A Look At Psychology While Running: Thanks Abhay Wherever You Run

1 Comment May 27, 2007 / Posted in The Running Mind

A Look At Psychology While Running: Thanks Abhay Wherever You Run
c. 2007 Austin “Ozzie” Gontang, Ph.D.

Definition of craziness is “doing the same thing expecting different results.”

Over the years I just happened to use running as a metaphor for life. I’ve basically shared some of my perceptions and put them to the test of fellow runners to see if my answers stood up to the scrutiny of the questioning runner. It continues to be a great dialogue.

Running and not thinking. Running and Being and not doing have allowed me to talk to myself out loud on a computer screen and send my electrons out for the running world to see and think about or ignore. What I do, or think I’ve been able to do, is alter people’s perceptions. I’ve been able to participate and observe how we think about things, or look at things that happen and want to put some kind of causative relationship to them.

If you think you’re doing something right but it’s incorrect, not knowing that you are incorrect, you cannot change.

The role of coach, shaman, sport psychologist, psychiatrist, is assisting people to see things differently. The role of nature is to assist people to see things differently. The role of quieting the mind’s chatter is to assist people to see things differently.

Milton Erickson, a psychiatrist and in my opinion one of the great researchers and clinical practitioners of trance states worked with many athletes to alter their perception. Milton was color blind, tone deaf and had suffered two bouts of polio, but I believe he was one of the greatest observers of humankind and the ability, magic, voodoo to get people to look at how they did things differently and then act accordingly.

I heard him tell the story of a national shot putter in high school who could not throw over 60 feet. He asked the kid if he could tell from where he tossed the shot the difference between 58’6″ and 59’1″ or could he tell the difference between 59’8″ and 60’2″. The shot putter finally broke the barrier. When it came to the state championships, the psychiatrist didn’t tell him how far he could or should throw the shot, he simply said, “Throw the shot as far away from your body as you can.” He was able set a junior national record.

It’s a matter of if you think you can or you think you can’t, you’re correct.

Altering perceptions plays with the assumptions on which we all make and seldom realize that we are basing our present thinking. Assumptions which many a time prove to be invalid or incorrect.

If you tell me you hate to sell, and I say yeah, it’s pretty hard to be a salesman. Then I ask you to give me the reasons why you hate to sell, and you give me a list of at least 12 things that bother you when you sell. After 5 minutes I ask you to stop and say, “Thanks, you’ve just sold me that you can’t sell.” Altering our words and our thinking about the words we use alters us.

Bruce Ogilvy, emeritus professor at San Jose State, and considered by many to be the grandfather of sport psychology, used his ability as a clinical psychologist, an athlete, a coach and observer to assist athletes overcome mental images, unnecessary thinking, relationship problems, and a host of other personal issues to get back to where they were functioning as a finely tuned animal.

The trouble with the brain is that when we think, we often think we are our thoughts. Since I can meta-think, or think about the way I think, I am not the same as my thoughts. It is in this way that coaches be they called coach, psychologist, sport psychologist, counselor, trainer, witchdoctor, shaman, or magician assist someone change some thought processes which are getting in the way of them being at the top of their performance. These individuals assist athletes so they can get into the moment when there is no thinking but only the doing.

Marathon Psychology to me is more a matter of getting someone to train 20 or 30 weeks so that they can do something which they thought was impossible. In that process, it shows the individual that no matter how much help one can get from the outside in the form of coaches, etc., it is a matter of the individual doing it. The psychology of the marathon is nurturing someone through the training and then allowing them to come up against the mental barriers which they have set for themselves.

It was an interesting phenomenon that no one could break the 4 minute barrier until Roger Bannister came along. It was the awareness that if one broke it by .0000000000000000000001 of a second, if it could be measured, that one would have broken the 4 minute mile. Once it tumbled, it was broken several more times in the following weeks.

Joan Ullyot didn’t break 3 hours for a long period of time because she did not consider herself a world class marathoner. When it got down to 2:50 and below she realized that she could go under 3 hours.

I think that when coach/psychologist/trainer talks to someone having trouble doing some sport to their maximum performance and that person alters their perception and improves …it is performance enhancing. Some people call it by different names, one of those being sport psychology but what counts is this:

I can only educate myself.
You can only educate yourself.
If what I know and share, helps you educate yourself,
then you may have changed your thinking or the doing
but you know there is a difference because there are different results.

1 Comment... What do you think? Subscribe via RSS
  1. atterrose said on April 14th, 2011 at 4:51 am

    Great post – Just subscribed to your RSS feed.. Thanks|This is my first time I have visited this site. I found a lot of interesting information in your blog. From the tons of comments on your articles, I guess I am not the only one! keep up the impressive work.

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