The Illegitimate Zone
John Douillard cites many experiences as occurring in the illegitimate zone, a fight-or-flight response intended to mask serious pain, injury, or fatigue. He believes they often result from a breakdown between mind and body, as opposed to the harmony of mind and body in a flow zone.
What happens is, during intense exercise or during intense pain, the body starts to produce stress-fighting hormones to help the athlete endure the ordeal endorphins, enkephalons, and other substances which have morphine qualities. Yes, the pain is killed and you start to feel numb swimming in a flood of endorphins. And you can even feel euphoric. But the mind can become out of touch with physical reality.
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Runners sometimes feel a type of this experience in runner’s high, Douillard added, although in a healthy runner’s high, the fight-or-flight response reaches only 50 percent capacity. His exercise program teaches athletes to have a 50-50 split between mind and body responses, allowing brain waves to go into an alpha state, a legitimate zone where mind and body become inseparable.
As more research is conducted and sport psychology continues to examine the role of emotions and stress hormones during performance, perhaps the link among these various zones will become more clear.