STRATEGIES THAT ACTIVATE THE BRAIN’S CONTROL CENTE —OVERRIDING THE “MONKEY BRAIN”
Those who have a proven strategy tend to be more successful than those who don’t. They also tend to stay motivated, don’t give up, work out more often, and enjoy more of their runs. Strategies activate the conscious brain the executive brain which allows one to manage attitude as the running experience is managed.
The simple strategies in this book can keep you under the control of the conscious brain as you plan your workouts, focus on mantras, and follow the schedule. You are in the command center, the captain of your ship, maintaining control of your thoughts and actions. You will also find similar strategies for nutrition and staying injury free.
But there is another brain component we often use by default which under stress can lower motivation and cause us to lose our focus. This is our ancient subconscious brain, which I will call the monkey, or reflex brain. This original brain evolved over tens of millions of years and contains thousands of stimulus-response (reflex) behavior patterns.
The reflex brain has a million times the processing capacity compared with the conscious brain. So we rely on it to conduct most of the activities that keep us alive (heart and lung function, blood flow, etc.). In addition, this amazing brain subconsciously interprets hormone signals from various organs and body parts and triggers the release of hormones to correct problems in organ function and to promote healing.
The ancient brain will also take control over habitual activities that we have learned. During the first few times we ride a bicycle, for example, the human brain consciously (and awkwardly at first) drives the body through a series of actions as we fall down and learn to correct mistakes. By repeating the successful behavior patterns regularly, reflex patterns are established, and riding the bicycle becomes more and more automatic. Once a behavior has been learned it is hardwired into the reflex brain, allowing us to pedal down the road subconsciously while the conscious brain solves problems or philosophizes.
But we have another operating system in our mental structure: the conscious brain, in our frontal lobe. This uniquely human brain is a more recent development (only a few million years in the making) and allows us to gain conscious control over a situation. The conscious brain is left free and ready to solve more serious problems, avoid threats, and take action. The circuits that tend to be in the left side of the frontal lobe conduct logical transactions. The right side is the intuitive and creative action center, connecting us to hidden strengths and innovative solutions which are often unexpected