Running: Physiology vs.The Mind

What a lovely, sunny day in New York City today!

I visited a college friend who now works at one of my favorite little stores

Love bringing one of these bags home with me!

What better way to begin a season of (hopefully) injury-free running than with a new pair of Brooks Ghost shoes:

I should be a shoe photographer, obviously.

My friend had me run on a treadmill and told me, as I’ve heard many times before, that I have a perfectly neutral foot. I could be a shoe model for shoe developers, apparently.

I’ve never run in the Ghost model before but I’m really excited to try it out.

To add to my “running injury-free” preparation/knowledge, I’m reading Smart Marathon Training by Jeff Horowitz.

Mr. Horowitz discusses something I find very interesting, something I’m reading about in another book called RUN: The Mind Body Method of Running By Feel by Matt Fitzgerald; the mind and how it affects training and speed.

Mr. Horowitz discusses an adaptation theory of Dr. Tim Noakes, a leading expert in the exercise science field.

“Dr. Noakes thinks that the upper limit of our speed is set not by our muscles but by our minds” (page 26).

Basically, Dr. Noakes found no physiological measurements that explained why an elite athlete would “shut down” during speed work. He goes on to explain his belief in “the Central Governor; an autonomic part of the brain that calls the shots to protect us from our own recklessness” (page 27).

He references how world records by highly trained athletes only decrease by small increments at a time (even with all the training and technology, and even when accounting for illegal activities/drugs)  rather than “just plummeting to their final position” as should theoretically happen.

“He assumes, reasonably enough, that athletes who take aim at world records think of breaking them, but not by leaps and bounds. This creates a target only for a certain effort level, even if a greater effort might actually be attainable” (page 27).

Does it matter that we may be able to teach our brain that our body won’t “shut down” if we push harder? Is is safe? I don’t know, but I thought it was interesting to learn about Dr. Noakes’ theories on running and the brain.

In other exciting news, when I walked into my apartment today, I found this waiting for me:

Thank you Mary Wittenberg for the lovely letter and certificate!

My NYC Marathon finisher’s certificate finally came in the mail, complete with times and statistics of where I finished in my age group, overall, etc!

What a lovely, running-filled day! (Minus the NOT running…hmmm.Unless you count the two minutes of shoe testing).

On a random note, as per a recommendation from Liz, tonight I made Baked Chicken Nuggets from I definitely give these an A+; delicious and extremely easy to make!

Do you love getting new shoes too? What do you think of the theory that our mind controls our running speed? Do you think elite athletes beat world records by small amounts because their mind is only focused on that specific time, or do you think it’s indeed physiological?  Let’s discuss!

I’m a writer currently living in New Jersey and blogging about running, fitness, wellness, and motivation. I want every reader to laugh and feel empowered, balanced, and motivated! Subscribe by email to get 1-2 newsletters a month with post updates, my favorite articles, running playlists and more!
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  1. January 16, 2012 / 9:35 pm

    I find the mind-body connection fascinating. It’s really interesting to think that the difference between one elite and another is that tiny bit of self-belief in what they can do. I can say that for myself, any time I go into a race w/ confidence, it makes ALL the difference.

    • January 17, 2012 / 10:23 am

      I absolutely agree. I think that the mind/belief or non-belief in our ability to do something is responsible for wayyyy more than we think. I think that positivity in general is so influential on ourselves and others, and how things turn out for us (in running or life in general!)

      P.S. I think you would love the other book I mentioned, RUN by Matt Fitzgerald

  2. January 17, 2012 / 1:15 am

    I love new shoes. I need new shoes!! I think we can push ourselves harder than we think we can. I read a fascinating article about how some cyclists beat their personal bests when they didn’t know how fast they were going. Or something like that. I wish I could find it because it was so cool.

  3. January 17, 2012 / 10:41 am

    glad you liked them! i make them like once a week. ha. :)

    I also think in need to ready those books…

    • January 17, 2012 / 4:27 pm

      I’m fairly certain I’ll be making them about once a week as well, haha. Someone mentioned putting hot sauce in the mix with the olive oil and I’m very excited about that idea!

      And I definitely recommend both books…the Smart Marathon Training one has a full schedule with speed and tempo runs, which I love. I hate coming up with speed workouts on my own…too much effort, ha!

  4. January 18, 2012 / 8:40 pm

    I love love getting new running shoes!! Probably a little too much…

    • January 18, 2012 / 9:11 pm

      Me too (obviously!) I always have to remind myself to break new running shoes in first by walking around in them before going for a run right away. My high school track coach always told me that and it’s stuck with me somehow, haha!

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