Make Sure Your Perception Fits Reality Especially When Running Trails


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Sign misinterpreted by FitOldDog's brain.

I was driving along slowly in heavy traffic and I noticed a sign, which appeared to mention arthritis, and I remember thinking, “Is the Arthritis Foundation taking over that old building site?” My brain misperceived the information, and my interest in aging-related diseases filled in the rest. Click image for larger view. Photo by FitOldDog.

We look at the world, but we don’t always see what is actually there. This is because, for efficiency’s sake, the brain fills in a great deal of information to make things fit. If it collected and processed all the visual data you’d get nowhere. For instance, when you see a house, your mind creates a 3D image in your mind of the house as a box, even though you can only see one side, the side you are looking at. But your brain knows all about houses, so it fills in the rest to create a mental 3D image or representation of a reasonable reality. It is only when this trick doesn’t work that you realize that things are not always what you think they are. Take the image to the right, for instance.

Bruise on FitOldDog's arm due to fall whilst running tired and cold on a rocky trail.

Bruising induced by falling on a local running trail whilst tired and cold, due to a fall, which at the time seemed no big deal, but such things happen when you think you are fine but you’re not – I was failing to lift my feet adequately for the terrain, and caught one shoe on a small rock. Photo by Deb.

Not only is this true of our outer world, but it applies equally to our inner worlds, including the perception of the state of our bodies. This perception can be enhanced by endorphins, drugs manufactured by your body, which make you feel great, giving you a feeling of invincibility (runner’s high). If you feel this, it is time to stop because invincible you are not. Tiredness and cold can also warp your perspective, which can result in dangerous mistakes on the bike or whilst running, especially on trails where the terrain is unpredictable. This happened to me the other day during the final stages of a 2-mile swim, 35-mile bike ride, 5-mile run, brick (all back to back). This workout is standard fare for Ironman training during the last few weeks prior to tapering for a race. However, it was really cold, wet weather and I was soaked to the skin. Tiredness combined with cold can lead to accidents.

Heaven Can Wait movie poster.

I loved that movie, even though the ending was somewhat poignant.

About 4 miles into the run my right foot caught a low-lying, almost invisible, rock, I wasn’t lifting my feet as I would when not so tired, and down I went. Fortunately I landed on my shoulder, rolled over onto my feet and carried on. I sure lifted my feet after that. My perception of my running form didn’t fit reality.

I had no idea I was dragging my feet. Take note if you want to continue to enjoy a program of safe exercise for better health.

On a brighter note: the fitter you are the better you bounce, which was the underlying thesis of that old movie, Heaven Can Wait!

-k @FitOldDog


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Disclaimer: As a veterinarian, I do not provide medical advice for human animals. If you undertake or modify an exercise program, consult your medical advisors before doing so. Undertaking activities pursued by the author does not mean that he endorses your undertaking such activities, which is clearly your decision and responsibility. Be careful and sensible, please.