Thursday, December 1, 2011

"Your Brain Knows a Lot More Than You Realize"

I've been involved in a lot of discussions concerning the Pose method of running lately.  I think that Pose has a lot of value, but it also has a couple of issues.  One of those issues is attempting to control what ought to be autonomic processes in running. 

One thing I've learned while trying to improve as a runner is that some things are best left to your body, as your concious mind doesn't have a lot to add.

So this is pretty timely:

"...You are not consciously aware of the vast majority of your brain’s ongoing activities, nor would you want to be—it would interfere with the brain’s well-oiled processes. The best way to mess up your piano piece is to concentrate on your fingers; the best way to get out of breath is to think about your breathing; the best way to miss the golf ball is to analyze your swing. This wisdom is apparent even to children, and we find it immortalized in poems such as “The Puzzled Centipede”:
A centipede was happy quite,
Until a frog in fun
Said, “Pray tell which leg comes after which?”
This raised her mind to such a pitch,
She lay distracted in the ditch
Not knowing how to run.
"The ability to remember motor acts like changing lanes is called procedural memory, and it is a type of implicit memory—meaning that your brain holds knowledge of something that your mind cannot explicitly access. Riding a bike, tying your shoes, typing on a keyboard, and steering your car into a parking space while speaking on your cell phone are examples of this. You execute these actions easily but without knowing the details of how you do it. You would be totally unable to describe the perfectly timed choreography with which your muscles contract and relax as you navigate around other people in a cafeteria while holding a tray, yet you have no trouble doing it. This is the gap between what your brain can do and what you can tap into consciously...."

Anyone who's learned a sport or a task well is perfectly familiar with this phenomenon.  You know you've taught it to yourself when you stop thinking about it, and you haven't really learned it until you can do it unconciously.

Do read the whole thing; especially the section on chicken sexers, which (assuming the story's not apocryphal) is a pretty brilliant example of training one's brain to do something that the concious mind can't even understand, let alone control or describe.