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Improvement: Effort Perception (Part 1)

December 14, 2010

Here are my three PR’s for some common distance races, rounded to the nearest hour and minute:

Half-marathon (13.1 miles): 1:23

Marathon (26.2 miles): 2:55

50 Miles: 9:42

100 Miles: 28:08

Race times have occurred in the past. This may be a “no kidding” moment, but this fact is crucial when taking into account the subject of this post: Effort Perception.

I remember telling many people that I could possibly run a 2:45 marathon if I trained my butt off. But, wait a minute! Why 2:45? Why not faster? And why would it be so hard?  What are the barriers holding me back? In fact, what about my other distances and times…..could I possibly run faster in those distances as well?

The answers lie in my perception of the effort involved in achieving faster times across all race distances and workouts. As a result, the answer lies in my Effort Perception of these races and workouts.

This will be a two part post, and in it I will explore my concept of Effort Perception, and how it, like Distance Perception (my last post), can go from being a barrier to a context for success and continued improvement.

Some Definitions:

To understand what Effort Perception is for a runner, and also for anyone attempting to achieve a goal, its important to break down the phrase, and understand the real meaning of both words:


noun: Something done or produced through exertion; an achievement: a play that was his finest effort.

(in Psychology) Recognition and interpretation of sensory stimuli based chiefly on memory .

Memory is based in the past. Therefore, shifting our perception from a barrier to context of success and improvement, ultimately takes place across three (3) planes of experience:

  1. past
  2. present, and
  3. the future

Our race or workout performances are in the past. Our memory of these workouts and races provides the basis of how “hard” or “easy” a similar race or workout would be. Then, we have our experiences that are in the present, or where our fitness is now, and consequently, how efforts feel “today”. Finally, it is important to look at our how to change our effort perception from a barrier to a “context” of how we want to perform in the future. Remember though that perception is memory, so the shift to a context gives us a new memory of how the effort feels ONCE the runner has achieved their goal.

Some workouts to think of:

If you’re reading this and have subscribed to my blog (or if you haven’t, please do ! :), here are some workouts or races that you may want to think about before reading Part 2 of Effort Perception.

Pick one that you have a particularly strong memory of, in which you’d like to improve. Think about how you felt. Don’t judge your feelings of it! Stick with it, and maybe write those feelings down:

  • Tempo Run
  • VO2 max intervals
  • Sprints
  • 5-k, 10-k, half marathon, marathon, ultramarathon races
  • Cross training

The next post

In the next post (part 2) we’ll look at methods as to how to change your perception of a challenging workout/race, into a powerful new context for improvement within that particular workout or race.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. Terri permalink
    December 14, 2010 4:18 pm

    Hey, I just tweeted about this post for you! I agree re. the memory – when I think of how I have run races in the past, if it’s been a good race, I go into it with more positive of an attitude than one where I have not done well. There are definitely days where I feel like I should be running better than I am, so I am anxious to read Part 2!

  2. December 14, 2010 8:32 pm

    hey, yep, I’ll post my thoughts probably tomorrow; it’ll involve mechanics and some other good stuff! Thanks! 🙂

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