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Keith Uhlig mountain bikes at Nine Mile
Keith Uhlig mountain bikes at Nine Mile: blogger and Wausau Daily Herald reporter Keith Uhlig rode with friend Jake Miller at Nine Mile Recreation Area in Marathon County in September 2012.

Jake put his head in his hands and started to moan a bit. “Not again,” he said. “Not this again. It’s every two weeks!”

We had just finished our last mountain bike ride at Nine Mile County Forest Recreation Area, and were driving home. I had merely mentioned that I had been thinking about my training goals and had come up with some new ideas.

“It’s not that complicated!” he said. “Ride, run and do some pushups and situps.”

I was very hurt by his reaction, so I didn’t tell him about how my scheme to become a better athlete is to severely limit the amount of television that I watch. That’s his loss, and I expect I’ll be kicking his butt next cycling season and listening to him whine about how he needs a new bike.

I’m not sure I can really blame TV on the fact that I’m 20 pounds overweight and a middle-of-the-pack runner. But I think it’s a certainty that TV has been an anchor for any athletic potential I ever had. Here’s why.

Recent studies are showing that an athlete’s strength of mind is almost as important as her strength of legs when it comes to endurance events. The idea is that the brain tells you to slow down long before your body really needs to slow down, and you have to override those preliminary thoughts. That takes sustained, concentrated willpower, and I believe TV has rusted through any that I ever had.

In Runner’s World magazine, one of my favorite running writers, Alex Hutchinson, talked about how he was training his brain for that workload by concentrating for an hour on a simple, purposefully mind-numbing video game before doing a long run. That was to simulate the mental exertion he would need to complete a marathon. It sounded just awful.

My idea is instead of playing some tortuous video game designed, maybe it would be just as beneficial to embrace brain-bolstering activity by doing stuff known to help powers of concentration, such as learning to play an instrument or meditating.

And it couldn’t hurt, could it, to give up TV, the one thing we all know sucks the power from brains? I read once that the brain shows less activity when a person watches a TV than when sleeping. If that’s true, one’s brain could be strengthened by taking a nap instead of watching “Real Housewives.”

So that’s what I’ve been doing — turning off the television, and falling asleep while thinking about going to practice the guitar. It’s a start.

Read more from Keith Uhlig.

Keith Uhlig’s blog veers toward outdoor silent sports, running, biking, kayaking, etc., but also can be about eating cheese, growing up and living in central Wisconsin and life in general.

Keith Uhlig can be contacted at 715-845-0651 or Follow him on Twitter as @UhligK.

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