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Is It Worth It?

"Not training is training; training for nothing is training for something." - Dr. Eric Cobb

Humans are incredibly adaptable overcomers, and I can't shake the feeling that the most dangerous epidemic we are facing is the one of forgetting this.

For some reason, it seems that we are suffering from amnesia. I think it is important to ask, "Why?"

At least part of the answer lies in how we live. To some degree, our lives have become too safe and predictable. Unfortunately, "safe and predictable" is not what brings out our best.

Our bodies and brains have not changed much in 200,000 years. While we may know more than we used to, the parts and systems we possess are basically the same. More than anything else, we were made to be awesome survivors; however, the lives we live tend to be so insulated from danger, that the skill we have as survivors goes unchallenged.

Our deconditioning may be setting us up for catastrophe. If our life becomes too predictable, rhythmic, and unchallenged, a specific region of our brain gets less activation. This region, the anterior cingulate cortex (ACC), activates when we engage in a long, arduous task. The longer and more challenging the task, the more the ACC activates.

Our brains are super efficient, which has a disturbing downside. Efficiency means our brains operate under a "use it or lose it" rule. With little or no activation, parts of the brain can stop working; neurons can die off, in favor of supporting other systems that are more activated. If the ACC goes unused, the brain deems it unimportant, and we can literally forget how powerful we are.

A good working ACC is supposed to ask, "Is it worth it to keep going?" Unfortunately, if we never challenge ourselves to perform extended, difficult tasks, the ACC can get weak. Deconditioned, the ACC becomes less reliable in judging what we can handle. It may overestimate the effort required to win a fight, and make us give up when we could have won.

Today I went on a hike with two friends. We practiced the Covid-19 mandate for "social distancing." We drove separately, avoided shaking hands, and stayed at least 6 feet away from each other. When we finished we gave each other "air hugs."

The hike was aggressive. Wearing microspikes on our shoes, we ran up a mountain, covered with ice and snow. We did this because it is an important part of our ACC training: demanding, begging, and coercing our brains to remember our strength. As we climbed, hiked, and ran along the trail, the battle raged subtly in our minds; "Is this really worth it? How much longer can I go? When should I stop?" The ACC was active.

By doing some hard, aggressive work, we hope that, when faced with the dragons in life, we know how hard we can fight. We have explored the extent of our capabilities and trained at levels of doubt and uncertainty that have heightened our senses, sharpened our vision, and reminded us of our power.

How can you train your ACC today?

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