Monday, February 4, 2013

It's a matter of perception

During my time at university, I spent a significant amount of time studying psychology. It was a field that I found extremely interesting but one I ultimately discovered was not the right career choice for me. Luckily, all that studying didn't go astray - I get to use things I learned in my Cognitive Psychology, Social Psychology, Human Associative Learning and Perception and Attention courses quite frequently. I don't use what I learned in my Psychopathology course too often though - but that's a good thing.

Having spent so much time studying psychology, it shouldn't come as a surprise to me then how my perception of the following three things has changed in the six months since I moved to Chicago.

1. Distance, particularly how it relates to running
Anything less than five miles seems like nothing to me now. Which is not to say that I find running five miles (or greater) easy. Five miles just doesn't seem that far.
I believe there are two reasons for this:

Reason A - the more I run and the further I run, the more running becomes routine and therefore the "shorter" distances become "easier". It would appear that the concept of training is a sound one!

Reason B - I am still hardwired to think in kilometres. Therefore, when I hear five miles, my sub-conscious thinks five kilometres. This is an example of how much "auto-processing" happens in our minds and that sometimes we really need to challenge our thinking. I'm not going to challenge my thinking here though, it's a very handy mind twist to have in my arsenal.

2. Weight
I want to run more and I want to run "better". Better is relative only to me and my ability. I've been getting faster and I've been suffering fewer injuries (yay!) and while much of this is due to more consistent training, some is also due to losing weight over the past 12 months.

I try not to get too obsessive on this topic as I don't believe it's good for me to do so. I've been chipping away at losing slowly, making small changes here and there to find a way of life that's sustainable for me. I think I'm about 1/3 of the way to where I want to be (I'm not stuck on a hard number - I set small progress goals but my ultimate goal will be decided at what feels right).

Moving countries was not easy - I had to learn new brands, new foods and new ingredients - but that made it fun too as I had new thing to experiment with. Changing from kilograms to pounds has been mind-tricky though, and not in a good way. My default brain setting for weight is kilograms. So, similar to the miles/kilometres thing, when I hear five pounds my sub-conscious says five kilograms. This means I think my changes are more successful than they really are. I am definitely challenging this mind twist - visual comparisons of one pounds versus one kilogram are helpful.

3. Temperature
I love winter. I love cold weather. I love snow.

Look, snow!
At the turnaround on my Saturday run

I get cold, don't get me wrong. But I would rather be cold than be hot.

The more time I spend in a Chicago winter, the lower the temperature my definition of cold kicks in at. If it's 20 or above, I'm defining the temperature as "cold but not that cold". Six months ago that definition applied to temps in the 40s.

I think this is more acclimatisation than a change in temperature scales because the difference between celsius and fahrenheit is just too hard to translate in my head. I think choosing to love the cold helps too - that's Cognitive Psychology 101 (you feel what you think). Hmm, note to self, should probably stopping saying I don't like hot weather.

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