Imagine this…It’s the Sunday before a race that I’ve spent the last 21 years training and preparing for, no joke. When I was 17 years old, like some of you know, I watched a movie about the Leadville 100 that made me say immediately to my boyfriend at the time, “Before I’m 40, I want to do that…” He said, “You’re crazy,” but I knew I would do it. So I set out to follow a dream with a plan.
Back to the Sunday before my race. I was listening to Radio Lab, and an old program called “Limits.” The first time I listened to it was in 2010. I can remember the day crystal clear, where I was and what I was cooking and for whom. I was blown away by the program, because it spoke of the phenomenal things the human body can do, and how the limits we put on ourselves heavily live in the brain. Specifically, it discussed endurance athletes like myself.
Fast forward three years from the first time I heard this story, Sunday August 17th, 2014. I listen to it again and of course captured new information. This time, bells go off because of a theory called, “The Central Governor Theory.” You see, the CGT is a little part in our brain that is designed to keep an emergency stash of energy there for you should you need it. Feelings of pain safeguard the last little bits of energy, if you have to use them absolutely.
Immediately, thoughts started firing off about this circuit and how it relates to the health of moms; and, how we might be able to trick it to benefit your health. I thought about sleep deprivation and how it affects every corner of your life. I thought about women in childbirth. I thought about how you will take care of everyone else, but forget to care for yourself until you’ve pushed your health so far it takes medical intervention to get back to center.
To help you learn more, the following content is quoted directly from the program:
"Inside your head, there’s this little circuit that they’re starting to see on brain scans and this little circuit governs your energy supply. When it feels it is in danger and running low, it will trigger signals of pain to be sent to your body to get you to rest. What Scientists are finding, is that this governor circuit is really conservative. It’ll send you signals to get you to stop WAY before you’re out of juice. So, the conjecture (meaning: a proposition that is unproven in science) here is that you have a reservoir of extra stuff (energy) but it’s so deeply disguisedthat you can’t know it’s even there.When you feel tired, not just tired but when you are SPENT (which doesn’t feel subjective when you’re spent, it feels objective for you), but in fact at that moment, maybe you’re not. Maybe you’re feeling the effects of that littler governor lying to you!" Radio Lab, Limits, 2010
This raised the question for the interviewers: What if you could lie back to her (your central governor)? Then, how far could you go?
Now, I really want to hear from you, because as I write this I don’t know if lying to our central governor is good or bad or both for our health. What if lying to this powerful little circuit could help us when we feel depleted and exhausted? In other words, "spent." In the comments, please tell me if you think it’s healthy or sounds completely destructive to lie to your central governor.
I'll tell you more about how I did or didn't trick my own Central Governor next week in a little race report. Thanks for showing up and joining in on the conversation. Have a great week and hope the back to school transition and preparation is good to you and your family.