Noakes is the chief architect of a new model of exercise performance that sees the brain as the source of all our capacities and all our limitations. Even though the muscles and blood and heart and lungs are important, Noakes has shown that it is the brain that ultimately determines what we can do as athletes. It is the brain that determines when we can run faster or farther and when we cannot. One of the most often repeated sayings in sports is this: What you believe, you can achieve. Next time you hear an athlete or coach use this expression, ask why it is so. Chances are he or she will not be able to articulate a clear reason, but will probably make some reference to the power of the mind to overcome physical limitations. But Noakes understands that the mind is nothing more than an epiphenomenon of the brain’s operations and that the brain is every bit as physical as the rest of the body. Noakes knows why athletes oftennot always, but oftenare able to achieve what they believe. He knows that our beliefs about what we can do as runners are the products of evidencebased calculations of our capabilities performed by the brain on a largely subconscious level. The evidence used in these calculations comes from two sources: the body and conscious experience. During running, the brain constantly monitors feedback from the body (either directly, by monitoring muscle fuel levels and so forth; indirectly, by monitoring the intensity of the brain’s own efforts to activate the muscles; or boththere is scientific disagreement about this) and in doing so learns the body states that correspond with performance limits. But the body changes through training, and as the body changes, the brain is required to make new projections about what a runner can do.
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