Thursday, December 8, 2011

Can Running Boost Your Resume?


There was an interesting article posted to Twitterverse recently  that amused and intrigued me, “Does this mean running is a resume-booster?”  It cites a University of Illinois study that shows that athletes excel at everyday tasks (like crossing the street), and hence, are better multitaskers at work.  OK.

It caught my attention because in a recent 5K I ran (and PR’d!) I had to run through a stretch of gravel road with a lot of larger(1-2 inch) loose rocks in my Vibram Five Fingers.  As I maintained a fast Personal Record pace I wondered HOW I was dodging all those little minefields for more than a 1/4  mile (twice!).  Luck?  Or was something else going on at blazingly fast speed that was helping my brain make minute adjustments to my foot placement, and possibly for things I didn’t acknowledge seeing?  (Alas I did land squarely on one rock at the end of the stretch that really smarted!  But, in defense of my brain, I did see it coming, I just couldn't do anything about it.) 

And yesterday when I was running in the rain I started thinking more about body mechanics, control and speed.  I don’t think you can go safely faster than your brain and nervous system can support.  Shear physical abilities aside, if the brain cannot process information fast enough to keep the body out of harm’s way, I think 2 things must happen (and I don't pretend to be an expert on any of this, just theories): 

1.  The body remains at a performance level that is in relative control, at or below ability.  You may be tired or you may be pressing the limits of your body to move at the speed you are, but there is some degree of throttling back in the form of a slower or not-yet-optimized nervous system. 

2.  The brain must build its network of connections and nerves to process information more quickly, and through repeated speed work and faster running I think your body is constantly adapting, especially your brain.  The nervous system gets trained to perform better as your ability develops. 

Vivo Barefoot coined/popularized the term Proprioception, or the ability to sense the next step and make the minute adjustments required to traverse the surface of the next step safely.  Michael Sandler in his barefoot running musings says his feet have eyes, and he spins yarn about how running through the woods at night barefoot poses no great risk to him.   

While I still struggle with rough road surfaces and road pebbles when barefoot, I have noticed that my barefoot running gets a little better each time.  And my ability to avoid troublesome pebbles gets better too (I don’t believe my feet are tough enough yet to not feel them).  Also, my speed continues to improve, but I think it’s the combination of physical ability and brain ability. 

Can I argue that any of this will help me get my next job in IT?  Nope.  

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