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Brain Work: How Internet Chess improved my Running !

Posted by Torr | Chess,Marathon | Sunday 7 December 2014 14:55

Ok, so maybe you read my October post on how to improve and reprogramme your Brain ? You pursuit in this could be many things such as working smarter and better, becoming more at ease, more loving or, like me, wanting to improve your running. Let me give you my personal breakthrough on a very surprising piece of Brain Work: how playing chess on the Internet improved my running technique !

Firstly, let me explain two concepts of Internet Chess that might be unfamiliar to you:

A) Bullet Chess Games
You typically have 1 minute for the whole game !

B) Premove
Due to the very limited amount of time, one tries (especially in the opening game) to move “before it’s time”, that is move whilst the other players time is actually counting. These premoves are often successful and save time, but can of course lead to major blunders and direct losses in a single move. The premoves are all about saving time.

Watch the first three minutes of the video below and notice how many moves that are made literally within 1 second ! This is only doable due to the premoves, ie. (intuitively/instrictively) thinking and thus acting ahead.


Premoves in Bullet Chess: thinking and moving “before time” (notice the clocks versus number of moves)

My Achilles heel in Running: Cadence
My awesome coach Aleksandar Sørensen-Markovic of OOB Coaching early spotted that in running, my cadence was way to low. I knew this myself, obviously, but it came as a surprise that it was way too low even when running “fast” (for my running form), and the general importance of keeping a high cadence at all times was also an eye-opener to me.


Cadence explained. Note in the video: “muscle memory” equals neuron memory equals a Brain Pattern

My Achilles heel in Chess: Losing on time
Well, knowledge is one thing, skills  to change the situation are another matter and to put it short, I struggled with this through months (through years, actually). Until I remembered my Achilles heel in Chess too: I HATE LOSING – and especially on time in a won position. I REALLY REALLY hate it. And this is a VERY familiar pattern for my Brain: to premove in those bullet games to avoid these disgusting defeats. You may sense the motivation here is very high.

The Solution: Improving my Running Cadence by tricking my Brain
So now we have the Lego pieces all together: The Premove concept, the runner with a pathetic cadence, the childish chess player hating to lose on time (in 1 minute games, sigh) and the Brain groupie wanting to utilize the hindsight of modern Brain research as intuitively “sensed”. So what emerges of all this ?

Well, I have “tricked” my Brain to “believe” that my legs are playing bullet chess ! One leg, one color. Ground contact time equals time spend on the chess clock. Therefore, my running cadence is forced to become high – ie. using as little time as possible – as the opposite is leading to defeat.  My feet, my legs, my entire body, actually, is premoving those Running Strides and thus utilizing an indeed very trained Brain Pattern for me. The result has been a vastly improved Running Form and Cadence for me and I am now doing split times I only dreamed of in the past.

Obviously, and luckily, the common denominator to Bullet Chess and Running Cadence is: Time. Applied differently but installed in me as a very strong Brain Pattern and with a Physical Component in each area: In Chess moving the pieces, in Running moving my legs. Surely, this “trick” repeatedly uses a sort of Visualization of my Running Cadence, thus implementing one of the recommended tools from the modern Brain research.

Learning Points: Identify Your Successful Skillset and Tranfer it
I believe my story here could be inspirational.  I firmly believe that Brain Work will be a central theme in many things in the years to come,  and that we are only beginning to hear about all the things modern Brain research can do for us. Or rather, how we all have the opportunity to learn, study and apply these things.

Doing so I believe that the fastest results may come by the re-utilization or transfer of skillsets (= Brain Patterns) already well installed in each of us, and, alternatively, by mimicking  Patterns observed / learned in others.

Every Human Being is the Master of something, or becoming so.

Magic mushrooms, brain patterns and (running)(thinking)(just about)(everything!)

Posted by Torr | Chess,Marathon,Music,Spirituality | Wednesday 15 October 2014 20:30

Magic mushrooms - Tor Rønnow

Recently, a scientific study has indicated that the human brain is capable of entering a variety of altered states if given “magic mushrooms” (psychedelic drugs !). These findings may seem obvious and expected, however, I do believe that both the philosophical and practical extrapolations are extremely interesting, and, if handled in the right manner, potentially life-changing.

Most importantly, the study indicates that a number of otherwise “unavailable” brain states may come into play. Philosophically, to me, this translates into that a number of personality traits and skill sets just await our personal discoveries.

Our experiences in life both create and define our lives and personalities, and, importantly, vice versa ! The magic mushroom implication here is that our lives, skill sets and types of experiences could be so many other “personally unthinkable” things. You are so much more than you think you are. At least, potentially.  It is there, in your brain !

Personal Development
We  do indeed learn so many things during our lives, and we can further develop and refine the skills we already master. Brain-wise this corresponds to entering either new or known brain trails / patterns and to strengthen these trails. The more trained a brain pattern is, the better you master the particular skill on a subconscious level. This is probably the brain equivalent to the 10.000 hours training principle. The cultivation and repetition of a particular skill/brain trail is indeed the cornerstone of all learning and personal development. It starts when we are infants and if you are a wise parent, you buy your baby toys targeted for brain development.

Magic mushrooms - Tor Rønnow
We can all benefit from the brain sciences, babies, children, teenagers, adults

We humans are both blessed and victimized by the (limited) number of brain states known to us. It may not necessarily be enough to “think positive” or in a new manner to change habits, to break diseases (including depression) or alter unwanted personality traits such as compulsive eating (or – disorders), low self esteem or what have you. It may require a magic mushroom, metaphorically speaking, to get in contact of these new states. This line of thinking support the essence of various of the New Age philosophies/schools, the practice of meditation (indeed, the powerful healing states of meditation are well described) and personal development stuff such as NLP, the latter being firmly based on the brains connection and involvement in our human experiences as a whole.  Below is a list of suggested activities (“safe mushrooms”) to explore.

1. NLP – Advanced tools for self development; [short into to NLP]
2. Meditation and self-hypnosis – Your body’s own healing and relaxation methods and states
3. Go into therapy. You send your car to a garage when it needs fixing. You need healing of your soul. We all do
4. Get a personal Psychological Profile (eg. the extremely detailed Identity Blueprint)  to identify relevant “issues”
5. Physical exercise – Creating hormones and BDNF to grow your brain [eg. by running]
6. Study something new to you, eg. the works of an artist, a new language, some unfamiliar music (preferably classical)
7. Off-line activities in the Nature
8. Do Charity ! Help someone without asking anything in return. Just help !
9. Love. Yourself. Your family. Your friends. Life itself.  Odds are you have this one chance. Love deeply !

In the Trails of Brain Science
Without going too much into academic references I do believe that all of the above suggestions have been “proved” scientifically to do good things for your brain and thus for your potential to explore new assets in yourself. There are actually a number of tools and activities that you can exploit that have even closer bonds to Science. I will list a few below and also add some book suggestions. I am pretty sure we will be hearing a lot more on the said issues in the years to come, the art being how to take real advantage of the ever increasing outputs from the areas of brain research and the related disciplines.

A. Use drawing tools like mind maps to capture and explore your ideas, concepts and universes
B. Use brain targeted music and programs like the Monroe products (eg.  Hemi-Sync music, Mind-Food tools) [youtube  it !]
C. Read up on the latest scientific findings within the vast field of brain research, popular books include
C1. “Making a Good Brain Great”, Daniel G. Amen
C2. “Change your Brain, Change your Body”, D.G. Amen
C3. “Super Brain”, Deepak Chopra, Rudolph E. Tanzi
C4. “Thinking, Fast and Slow”, Daniel Kahneman
C5. “smart thinking”, Art Markman

These books reveal the latest on issues like learning, problem solving, creativity, smart habits (including eating and sleeping habits) and a lot more, all based on our current knowledge on how the brain and the mind work. As stated by two of Daniel Amens brain-centered principles: “Your brain is involved in everything you do” <alas the Title of this post>, therefore “when your brain works right, you work right”. These principles convey one of my core intentions with this post, however, YOU must make the difference for you ! Every change  and experience in your life resides in your brain. You decide your moves and the World is not to blame (but of course some people live under circumstances where these thoughts are simply not possible to exercise due to extreme poverty, war, diseases,”regimes” and the like).

Magic mushrooms - Tor Rønnow
Creating Mind Maps is an incredibly effective way to use and train your brain, to learn and innovate. Check up on the books by Tony Buzan. You find my Mind Map on my London Marathon 2005 here.

Leonardo Da Vinci and the Renaissance Man
For me, the ideal of brain and potential utilization reached its very peak with the life and works by the great masters of the renaissance, ie. artists like Bernini and Michelangelo and the universal genius Leonardo Da Vinci.

Magic mushrooms - Tor Rønnow
A sketch by Leonardo Da Vinci, the ultimate brain of all time

There is actually a book on peak performance called “How to think like Leonardo Da Vinci [by Michael J. Gelb]” and it is very much similar to mind mapping and to utilizing all your senses  and putting a variety of skills into play (at the same time). Kind of the same goes for the De Bono Six Thinking Hats approach to brainstorming and problem solving forcing you to approach the same problem from six different angles (it’s fun to do, actually !). You find similar “advice” in the famous Disney Principles, or, to change the game slightly, in LEAN or Six Sixma approaches to optimization within production systems and organisations. The common denominator for all these things is: applied pattern recognition (plus, perhaps, rigor and systematic). Pattern recognition is en passant one of the key skills in playing chess and playing chess may in fact increase your overall IQ according to recent studies.

The reason I mention this in this section of the post here is based on the thought that patterns and brain usages are (or may be) similar to or “transportable” from one type of thinking/skill to another. Like my oldest son is a “genius” with a ball in any type of such sport (soccer, table tennis, basket ball, etc.), just the same  ease Leonardo had with the arts, with sculpturing and with “the sciences” (which he founded in many ways).

In conclusion: strive to make your brain work  beneficial to several areas of your life. Take your pride and talents from one set of skills and apply them (if possible) to other, perhaps for you, new areas. If you can learn one language, you can learn ten. If you ever learned anything, you can learn again. Your efforts (and, obviously, in some countries your opportunities) define the limits. Not your brain – it is (for all practical purposes) limitless ! Just imagine, your brain can make up a picture of Mick Jagger sitting on the moon in a pink tuxedo with Scarlett Johansson on the left and Megan Fox on the right them all listening to “Over the Rainbow” sung by Elvis on his old days. Tell me:  your brain just produced exactly that, yes ? See ?!

Visualisation, Peak Performance and Running
It has been known for quite a while that visualization is a powerful tool for eg. athletes with respect to their *physical* performances / skills, this again translates into sets of “activated” brain patterns in these individuals. One might even speculate that it may be the very availability of these particular brain patterns that provide the assets to these athletes, and if you extrapolate, that particular skills have their corresponding brain patterns.

You could speculate that a “talent” for something is a natural or maybe even a genetically given preference or availability to a particular brain pattern / sets of neurological trails. It may be such that certain patterns by default are just not available to everyone, explaining why some few are “naturals” and  most of us not. However, this is where the implications of the Magic Mushrooms become so interesting: the default can be circumvented ! It requires, however, brain work.

In some contexts brain work is actually achieved “by proxy” by the body’s physical movements. Babies learn to walk during numerous repetitions of the copied behavior of their parents or siblings, and what actually happens is that the brain patterns connected to “walking” are being established and sufficiently strengthened until the skill of walking is mastered.

Babies also train speech long before action [according to this brain research study]. The same can be said about so many other physical skills, including running. It is thus tempting to speculate that one could dramatically improve ones running abilities / performance by eating Magic Mushrooms in the metaphorical sense: can we get reach of “new” brain states that unlock such awesome running skills ? I think the answer univocally must be : Yes ! Indeed, this is what much training of eg. running style is all about: finding and enforcing the brain trails to support an efficient/desired running style. The alluring thought here is whether we by visualization/pure brain work can discover mushroom running states which we then afterwards can transform into actual movements ? I take delight into thinking so. Obviously, we would need to bring our body into the shape to be able to carry out this awesome running and this shaping could itself require various kind of work such as weight loss, training if core and leg muscles etc. The point is: the mushroom awesomeness is there, available if you go for it and put in the hours. Your brain decides.

Magic mushrooms - Tor Rønnow
Bring Running to your Mind and your Mind will make you run !

So – how ? Well, you could start out by studying videos teaching a particular running style. You could read up. You could take notes and make personal posters to remind you of the new stuff. Mushroom posters, running motivational posters. Your first thought each morning should be on your running style, and your last one each evening. The more your mind focuses on reaching your goal, the closer you get to it. Use your mind to create your Reality, NOW and your Future. This applies to Running as to everything else in your life.

Your Brain, Your Health, Your Spirit and God
During the reading of the above you might have thought “but I believe in God”, or “I am a spiritual person” or “I believe in Science “only”" or whatever, so all this does not apply to me.

Magic mushrooms - Tor Rønnow
David, Transfiguration of Christ; coronal section of human brain
From Paluzzi et al., Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine, 2007

Well: Wrong ! Brain research has indeed established that “believing” is a brain-state itself, a very healthy and positive one by the way [A.Newberg, M.R.Waldman, "How God changes your brain"], and that the brains of believers change such that the objects of their beliefs become as real to them as “real” verifiable experiences/objects. The mentioned book also points out that religious extremism damage the brain and leads to destructive behavior. (Just take 5 minutes think about the content of the last sentence and what it actually means and implies !)

Magic mushrooms - Tor Rønnow
Did Michelangelo hint the God-Spirit-Brain connection in the Sixtine Chapel ?

Surely, “healthy” and “constructive” are the key-words we like, and what could be more important to any person – and thus families and whole communities – than a prosperous health, both mentally and physically ? Again, your brain is the key player, and you may by the powers of your brain and will-power govern your  daily health by meditation, and, in case of disease, apply your mind to heal via the Placebo Effect [J. Dispenza, "You are the Placebo"]. It is time to step up to the fact that our minds can heal, and that disruptive, non-constructive behaviors may be the results of brain-damages, literally, and thus need treatments as such. The latter has been proven over and over again at the Amen Clinics by capturing and analyzing thousands of brain SPECT images (cf. the books mentioned above). Healthy is (involving) a series of brain patterns and so is unhealthy. Same goes for the experience of “God”.

Disclaimers and Conclusions
Please note that I am not trying to reduce neither Religion nor diseases to “a brain thing” only, I am just pointing out that our brains a involved no matter what and that we can benefit from this knowledge itself.

I am also not prescribing  ”development” as an exquisite positive by definition, indeed, in many matters of life just keeping a blissful status quo is just fine ! Change should be initiated by your own motivation and desire, which again can be propelled by either lust or need. If you have already found the brain states and activities that bring grace and happiness to your life, you may need no change. At the end of the day, authenticity may prove to be one of the most important things in a persons life and well-being, casting ropes to the psyche, feelings, aspirations, sexuality and personal, unique life-stories and fates.

Ok, to wrap it up: this write is a somewhat long “brainstorm” (!) / series of associations upon the mentioned Mushroom Study, and the key point is this: your brain can take you to new places. You may add; if so desired. Indeed, identifying what you want and what is good for you is a key and life-long process. My speculation on the Mushrooms is: your goal/state may be completely out-of-box with your current normal thinking. Or it may be applying your skill-set from one area in another (a touching and telling example is found in the movie “The Blind Side” where the All American football player Michael Oher sets on fire when protecting [the "other" skill-set] his team).

Magic mushrooms - Tor Rønnow
The Blind Side: Michal Oher finds his transferable skill. What is yours ?

I believe we will hear a lot about this in the future as the research in these matters continue to evolve and refine our understanding of the magnificent human brain. The techniques of tomorrow is already here, perhaps in somewhat rudiment forms, it is up to us to utilize them, both for our personal endeavors and for out loved ones, colleagues, friends, people we meet, communities. Striving for a better tomorrow will benefit the entire mankind and the future generations to come.

The Force is within us all – our brains.

Congratulations, Larsen !

Posted by Torr | Chess | Friday 5 March 2010 11:29

Yesterday the best Danish chessplayer of all times, Bent Larsen (“Larsen”) turned 75.

More on this world-famous star can be fould in this celebration. Congratulations, Larsen !

Magnus Carlsen – the Norwegian Chess Genius !

Posted by Torr | Chess | Wednesday 18 November 2009 18:36

Norwegian genius ?

Let me think… Henrik Abel (mathematics), Edward Grieg (composer) and Edward Munch (painter).
That’s about it, isnt it ?

No !

Today, young Magnus Carlsen grabbed his first World Champion Title in Chess, ie. in speedchess and totally destroying all opposition on his way. Incredible ! And this comes only a few weeks after his phenomenal win at the M-Tel Masters tournament where he prevailed with a stellar +6 score out of 10 against the strongest players on the Planet.

Carlsen has recently been trained by the perhaps strongest chessplayer ever, Gary Kasparov, and this collaboration has for sure been fruitful already, Carlsen currently being the highest ranked chessplayer in the World. Congrats !!!

Fischer dies, Carlsen lives !

Posted by Torr | Chess | Friday 18 January 2008 19:27

Do you have the intelligence to appreciate the beauty and complexity of Chess ? Well, if not you are missing out on something that can fill you with both pleasure and frustration during a lifetime.

Today, one of the greatest chess-lifetimes ended… the legendary american and former World Champion Bobby Fischer died at age 64… as per one year per square on the chessboard. Fischer was the first from the West to claim the title during the cold war, defeating Boris Spasskij in the infamous match on Iceland in 1972. Fischer was a child prodigy and his style of play was like cold, cynical logic. Thanks for sharing, Bobby !

Since the best days of Fischer the World has witnessed the best human chessplayer in history, Garry Kasparov. Kasparov’s style of play was more colourful, at times perhaps unsettled, and his strong karisma undoubtfully added to his opponents nerves and lack of well-being ;) . Kasparov has now stepped down, and his former favorite challengers Anand, Kramnik, Topalov and Kamsky have in turn ruled the great game.

But these days things are turning ! Actually, perhaps the greatest of all the chess child prodigys are ready to take over the chess world, ie. the young Norwegian boy Magnus Carlsen is unfolding extreme power. Just these days, Carlsen is thrilling the whole chess world by his creative play at the strong Corus Tournament, Carlsen actually leads as these words are written. 

NLP Chess Model is now translated to English !

Posted by Torr | Chess | Thursday 7 June 2007 21:57

The model describes how you study chess and play chess like a chess expert, and the model is partly based on an interview with the Danish Grand Master Peter Heine Nielsen (GM), the coach of the Norwegian prodigy Magnus Carlsen ! Give it a read, Im sure you will find it useful !

The NLP model work (in English):
Become a Good Chess Player

See also the articles via the menu.

 

The Return of the lost Chess Survey

Posted by Torr | Chess | Friday 2 March 2007 00:36

In 1999 I conducted the first online chess survey on the planet !

The results were published in a series of articles, both online and in printed magazines, including the Danish ‘Skakbladet’ and were even translated to several lanuguages.

Here, I bring the articles back on-line: 
http://www.temperance.dk/blog/chess/CHESS/index.htm