Getting to grips with my Chimp

Since that fateful night of August 5th when I started work as a doctor, right up until December, I really struggled with mood and motivation. Reading the criteria for diagnosing depression, it’s fairly apparent that I was exhibiting a lot of the behaviours you’d expect, and my training and racing took a big nosedive. It became a vicious cycle as well; the worse my job was, in terms of workload, overtime and stress, the less likely I was to go out running, thus the worse my runs went, thus I wanted to go out and run even less, knowing I’d feel crap. The only thing I clung on to was that this had to be temporary; I told myself I had to stick out 4 months and that was it, until I got my life back and hopefully my happiness too.

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It’s easy after a few tough months like that to pick yourself back up and dust yourself off, to get on with training and get fit again. It had become all too easy to arrive home after another 11 hours at the coal face exhausted, demoralised and sometimes downright upset, and running was the last priority then; things like dinner, clean washing, a shower and bed became more important. Now, though, I’ve moved to a less stressful job with a much nicer rota, and it’s time to get things back on track- and work on the balance I’m aiming for this year!

I’m about halfway through reading The Chimp Paradox now, and a lot of it rings true; the theory that we all have a ‘Human’ brain and a ‘Chimp’. The Human makes rational, sensible decisions, for example ‘I’ll go for a run after work’, but the Chimp makes quick decisions, based in emotion rather than logic, for example ‘Today was emotionally draining, so I deserve the night off, spent on the sofa with loads of snacks’. All too often, the Chimp wins out, because it is the stronger urge, and from what I understand, the more often the Chimp dictates decisions, the stronger it’s influence becomes.

Essentially, the Chimp represents some of the worst parts of your character; the parts that procrastinate and put off doing things. That look for the easy way out rather than necessarily the right way. That leaves you on the sofa rather than getting on with the training plan for the marathon you really want to race in a good time.

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I’m still reading the book, and am finding it really interesting, but the process of recognising and thinking about my Chimp is proving helpful so far- when I find myself about to sack off running, or take the easy way out and not do any extra-curricular stuff towards my career, I stop and think about if it’s me or my Chimp making the suggestion- and 9 times out of 10 it’s not me! I’m interested to see where the book goes as regards strategies for managing the Chimp, but even recognising it’s existence is helping my running so far, in the first weeks of the Hansons Marathon Method; building regular running as a habit, with 5 easy runs a week to establish a base, before building to 6 runs including tempo work and speedwork. It’s early days yet, but 3 weeks without a run skipped is definitely some serious progress- here’s to putting the Chimp back where it belongs!

3 thoughts on “Getting to grips with my Chimp

  1. Tess @ FitBits

    Ah this sounds interesting – I definitely have a Chimp too! I’m getting back on it after Christmas – took a bit of sucking it up but out the other side. Will following your marathon progress! Also LOVE those shoes!!!

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  2. Michelle

    Great post! I’ve been experiencing something very similar the last 6 months or so, after a big move and a new job. And I’m currently sitting on the sofa, with my Chimp telling me not to run today. But this post has inspired me to ignore it 🙂 thanks!!

    Reply
  3. Chris

    It’s an interesting book / idea – but I think it’s not surprising that our lives aren’t always perfectly 100% in balance however well we manage the chimp.

    Sometimes work gets crazy, sometimes there’s family stuff going on, sometimes we’re crazy focused a PB and that’s ok – just have to remember to even things out when the chance comes up.

    For someone doing their first rotation as a junior Dr, about as stressful a work situation as it’s possible to imagine, just coming out the end in one piece wanting to get back to some training / normality is a good result!

    Reply

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