Friday, January 6, 2012

Altered States of Perceived Exertion

"It never gets easier.  You just go faster."  -Greg LeMond

(And he would know.)

This came as an epiphany when I read it.  Of course!  For some reason, I always assumed, expected, at some point it would get easier.  I suppose the effort necessary to produce the same result seems easier, but unless you work at a higher effort, even that won't be true for long.  

I did my tempo intervals today outside.  I think the biggest surprise was the speed and intensity necessary to keep my heart rate in the tempo range, which I have traditionally felt was pretty easy.  I did a half-moon loop backwards and forwards many times and as it turned out, wind was blowing diagonally across the long turns.  It meant that I spent a great deal of time turning a crosswind into a headwind.  But the moment I turned to a cross or tail wind, I was barely able to keep my heart rate out of the endurance zone.  

I was a little stunned at the level of perceived effort necessary until I realized that I was confusing effort with result.  In other words, I was going really fast so I assumed I was working really hard.  EHHHHXCEPT that I wasn't'.  I wasn't working nearly as hard as I thought or, frankly, needed to be.  

I have noticed the same is true of my pedal stroke and breathing.  If I am using a smooth pedal stroke and controlling my breathing, my perceived effort is much lower than if I am jerking, choppy, and gasping for air.  I think this is because when I really am wasted, these conditions are inevitable so in my subconscious brain the two are directly associated.  Clearly my subconscious skipped Aristotle's lecture on correlation vs. causality.  TWO DEMERITS!!

Of course, I have also realized that the same holds true in reverse and I can trick my brain into thinking I am suffering less than I simply by focusing on a smooth pedal stroke and even, deep breathing.  This is extremely useful during the last few threshold intervals or the latter parts of a race, but it requires a lot of focus, something I may la…. OOOH!!!  SOMETHING SHINY!!!!….. ck.

While I am sure it will take far too long to truly internalize this, the conscious awareness is a huge leap in the right direction.  It also lets me know that tuning in on my workouts and later on in my races is going to be far more helpful than my standard dissociative response to discomfort.  

In some respect this is an evolution of the blog on confidence, which addressed mind frame and performance to some degree, but to me, today, it feels like a huge revelation.  

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