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My internal gut has (and will remain) one of my most valuable assets. In fact, it’s any human’s valuable asset. There is sound reasoning in science behind this that has to do with implicit and explicit memory—basically, the brain remembers things that the brain did not necessarily focus to remember and learn. It just knows (hence, the implicit memory that becomes “second nature”).
Recently, my gut has been literally tied up into small knots, and screaming at me about a race that I was planning for the end of the year. I would go out on a ride, and my gut would say, “No. You can’t do this race.” I didn’t know whether to keep pursuing this race. Was the gut reaction just fear or laziness? It felt different than fear and laziness. In fact, I was receiving caveman-like responses in my gut. The response was repeatedly: run. [And I don’t mean in the “go for a run” way!] Where I am usually a “fighter” in the fight or flight scenario, when my gut says “run,” I hear that as a first clue that something is up. In other words, my implicit memory is knowing something wise.
Turns out that my gut was right in this race situation. Life became exceptionally and unexpected busy, and there would be no room for the distance training that this particular race would require. My gut was right.
But how did it know?
In fact, my gut “knew” about six weeks before my head and heart caught up to it—before the real answer was revealed. I started talking to more and more people, who began to share their gut experiences. “I didn’t race that day, and I am glad I didn’t because my child ended up in the hospital.” Or, “I chose to go ahead and race, because my gut told me that even though the odds were stacked against me.”
In life and in triathlon, I have learned to do a gut check. In my mind, the gut is the direct line to the heart, which then talks to the brain. In that order. The gut check involves engaging my thinking cap, my heart beats, and listening hard to the internal knowledge. What is my gut telling me? What am I hearing? What is true? What is not?
Asking “is this true?” and receiving a “yes, this is definitely or possibly true” response from yourself is a key indicator of the gut talking. When the feelings are fear or laziness, then truth will reveal those reasons as often excuses or lies. When the gut is talking, the truth question may have some teeth.
When I feel extremely nervous about a race, I have taken to listening to my gut in a sensitive way, and asking the latter questions. Then, I ask myself the question, “Am I trying to get out of this race because I am fearful or nervous of the distance, but it is going to turn out okay? Or is my gut really trying to warn me to not race?”
While I am not a fluent speaker in the language of my gut (yet), I am beginning to understand the signs. I am learning to read those signs—to at least find my way out of the building or to the bathroom. Sometimes when I see those signs, I now hear loud and clear: run. And so I do.
Meredith Atwood (@Swimbikemom) is a recovering attorney, motivational speaker and author of Triathlon for the Every Woman. She is the host of the new podcast, “The Same 24 Hours,” a show which interviews interesting people who make the best of the 24 hours in each day. She lives in Atlanta with her husband and two children, and writes about all things at MeredithAtwood.com.