Associative versus disassociative running

I suppose I'm a disassociative runner, because I have to keep my mind from noticing what my body is doing.

Otherwise it would immediately grind me to a halt, on the grounds of 'I don't wanna get sweaty'. So what I do is this: I throw my mind a bone to chew on, in the form of Country and Western music. While my body is running, my mind is listening to sad stories about orphans and coats of many colors.

Associative and disassociative running explained

Tim Noakes writes about associative and disassociative running in Lore of Running, 4th Edition. He defines them as 'when running, either think about everything but what you are doing (disassociation) or concentrate purely on the activity and how your body feels as you run (association).'

I found it very interesting that according to Tim Noakes novice runners are better off disassociating! Because as soon as they start associating, and thinking about their running and how their bodies are hurting, they wanna stop! On the other hand: competitive runners are better off associating!

How to disassociate?

To take your mind off of running you can play it some music, like I do. Or you could run with someone else, so you two can talk while running. Taking a new route will also help.

How to associate?

Let's say you want to keep your mind on your body, but your mind is behaving like a two year old, constantly wandering off. All you have to do is run faster! That'll get your mind's attention! There's nothing like a lack of oxygen and gasping for breath to get it to focus on your body.

What kind of runner are you: an associative runner or are you more of a disassociative runner?


Char said...

Can you be a bit of both? I like to keep tabs on what my body's doing at times but not all the time. So I'll take my mind off the pain by checking out the scenery, listening to music and solving the world's problems in my head.

nicoleao said...

Yes, of course you can be a bit of both. Most runners probably alternate between associating and disassociating.

Bria Burton said...

This is eye-opening! I've never heard this before and it makes so much sense. I'm a disassociative runner all the way. I listen to podcasts, usually fiction stories with entertaining hosts, that keep my mind off the fact that I'm running. Explains why I'm a little unhappy without my iTouch on a run. Running with people that I can chat with (because I'm usually going at a chatting pace, not racing pace) also helps me.

nicoleao said...

Hi Bria, thanks for commenting so enthusiastically! I'm like you: a disassociative runner.

Brennan said...

Hey! New to your blog...

I hadn't heard these terms either. I tend to use both techniques, but for different kinds of workouts. I'm associative with speedwork, but very dissociative with long and easy runs. Not paying attention to my pace helps me to slow down--which is what I'm supposed to do on long and easy runs! If I'm paying attention I start to feel antsy and want to go faster.

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