After a lot of thought and consideration -- I have decided to retire One Foot in Reality and leave it as an Archive. I will still monitor it to keep the trolls at bay, but will not be posting here any longer.

If you are looking for my new posts, please go to www.haroldlshaw.com .

Thank you for all they years of following One Foot In Reality.


Sunday, July 31, 2016

If I Believe, Does It Work?

This post was written for and first appeared on One Foot In Reality.

I haven't been writing much other than about my daily runs and whining about being injured - yet again, way too damn much lately.

So it is probably time to do a post about something else.

The role of belief in running.

No, not a runner's belief in God, a Higher Power or no belief at all. That is each individual's choice and far beyond what I want to tackle. Yeah, I know the limits on this blog about what I want to talk about and religion is one of those that I stay very far away from.

What I want to write about is much simpler and at the same time pretty damn complex in and of itself.

If I believe, does it work?

Something many people call the Placebo Effect.

or according to others...

magical thinking.

In other words if I think, believe or "know" that something I use, eat or drink is going to make me a better runner - does it?

The best answer I can find after a bit of research is - well maybe...

Then again, in my personal experience and for me -- I would be a bit more positive and say...

  • If I believe that I will run well in a pair of running shoes, then I WILL run better in them.
  • If I believe that I will run like crap in a pair of running shoes that I have lost confidence in or don't like for some reason - I do not run as well in them.
  • If I believe that there is a difference in how I run in racing flats versus light-weight trainers or daily trainers, than I will. 
  • If I believe that when I wear a certain top, shorts, socks, hat that I will do better on a run, than without them - I do.
  • If I believe that I will run better wearing compression gear, I do. 
  • If I believe that when I eat a Chocolate No-Bake Cookie while driving to a race, that I always seem to have a better race.
  • If I believe that when I drink Gatorade or some other energy drink during a run that I am going to vomit again or feel like it, I usually do. 

I can hear it now from all the nay sayers and scientifically based people out there - prove it. Yeah, I can hear them say it doesn't really work that way and that I am a victim of even more "woo" thinking than usual.

Oh I am sure that if I looked closely enough, that there are probably scientific based reasons that I do better in a particular pair of running shoes, a "lucky" top, compression gear, that chocolate no bake cookie that has lots of carbs in it and that with some runners with a "delicate" stomach the sugars in energy drinks can bother you when are exerting yourself at race levels.

However, for whatever it is worth, I know that:

  • I do run and train better in shoes that I am not worrying about or thinking about why I lost confidence in them or even what is going to happen next in those damn shoes.
  • I do run faster in racing flats (even when the racing flats weigh about the same as my light-weight trainers or minimalist running shoes), my times validate this.
  • I do run faster when I put on my singlet or racing kit, they are more than just another workout outfit.
  • I "know" that my body does not feel as beat up after the runs I do wear my compression gear and my times are a "bit" better, than when I don't use them.
  • I do run better in races where I remember to eat those chocolate no bake cookies, the effort seems easier and the times are faster.
  • I "know" that I cannot drink those sickeningly sweet electrolyte drinks when I am running hard, they bother my stomach and I have puked during races that I have tried to drink them. I have even tried to drink them during training runs, but the same things happen and running is the only sport that these bother me.

Nope, none of those statements have or rely on a very much scientific evidence, value or anything else, they are just statements I am making. In other words, I may not "know" the scientific reason for it, but I do "know" when I have confidence in what I am using, wearing, eating and drinking that I DO run better.

Ain't the human brain a wonderful f*#@ing thing.

The reality is that

Yeah, I know I am pretty weird - what else is new and no I didn't go into a bunch of stuff that I know doesn't work for me just because I believe it will - you know that stuff like: I believe that I can run like I did when I was 25 or that I believe that I can heal most injuries by running through them, etc.

Also ya still gotta still put the miles in and do the work to run well - simply believing that you will run well without doing anything but...well I believe. Actually I "know" that is simply wishful thinking that doesn't work so well from many years of experience. :-)

There is still some reality to my thinking. The blog's name after all is One Foot In Reality, so I am not completely delusional - yet.

So it seems for me at least the answer is:

Absolutely, positively and no doubt about it.

If I believe - it does work for me -- well sometimes :-)


  1. What a coincidence. My wife and me were just discussing about the placebo effect. As you know, I'm always battling with injuries and will just try anything to cure whatever ailments that befall me. Most of the time, I think for me, the believe that it will work is enough to make the pain go away. The mind is a the most powerful medicine out there!

    1. Nick - You and I need to start a clinic for over-injured runners, we both are afflicted by the runner's curse far too often for it to be normal. There must be a cure we can find.

      Like my grandfather said "It's a long ways from your heart, so you'll live, now get you arse moving".

      A lot of times like you I just do the If you don't mind, it don't matter to ignore as many of the maladies as I can and often it works - at least until I stop running and everything catches up.

      The mind can overcome a lot, now if I could just find it and use it a little more often ;-) hehehehe

  2. While "Half this game is 90% mental" according to Yogi, so is life.
    Confidence in your self and in your gear make a huge difference. The shoes may not make any impact at all on your running, but they make a big impact on your attitude.
    As Henry Ford said, "If you think you can, you can." If you feel defeated by screwing up your pre-race routine, it may very well effect you. Even if part of your routine is Voodoo.
    On the other hand, I have missed my entire pre-race routine and still run fairly well.
    I can't get my PT to say that KT tape actually works, but he still uses it and so do many Olympic athletes.

    1. Andy - Yeah and "if you think you can't, you won't!" I had that on the wall of my classroom for 10 years and would often point to it when a student said "I can't".

      Your last paragraph is so very telling on this subject, there is a lot of people saying KT tape is "woo", but at the same time it is not just the weekend athlete or non-professional who continues to use it.

      Yeah the head has a lot more to do with things than we want to give it credit for :-)

  3. Absolutely agree with all of it - as a science person I fully believe in measuring and collecting data and working on theories and models ... but at the same time humans are incredibly complex beings and the mental side of the equation is too important to overlook.

    I mean, just believing "I can eat that truck in one bite" won't make it possible, but our ability to refocus and extend our abilities - or hamper them - is amazing.

    1. Yeah, the mind is a terrible thing to waste and you gotta smile when you think about what you can do, when you put your mind to it. Although reality does have its limits :-) well maybe err most of the time. ;-)


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