Central Governor Theory

Central Governor Theory

In an engine, a governor is a device that limits and regulates speed.

There are many reasons, but the one pertinent to ours is that a governor on an engine keeps it working within an optimal range. It removes the possibility that an inexperienced driver will redline the engine and blow things up.

You have a governor on your physical performance and output.

It resides between your ears.

Central Governor Theory

Tim Noakes, one of the preeminent running coaches and sports scientists of all time, proposed the Central Governor Theory in 1997 (although a similar idea was proposed by Archibald Hill in 1924).

Essentially, the central governor is a process in the brain that regulates exercise output based on a real-time calculation of what is safe. In other words, the brain runs some numbers to keep your body safe and then limits your output so you don't blow things up.

The brain limits the recruitment of muscle fibers which you then feel as fatigue.

"Fatigue is an emotionally driven state"

If a governor indeed exists, is it then possible to override it?

Swimming Around Great Britain

 Beginning in June of 2018, British athlete and sports scientist Ross Edgley set out to do something that had never been done, swim around the entirety of Great Britain. 

His plan was to utilize bi-phasic sleep, swimming in a 6 hours on, 6 hours off pattern until the swim was done. 

He completed the swim 157 days later, on November 4th.

If you think this was simply a matter of being physically prepared, you would be wrong. Ross had to endure freezing cold, numerous jellyfish stings (including one in which the tentacle wrapped around and changed the shape of his face), sea ulcers, and a condition known as salt tongue which actually caused his tongue to start falling apart.

And that is the short list.

Physical preparation alone does not keep one moving through that type of adversity.

In numerous media interviews immediately following the swim, Edgley invoked Central Governor Theory. He asked himself a question, "Are you completely fatigued, or are you just trying to pull that physiological handbrake?"

He came up with the heuristic to "swim with a smile."

Your Internal Dialogue

Your goal may be a bit less daunting than swimming around Great Britain in a stage swim.

Mine certainly are.

Regardless, there will come a time when your brain starts to assert itself. The internal dialogue you have can help you overcome the governor and keep pushing.

This suggestion will sound silly, but it works for me when I'm getting tired. I say, "Shut up brain, I'm running shit today."

And then I keep moving. One foot in front of the other. One more stroke in the pool, then another, then another.

The Central Governor is certainly there, but you can take control. You can remind your brain that you run shit.

If you are planning on tackling big goals this year, you will need to take control of this mechanism, and you absolutely can.

 


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