Lesson #12 Combat fear with ‘Feral Fear Theory’
As humans, we still tend to process fear in a primitive way. We need to manage our internal operating system by understanding the concept of feral fear. During any stressful situation a cocktail of stress hormones is released into the body to bring about well-orchestrated physiological changes, from our hearts beating faster to our muscles becoming flooded with hormones, that prime us for either fight or flight and help ensure our survival.
You can regulate your stress-response through stress inoculation training. Commonly used in firefighting and law enforcement processions, this multiphase programming involves skills acquisition and consolidation, energy control and stress-testing in real-time situations.
Lesson #13 Learn the power of a higher purpose
Psychological health is predicated on fulfilling innate human needs in priority, known as Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. From most to least important, these needs are:
- Physiological (need for food, water, oxygen, sleep for example)
- Safety (security in the form of law, order and freedom from fear)
- Belonging and love (friendship, intimacy, trust and acceptance, receiving and giving affection)
- Esteem (for dignity achievement, status)
- Self-actualization (realizing personal potential, self-fulfillment)
Understanding the power of a higher purpose can help you overcome restrictions and bring a new meaning to your challenge.
Lesson #14 Accept the uncontrollables
When you’re stressed by an external force, it’s not the force itself that troubles you, but only your judgement of it. Once you understand this, you can learn to accept the uncontrollables and practice the art of acquiesce to achieve your goal.
You might have to learn to fight or dance when tackling an external force. But that force might be totally unpredictable. Some days, you might need your dancing shoes on while on others you are better off with your boxing gloves. For things you cannot change, adopt a noble spirit, bear up bravely and tune in to nature’s will.
Lesson #15 Control the controllables
The ancient stoics believed we might become physically vulnerable and are often at the mercy of external events that are uncontrollable but that our inner domain cannot be conquered without our consent.
Our emotions can be categorized as ‘controllable. Learn how to control the controllables, understand that you have power over your mind and you can find the strength to tackle even the most difficult of situations and tasks.
As a coping strategy the ‘Stockdale Paradox’ teaches us that we should never confuse faith that we will prevail in the end. We can never afford to lose with the discipline to confront the most brutal facts of our current reality, whatever they might be.
Lesson #16 Resilience cannot be rushed, but quitting can
Keeping the heart rate at a sustainable level is essential for optimum performance in endurance events. If the heart rate is too high, or too low, the brain signals the body to shut down. A sustainable heart rate in ultra-endurance events ranges from 50 to 75 percent of your maximum heart rate. For most of us, this is a heart-rate range of 110 to 160 beats per minute.
The perfect pacing strategy is just below your anaerobic threshold. This is the point when your body must switch from its aerobic energy system to its anaerobic energy system. But the fitter you are, the longer you fuel your body with the aerobic system before the anaerobic system takes over.
In water, swimmers exhibit a Mammalian Dive response where physiological changes in their body results in a slowing of the heart rate and a narrowing of blood vessels to reduce blood flow to limbs, ensuring that oxygen-sensitive organs like the heart and brain receive oxygen.
Lesson #17 You’re stronger when smiling
Your emotions and mental wellbeing can have a profound impact on your resistance to fatigue. The Royal Marines practice a philosophy of cheerfulness in the face of adversity. This is supported by research that shows performance levels increase and perceived exhaustion levels are delayed when the brain is primed with positive subliminal visual clues.
The great explorer Ernest Shackleton, in his expedition to cross Antarctica via the South Pole on his ship HMS Endurance, managed the morale of his men and survived because he understood that central to any adventure is camaraderie and the science of a smile.
Lesson #18 You can sleep yourself stronger
To keep your circadian rhythm running like clockwork, you rely on zeitgebers (external and environmental clues such as mealtime, natural light and darkness). Ignore these at your own risks. Studies show the more mentally stable and robust you are, the more resilient to sleep deprivation you may be.
Nearly every function in the body is controlled by neurotransmitters, from emotional states to mental performance and our perception to fatigue. If the brain’s little chemical messengers are not working correctly due to lack of sleep, our performance levels will suffer.
When you sleep, your human growth hormone stimulates cell reproduction, cell regeneration and recovery. Feeling overtrained and exhausted? Then head for bed!
Lesson #19 Heroics in hunger
Avoid eating by rules, regulations and checklists. There would have been no single universal diet consumed by all extinct hominin species. Rather, diets would have varied by geographic locale, climate and specific ecological niche.
Instead, humans are biologically wired to seek ‘variety’ in our diet. We would cherish this and strive to balance our nutritional intake rather than focus on beneficial nutrients. All nutrients are interdependent within the body, meaning fats, proteins, carbs, vitamins and minerals will all impact each other in more ways than we can imagine.
The perfect diet for a high-performance challenge is governed by five principles (1) calorie density (2) nutrient quality (3) digestibility (4) palatability and (5) hydration.
Lesson #20 Resilience is best served with food
Endurance athletes require daily protein intakes greater than either bodybuilders or sedentary individuals to meet the needs of protein catabolism during exercise. Sports nutritionist typically recommend athletes consume 1.7g of protein per kg of bodyweight, per day to help the muscles repair and grow.
Carbs are the body’s primary source of fuel. A study found that increased carb availability enhances endurance and performance during single exercise sessions. Although carb-loading has been a widely-accepted performance-enhancing approach for years, sports scientists say there are some situations for which alternative dietary options (adding fat) are beneficial.
Lesson #21 Stomach of steel
All endurance athletes should spend time training their stomachs. The gastrointestinal tract plays a critical role in delivering carb and fluid during prolonged exercise and can therefore be a major determinant of performance.
A normal human stomach is about the size of a small American football. At its biggest, it stretches about 15 percent but competitive eaters can expand their stomachs to two to three times their normal size.
The gastrointestinal tract plays a critical role in delivering carbs and fluid during prolonged exercise. A stomach of steel can therefore be a major determinant of performance.
Lesson #22 Resilience is suffering strategically managed
Some statistics from the Great British Swim:
- 157 days at sea
- 1,780 miles
- 0 sick days
- 2.3 million strokes
- 649 bananas eaten
- Over 1 million calories consumed
- Over 100 jellyfish stings
- 2 minke whales
- 1 basking shark
- Over 1,000 seals
- 5 rolls of gaffer tape used to fix broken skin
- 3kg of Vaseline for chafing
What lesson can we learn from this? That anything is possible!