Friday, November 13, 2009

Born To Run

I recently assisted at the RKC Instructor Certification.

On the second day, after running the instructor candidates through a hard morning of kettlebell cleans and presses, we had a short lunch break. Finding a place to eat at any large workshop reminds you of being like the new kid in the school cafeteria - at least it does for me. Wandering around looking for an open seat, I see none other than Pavel, sitting all by himself, eating and focused on eating. I don't want to be a bother, but on the other hand, it's pretty rare to have personal time with Pavel. So, I ask if I can join him and he says "Of course Bah-reese, please sit down." I sit down and who joins us? Dan John. This is a dream lunch if ever there was one.

The conversation turns to reading lists - not a conversation I've had in a while. I read a lot, and watch a lot of movies, but I ALWAYS struggle when people ask me about favorites. Coach John quickly mentions a recent book that he was moved by,"Born To Run", and says he finished it in a day because it was so engrossing. Pavel agrees. Mental note to self: "Read this book."

Well, I finally got around to reading "Born to Run" a couple of weeks ago and it is wonderful. Content spans sport, shoes, anthropology, evolution, and social theory. Chances are that, even if you're like me and hate running (much less even the idea of ultra-distance marathons), if you read this blog, you will love this book. Get your hands on a copy and enjoy.

'Unlike any other organism in history, humans have a mind-body conflict: we have a body built for performance, but a brain that's always looking for efficiency.' We live or die by our endurance, but remember: endurance is all about conserving energy, and that's the brain's department. 'The reason some people use their genetic gift for running and others don't is because the brain is a bargain shopper.'
For millions of years, we lived in a world without cops, cabs, or Domino's Pizza; we relied on our legs for safety, food, and transportation, and it wasn't as if you could count on one job ending before the next one began. Look at !Nate's wild hunt with Louis; !Nate sure wasn't planning on a fast 10K immediately after a half-day hike and a high-speed hunt, but he still found the reserve energy to save Louis's life. Nor could his ancestors ever be sure that they wouldn't become food right after catching some; the antelope they'd chased since dawn could attract fiercer animals, forcing the hunters to drop lunch and run for their lives. The only way to survive was to leave something in the tank - and that's where the brain comes in.
'The brain is always scheming to reduce costs, get more for less, store energy and have it ready for an emergency,' Bramble expained. 'You've got this fancy machine, and it's controlled by a pilot who's thinking 'Okay, how can I run this baby without using any fuel?' You and I know how good running feels because we've made a habit of it.' But lose the habit, and the loudest voice in your ear is your ancient survival instinct urging you to relax. And there's the bitter irony: our fantastic endurance gave our brain the food it needed to grow, and now our brain is undermining our endurance.
'We live in a culture that sees extreme exercise as crazy,' Dr. Bramble says, 'because that's what our brain tells us: why fire up the machine if you don't have to?'

- Born To Run (pp. 242-243)


Niel K. Patel said...

I've heard about this book numerous times.

I think it's time to give it a read.

Boris said...

I think you'll like it Niel. Let me know.

Joe said...

I read it about a month ago and practically finished it overnight as well. I am a little surprised to see the likes of Pavel and Dan John as fans of this book too.