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Inner chatter and your chimp

Chimp Paradox

I mentioned in my review of the Ealing Half Marathon that after weeks of training and planning for the race, I ended up having a few beers the night before. Not blind drunk. I had 3 bottles of Corona over the course of about 4 hours. It didn’t have an effect on me the next day, but it is a good little example of self-sabotage.

I recently read The Chimp Paradox by Steve Peters. He is a psychiatrist and best known for his work with the GB Cycling team. Sir Chris Hoy and Victoria Pendleton regularly sing his praises. Ronnie O’ Sullivan is also a client. Since there are so many takeaways from the book I wanted to reinforce, I also used a free Audible download to get the audio version so I could re-listen to it on the go.

What the book made me realise is that there is a Chimp (the name used in the book) in my head telling me things that are inconsistent with my goals and what I want to achieve.

A quick breakdown about The Chimp Paradox would be:


The chimp bases actions on feelings, emotions and acts impulsively. It has a strong survival instinct and works via the laws of the jungle. It is not good or bad, it is just a chimp. The Chimp operates 5 times faster than Human.


The human bases actions on sense, logic, facts, truth. It works on the principles of society.


The computer is the storage area for automatic programs that come from previous thoughts and behaviour. It is the reference source for the Chimp and the Human and Chimp. The computer operates 20 times faster than Human and 4 times faster than Chimp.

Any one of them can have control, but they tend to work together. The Chimp can be constructive, but can also be destructive. It can be your best friend and your worst enemy. That is the Paradox.

Inner chatter

My chimp started talking the night before the half marathon.

What my Chimp was saying:

You’ve got this Iain. You wrote a training plan. You stuck to the training plan. You’re running fast and feeling good. Everything is prepared for tomorrow. You’re hydrated and injury free. It will be fine. You got this. Go on, have another beer!

What my Chimp was thinking:

What if you don’t manage your goal of under 1hr 40mins? Your friends are coming to watch you. You don’t want to embarrass yourself and look stupid, do you? You will have to write a blog post about how you failed to achieve your goal. Go on, have another beer! You can then blame it on being at a friend’s birthday and you had too many beers. Then it won’t be a failure! You have an excuse!

My Human was telling me:

Running under 1hr 40mins is going to be nip and tuck. You need every advantage going. Remember how well you run when you are fully prepared. Beer will dehydrate you. Beer will affect your sleep. Drinking beer before a race is not a good idea.

My computer didn’t have quite enough references or had forgotten them (10km on Clapham Common after about 8 bottles of Bulmer’s years ago) and the chimp is stronger than the human. I didn’t give in though. I only had a few beers and I went to bed earlier that everyone else. It was not of a complete loss (maybe even a sort of win) and not full self-sabotage.

Do you know what would have been embarrassing? Drinking too many beers, then having an awful race, not doing myself justice and having to tell my friends that!

The half marathon was tough. The distance highlighted the holes in my training. I still have some way to go with my focus and how I train, but I achieved a sizable PB. I was happy with my race and my finishing time, so it all turned out ok in the end.

Ealing Half 2016 Finish 2
I think we can call it a win!

The little episode the night before the half marathon just goes to show how careful you need to be with your inner chatter and how you need to learn to manage it.

The aim of The Chimp Paradox book is to improve your confidence, reduce anxiety and control emotions. If you think or have any of the behaviours below (all examples from the book), then I recommend you read the book.

  • How do I become the person I would like to be?
  • How can I be confident?
  • Why do I worry so much?
  • How can I be more organised and successful?
  • I want to be happy
  • How do I stop worrying about what others think?
  • Why can’t I make decisions?
  • Why do I have a low opinion of myself?
  • I drink too much
  • How do I motivate myself?
  • I have irrational thinking
  • I can’t control my anger
  • Why do I often act against common sense?
  • I say things I later regret

Remember to use your local library. They are great! Or like I did, use the free Audible download when you sign up. (Remember to cancel within 30 days if you don’t want to be charged)

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