  

The current world record for the marathon is 2hours 3 minutes, some sports scientists argue that with our physiology humans should be able to run a marathon somewhere around 1 hour 45mins. While this is a much debated topic it does bring up the argument that we could be well off reaching our potential. Noakes will talk about how we aren’t seeing top level runners die in performances which indicates they could push harder, although a bleak thought it does show how hard our bodies work to protect our physical self but also how this could be a limiter to performance. 

You may have experienced The Central Governor in your own exercise routine. Have you ever done a race or workout where you felt there was nothing left to physically give, where every part of your body was telling you that it’s impossible to go on, that you should quit because the pain is so hard? Then suddenly something switched in your mind which gave you an increase in motivation and then you were able to push yourself physically harder. This moment shows that your body could have gone harder, that it was your mind you had to over come. 

Think about The Central Governor theory and the concept of how much you want something could have a massive influence on the level of discomfort you are willing to experience. Can you reflect back to the moments in your life where you have experienced the most discomfort and consider whether you may have been able to push through, this doesn’t just have to be about exercise, was the reason you were able to push through because the outcome you desired was something you had an ultimate need for? 

Looking back to these times what was the reward of you going to this place? Did you grow? Did you gain a deeper understanding of yourself? Did you achieve things that may have seemed impossible before they were achieved? 

Understanding The Central Governor theory has lead me to contemplate two things; 1. how do I gain knowledge of how to get through discomfort and 2. how do I find the depth of inner need that will help me find the motivation to push through the hardest moments? The answer to these questions will differ from person to person as we all have different things that drive us, but if life has taught you that a lot of value can come out of the toughest and most uncomfortable times I imagine that deep down this is a place that you have some level of desire for. 

We all need comfort, security, and certainty but we also need discomfort in certain areas. The aim should never be to remove all discomfort from our life, if we remove discomfort we remove the opportunity to explore who we truly are. This is something that top athletes are always exploring and maybe is something that is worth exploring for yourself. 

 

This piece orginally appeared in The Press

 

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Friday
Feb062015

Where's your crossover point? 

Years ago I was in one of those periods where I had a lot to do but not much was actually happening. I was getting frustrated with my lack of discipline, I would sit and watch TV for 3 to 4 hours a night knowing that I should be doing more productive things with my time, it was frustrating. It got to the point where the disappointment in myself crescendoed and one night I woke up at 3am and went around the house and cut off the cords to all of our TV’s. I know, that was pretty full on. I was lucky that my partner at that time wasn’t upset by this - luckily she wasn’t a big TV watcher. 

Over the next period of time I discovered that I had gained a massive amount of time in my daily  life and I started to use this to be more productive, my inner disappointment slowly dissolved. For the next 7 years I lived without a TV in my life and I have to admit that I probably became the guy who liked to tell the world that he didn’t have a TV in a way that was about showing how cool I was, I’m sure many people thought I was a dork. 

After my partner Jo and I had been seeing each other for a few years we decided that we would move in together. People asked me what I was going to do about the TV situation. I knew that Jo enjoyed watching certain shows in her week and it wasn’t my place to ask her to stop having these in her life. The adjustment would have to come from my side and that I would have TV back in my life. Nowadays I enjoy having TV back. Jo and I will work our way through certain series at one time, last year we were hooked on Breaking Bad and Game of Thrones (as were thousands of others around the world).

While TV is back in my life, it’s now something that I enjoy in my day because there has been a shift in how I approach it from when I was younger. The thing that I have discovered is that there is some value in having TV in my life, I enjoy consuming good content, I find it’s nice to unwind and laying on the couch watching content allows me to relax, plus there’s the social connection you have with fans of the same shows. The difference in my approach from when I was younger is I now know when the value has stopped and the activity of TV watching has gone from being a valuable part of my day to a place where I feel like I’m wasting my life. 

There are certain activities in your life that have value up to a certain point but once they go past that point they can become an activity that works against you. TV watching, browsing the internet and your social media activity are a few examples. Up to a point these things can add a lot of value to your life but it’s like there is a critical moment when they go from being a valuable thing to a complete time waster. Many of us have experienced times when we realise we have checked the same internet sites many times over in one day, I know that when I have these days I get the feeling that I am wasting my life.  

When we think about this we want to learn where our critical point is and learn how to move away from the valuable thing before it starts working against us. For Jo and I with TV that tends to be about an hour most nights. We’ll fast forward through the news, watch our pieces of interest, and then we’ll watch one show which we fast forward through the ads. Once that show is finished we turn off the TV and move onto other things. The difference between now and when I was younger is that when I was younger I didn’t have the ability to turn it off, I would have continued watching even when I knew what I was watching I didn’t really care for. 

If you know that there are areas of your life that can be a double edged sword, that they could be a valuable activity but they could also be an activity that works against you, start to develop an awareness around that critical point. Once you learn where that is you can put strategies in place that allow you to shift your behaviour before it becomes a negative activity. The better you get at doing this the more you’ll be removing dissatisfaction from your life and the more time you’ll have to do other activities that add value for you.  

 

This piece orginally appeared in The Press

 

If you enjoy my pieces you can get them emailed to you when I put them on the internet. This way you won't have to come back to my website to check when a new piece is out. Don't worry I won't spam you. If you want to join up just put your details in here: