The Bear Hug

The Bear Fitness Team are all very excited to announce the first official blog post to our website! The tone of the brand will continue to develop and grow, and we hope to become an integral part of your day-to-day understanding of health and fitness. That said, we don't intend to be the company that claims to know it all.  Personally, I don't believe everything about health and fitness can be understood at this point, and this is highlighted by the fact that current information/guidelines are consistently changing regarding food intake/exercise requirements. Furthermore, with the continual breaking of World Records (WR) the sporting/athletic arena is moving at an incredible rate; both training regimes and sporting performance are constantly improving, and this innovation, whilst tremendously exciting, is challenging what we thought we knew about health and fitness generally. So basically, we can't rest on our laurels.

Following from Mo Farah's inspiring WR performance, we would like to share with you some musings on running, specifically: what do runners actually think of when they are running? I personally studied this topic in depth at University, and sound it so fascinating that I used it as the basis of my dissertation. Because it is just so interesting I will be summarising my own personal findings, as well as drawing on knowledge from other reports that help me during a run (or any type of physical activity, for that matter).  

Over time there has been a marked increase in the number of individuals who take part in running, and a very good example of this is the growth of the London Marathon. The first London Marathon (1981) had 6,747 entrants; the 2012 London Marathon saw 35,970 starters taking part in the 26.2 mile race. Alongside this increased interest in running, studies into the ‘mind of the runner’ and the cognitive strategies implemented whilst running have come to abound within sports psychology literature.  

A couple of key terms to whizz through early on: firstly ‘attentional focus’, which has been identified as the influence of instructions to consciously attend to specific information during the production of an action (Perkins- Ceccato et al., 2003).  Essentially what one focuses on when undertaking an activity. There is a plethora of information on varying different models explaining reasons why we focus on what we do, and should you be interested in understanding these drop me a line and I can pass on the relevant papers.

However, 'what does this have to do with me?' I hear you cry! 

Well - running is a highly autonomous (automatic) action and doesn't require much input from our conscious thoughts (other than to keep going or stop as the case may be). Now as a youngster I was continually told to pay attention to my breathing whilst running, and this is something I am still told to this day. As I just mentioned, though, running is autonomous, so this interference from the conscious mind causes havoc with how we perform. Paying attention to breathing increases the heart rate, breathing rate, surface temperature etc. i.e. all things that make the average runner less efficient and less able to attain that PB we all so tirelessly strive for. This in essence was the basis for my study, and I experimented with having runners listen to a recording played on loop to remind them to pay attention to their breathing/position on the treadmill, or the burning sensation in their legs. This was to move the focus of attention from something very internal (breathing) to an internal point (burning sensation in their legs) and lastly to an external one (their position on the treadmill).  The results were exactly as I had hoped and expected: the people attending to their breathing could not achieve the same level of performance as those who were focusing on, for example, their position on the treadmill.

This was a University study and thus was limited in the number of subjects whose behaviour I was able to examine, but this is not the first time these results have been found. Frankly I am of the belief that I will try most things if I think it will help with my performance (although not performance enhancing drugs - before that is taken the wrong way!) and I can honestly say for me it has worked a treat.  

So next time you are out for a run, I challenge you to get out of your head and leave your body to do its own thing; you never know it might help...and even if it doesn't at least you tried something new.

Thanks for reading!

BEAR Fitness. 

Believe Exceed Achieve Results