Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Sunday brought an early Thanksgiving

... for the Balanced Athletes at the top of the steep hill-climb at 277th Street. The group has matured and improved so much this summer that Eric had no worries about taking everyone along the Green River to take on that trail. It rises a few hundred feet in just over 1 mile and though I felt sure that many folk would have rested along the way if they had been out on a "Sunday Solo", being part of a group, everyone made it - running. Not just 14 runners whooping and cheering each other as they wound their way to the top - it was a group. There was a sense of belonging and a shared accomplishment.

Down, down, down Scenic Hill we went, skirting Canyon/Earthworks Park (shouting as we passed Paul B's place to wake him) and back through town to the store. After 9.5 miles only Eric and I were crazy enough to want more so we took off North on the Interurban Trail for a quick out-n-back 6 miles while a few others joined the waiting list for a table at The Wild Wheat. It was an exhilarating second set that we completed in about 42 minutes. Yes, I'm happy that I'm ready for Tucson.

Was it just another Balanced Athlete Sunday run ? No, it was a remarkable run for a number of reasons.

  • The group runs have been getting larger, busier and noisier - Sunday saw our best group in ages with over a dozen people smiling and eager to start at 8am.
  • It was so good to see people there ranging from original runners to the new faces
  • On the run so many little groups forming, changing and re-forming making it a great social event too
  • A number of people commenting how far they have come in running and fitness in only one short summer

Sunday, November 18, 2007

The power of thoughts

Lately I have been entranced by an emerging concept in neuroscience called 'neuroplasticity.' The implications of this discovery are so amazing that neuroplasticity has been named "one of the most extraordinary discoveries of the twentieth century."

Neuroscientists had always thought that the mind (a collection of thoughts, hopes, beliefs, and emotions) is a result of the chemical mechanisms and circuits in our brains, and, that these mechanisms are immutable after a certain age. In other words, they thought that the physical brain governs our mind.

The Dalai Lama asked one of these scientists if the mind could act back on the brain and change its physical characteristics. The scientists answered that this could not be possible. However, they were open to experimentally test this theory.

Buddhist monks meditate many hours every day, and during their meditation, they think about love and compassion. Scientists discovered that "adept" monks (who have meditated for at least 10,000 hours), have an abnormally high amount of gamma brain waves. These waves are associated with perception, problem solving and consciousness. They also observed that parts of the brain linked to the self have lower activity, "as if during compassion meditation the subjects opened their minds and hearts to others", and areas linked to positive thoughts and happiness became more active.

There is more to this. It turns out that attention has a very important role in shaping our brain. The things we pay attention to every day physically mold our brain. This is backed up by other scientific experiments (for details, see links below). So as one scientist at the University of California (San Francisco) put it:

"[Through attention] We choose and sculpt how our ever-changing minds will work, we choose who we will be the next moment in a very real sense, and these choices are left embossed in physical form on our material selves."

So, how is this related to running, walking, triathlons...? If our mind can shape our brain, and our brain controls our body...you can run a marathon by just thinking that you can do it (plus training, of course). The mental barrier is the biggest obstacle most of us have.

If you are as geeky as I am, you can read more about this here:

- How Thinking Can Change the Brain: an easy to read Wall Street Journal article
- Long-term meditators self-induce high-amplitude gamma synchrony during mental practice: a published science article from Princeton University

Well, that is my blog for today. I hope you all have a great Thanksgiving, and remember, think positive!!!