Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Jon Gruden,The Big Game, and Magical Thinking

Just last week, while running on the trail with Tony, we talked about motivational strategies that were meant to improve running ability. The following are ideas that I’ve used over the years, my friends have used or I have observed. Some might call it magical thinking.

We can call the strategies an affirmation. For example, when I ran the Western States 100 and I was simply tired and exhausted, at times I said to myself “I can.” That expression was positive self-talk and used to facilitate and help me to keep going and continue running. Well, I did complete the run, but I don’t know for sure whether or not that affirmation was the sole reason for my success. The dictionary defines affirmation, as the assertion that something is true. I wouldn’t hesitate to give that advice to anyone. However, it’s an interesting research question.

In medicine, placebos are used and the dictionary defines placebo as a medicine given merely to please the patient. I can think of a few research examples by Helen Langer. In her research, Dr. Langer told hotel workers that cleaning rooms was exercise. The women in the study, lost weight, as well as having better BMI scores. In another study, she had eight men in their 70s stay in a decorated 1959 style facility with black-and-white televisions, Perry Como, and Frank Sinatra records, etc. for five days. At the end of five days, these men had lower blood pressure scores and walked more effortlessly likely the way they did in 1959.

I bought a pair of compression socks that are supposedly beneficial and therapeutic to assist in my running. The first time that I wore the socks, I thought they helped. I see many people wearing them during running events, but I can’t say whether or not they work. I also make a morning smoothie after first being introduced to it by my ride and tie and running partner friend Jonathan Jordan. I have a professional blender and put in many fruits, vegetables, nuts, etc. I even add Green Vibrance for additional nutritional benefits. Just think of all the nutritional bars, gels available on the market designed to give you that extra. Heck, you can get a five hour energy drink. That might be great for a trail ultramarathon.

The running shoe manufacturers have developed all types of running shoes designed to give you that edge. Currently I use Brooks as the shoe of my choice. Tony has gone to a shoe that he claims reduces his painful feet after a run. He also has special socks that he uses for races. I prefer tights and Tony wears shorts.

Watching baseball, Johnny Gomes comes to mind. He steps in the batter’s box. Gomes adjusts his gloves as well as his batting helmet (2-3 times) prior to every pitch. Sometimes it looks as if the batting helmet adjustment covers his eyes even though I know it doesn’t. He’s not the only one who has a pattern of behaviors before every pitch. They all seem to have their style.
A number of years ago, I got it in my head that I had to total about 50 miles or more of running a week. That number could be accomplished over seven days, six days, five days or whatever. I was not stuck on the number of running days per week, but only stuck on the number of total miles. Well I’m still continuing that behavior. Some might say that I’m nuts, superstitious, or I even use those numbers as placebos.

Affirmations (the assertion that something is true), placebos, superstitious behavior (a belief entertained, regardless of reason or knowledge), self-deception (deceiving oneself), or even rationalization (justifying the behavior after it happens), all have one thing in common, in that they’re not based on scientific proof, reason or knowledge. So we can all fool ourselves in regards to our behavior or the behavior of others. However, individuals that use the strategies have faith in them. And more than likely no rational argument can convince them otherwise. It’s amazing what goes on between our ears, and hopefully what you believe is beneficial for you
I must admit that I’m still looking for that edge. On the other hand, I can assert, but I can’t prove that at age 75, I can continue to run ultra-marathons because of my superstitious behaviors. I must admit that writing this piece brings a smile to my face. What brings a smile to your face?

What you think the Wolverines need as far as their thinking in order to beat Ohio State on November 29? And, whether or not that will be good enough to be victorious? Based on the season’s performance so far, they need all the help they can get. Good luck Wolverines.

I think that Jon Gruden might be an excellent choice and should be considered as the next football coach at Michigan. What do you think?

Go Blue!

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