The most important form of performance feedback in running is time. How long did it take me to cover that distance? How fast am I running? Constantly asking and answering such questions in your training will stimulate your brain to tolerate a greater affective load in pursuit of workout goals, enabling you to run faster and derive greater benefit from the run. In an e-mail interview I asked Tirunesh Dibaba, who holds world records for 5,000 m on the track (14:11.15) and 15K on the road (46:28), where she gets the confidence to attempt a world record. The answer was, in two words, performance feedback.
When I attempt a world record it is not something I decide when I enter the track on the race day, she replied. I see how my shape is and confirm as much as possible beforehand how fit I’m in my training and see my times, and I believe that is where my confidence comes from. I must warn you (as if you do not already know) that it works both ways: On your bad days, performance feedback will make things worse. But it will also make your best days better, and on balance, if you train smart and have more good days than bad, performance feedback will make your training better.
I will say more about the importance of performance feedback in training and how best to use it in Post 7. GRADING MENTAL TOUGHNESS In the traditional, brainless scientific explanations of exercise performance and fatigue, the mental suffering of hard exercise serves no purpose. But in the brain-centered model of exercise performance and fatigue, suffering serves the essential function of anticipatory regulation. Specifically, suffering encourages you to slow down, or at least avoid speeding up, when necessary to avoid both self-harm and performance-destroying involuntary bonking. But it is clear that some athletes can tolerate more suffering than others and that those who can tolerate more suffering often perform at a level that is closer to their true physiological limits. And again, fortunately, the capacity to tolerate suffering is trainable. As stated previously, one way to train that capacity is by repeatedly exposing yourself to the suffering of running hard.
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