Marathon training: Are you associative or disassociative?

Picture of brainThis morning I had a great 5 mile run.  I was not trying to run faster but I ended up finishing in 43 minutes which is the best pace of any run I’ve had so far, short or long.  That’s very encouraging since on Tuesday I cut my run short because I was feeling so fatigued.

After the run, I experimented with some of the recovery suggestions I’ve received over the last few days.  I soaked my legs in a cool bath immediately after stretching and drank a glass of chocolate milk.  Plus I ate more carbs for breakfast afterwards.

But my biggest experiment was I decided to take an “associative approach” to the run…

Associative and Disassociative Mental Techniques
I’m up to chapter 11 in The Non-Runners Marathon Trainer.  It describes associative and disassociative mental techniques.  Associative techniques are things you do to try to maintain focus on your running such as focusing on your breathing, your stride, your arm position, the feelings in your legs and feet, and so forth.  Disassociative techniques are things you to do to try to take your mind off running like listening to music, praying, and imagining your somewhere else.  The book encourages an associative approach, but ultimately ultimately it’s something you have to experiment with and choose for yourself. 

I’ve always been a disassociative runner even before I started marathon training.  But this morning I decided to run without headphones for the first time in my training and try to focus on what my body was doing during the run.  It was interesting at first but after a while my mind started drifting and eventually I ended up intentionally disassociating for minutes at a time.  Maybe that’s what will work for me – disassociative for a few minutes and then periodically checking back in to see how my body’s doing   It’s something I’m going to continue to experiment with.

I’d be curious to hear from other runners as to whether they prefer the associative or disassociative approach or some combination of the two (of so how much of each?)

Forum Discussion (added 8/26)
This topic sparked a lot of interesting conversation on running forums.  I should have anticipated this, but it seems like everyone has periods of associative and disassociative thinking.  The question is how much of each.


  1. Live Intentionally » Blog Archive » Marathon Training Update: 10 Mile Milestone - August 27, 2007

    […] Marathon training: Are you associative or disassociative? […]

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