Saturday, October 27, 2007

The Cheesecake Effect

When I was about seven, I had a piece of cheesecake at a holiday party. I remember everyone telling me how good it was and how much I would like it, but it was way too rich for my stomach to take and several minutes later I politely asked where the bathroom was and promptly threw it up. I couldn't eat cheesecake for over a decade after that little incident and even today cheesecake is probably my least favorite dessert.

After this week's running efforts, I'm starting to wonder if The Cheesecake Effect isn't in operation with regards to my body. Ever since the Half-Ironman where I bonked so bad on the run, whenever I run I feel shaky, queasy, and develop an instant headache. If I stop running, even for a minute or two at a traffic light, it all miraculously goes away. I think my body is remembering how bad it felt during that last race and the body memory is somehow wrapped up with running. I was talking with a runner friend of mine at a party this evening and he said he has had the same thing happen to him a few years ago. He said it took awhile before he had a good run and essentially replaced the bad one in his body's memory.

Bodily memory is an interesting thing in and of itself. In working with swimmers, I've noticed that I can demonstrate a technique and some people can instantly translate that into motion with their own body, and some people simply cannot. Most folks are somewhere in between and will eventually get a technique with several repetions and demonstrations. I wonder if having a strong body memory or ability to translate vision into action can set you up for this kind of recall effect where one action triggers a set of sensations or other actions.

I know my own body remembers actions strongly, visual cues slightly less strongly, and auditory input not at all. I'm hopeless with people's names, and can rarely remember lines from movies. I have noticed that if I watch a movie with subtitles on (which I frequently do while cycling on the trainer), then I remember a lot more of the dialogue. Definitely visual. If I want to remember someone's phone number, I will dial it in mid-air on an imaginary phone keypad and the muscle-memory helps me remember it even better than writing it down.

So I know my body has a strong memory for actions, and I think right now that's to the detriment of my running. Still, if there's one thing that last year's recovery from the foot injury taught me it's that I can easily take a couple of months off from running with no harm done. I actually posted my fastest running splits this year after not running for much of last winter. So if it takes a few weeks to let the bad memory fade away and start enjoying the run again, I know I can give it that time. Let's just hope it doesn't take ten years!


Christian said...

I agree, i have a similar idea with biking, and papayas

I try to solve the issue by pushing through it, after one of my training rides i collapsed because of the intensity,

The time after that ride my legs barely moved and i had to push harder than ever, but it was well worth it!


Seen by Mercy said...

I know what you mean about some people being more easily able to do or understand something if it relates to their bodies. I've heard this referred to as "Physical Intelligence" - spatial orientation and the physical coordination to get around in it and make your body do what you want it to do. Some people are more physically intelligent than others, some are more emotionally intelligent than others, some are more academically/rationally intelligent than others, etc. I think a lot of people who are "gifted athletes" are highly physically intelligent. Cool idea. For me, I'm not particularly athletically gifted, so I have to work a little harder to let go of my analyzing or predicting and instead let my body do its thing.

Thanks for your blog - I enjoy reading it a lot!