I’m resting up today for the 10 mile run on Saturday. While I was walking to the studio, I listened to Krista Tippet’s On Being. This episode, How Trauma Lodges in the Body, featured an interview with the psychiatrist Bessel van der Kolk. He’s particularly interested in bodywork and how it can help people with trauma recover. I was struck by his discussion of the disconnect between mind and body in the West.
the mind/body split
DR. VAN DER KOLK: But it’s true. Western culture is astoundingly disembodied and uniquely so. Because of my work, I’ve been to South Africa quite a few times and China and Japan and India. You see that we are much more disembodied. And the way I like to say is that we basically come from a post-alcoholic culture. People whose origins are in Northern Europe had only one way of treating distress. That’s namely with a bottle of alcohol.
North American culture continues to continue that notion. If you feel bad, just take a swig or take a pill. And the notion that you can do things to change the harmony inside of yourself is just not something that we teach in schools and in our culture, in our churches, in our religious practices. And of course, if you look at religions around the world, they always start with dancing, moving, singing…
MS. TIPPETT: Yeah. Crying, laughing.
DR. VAN DER KOLK: Physical experiences. And then the more respectable people become, the more stiff they become somehow.
Part of this running project and the development of one of my key running stories is the split between mind and body and how it works in my running, writing, thinking and being. I’m trying to develop a relationship between mind and body that doesn’t prioritize one over the other or understand them to be wholly separate and disconnected things. What could that relationship look like?
heart rate variability (hrv)
Also during the interview, they briefly mentioned the importance of a “robust heart rate variability.” What the hell is that, I wondered. So, I looked it up and found that it’s a measure of the time between heart beats and that it might be useful to track for improving your training. Now, I’m not trying to get too fiddly and overly complicated with my training. I don’t want to start tracking lots of different things, but I’m curious about HRV, mainly because my heart rate seems a little strange. The difference between a super easy run (166 BPM for 6 miles/avg. pace 9:43) and a decently hard run (180 BPM for 5K race/avg. pace 8:13) was not that much. Is that weird? Anyway, I’m just wondering how “robust” my hrv is.
Here’s an article that discusses HRV and its values for training and here’s an app for the iWatch that tracks your HRV.