Coaches and competitors alike are constantly grappling with the question of making concessions to age. There have always been inspirational runners who defy conventional beliefs regarding aging and human performance. Even if I were to advance some novel argument touting the merits of running to attain long term health and longevity, the truth of the matter is that the biopsychology of aging remains largely a mystery.
Understanding the physiological effects of positive emotions such as caring, compassion or appreciation for someone or something can actually go a long way in helping people reduce their risky training behaviors. In effect, these heart-brain interactions cohere and soften the heart which, by processing the good feelings, circulates positive information throughout the entire body. All this adds up to a heightened sensitivity to what works for us, the basic self-awareness so important to optimal health, performance and enjoyment.
Running and sport involvement is one of many innovative treatments for healing trauma. Activities like music, meditation, drama, and yoga offer new pathways to recovery by stimulating the brain’s natural neuro-plasticity. Creative therapists are employing exercises that help people focus on bodily sensations— and it’s largely through heightened body awareness that past traumas can be renegotiated and revisited rather than relived repeatedly.
Being an elite athlete -- or a world-class artist or musician -- or a ground-breaking scientist, for that matter -- requires passion and dedication. And there's often a fine line between a healthy, productive enthusiasm or even "obsession" for an activity that we love; and, on the other hand, a compulsion or addiction that ends up being mentally, emotionally or physically damaging. When is "too much of a good thing" a good thing -- and when is it simply too much?
Neuroscience has shown that the repetitive motions and complex cognitive functions of running can trigger neurotransmitters, chemicals that boost the brain’s connectivity, thought patterns and decision-making—human qualities that are often compromised by the stress of life, especially in these troubled political times. Meanwhile, spiritual traditions remind us that turning our attention outward, from self-concern to the welfare of others, is the key to peace, love, and sanity.