Training Focus to Improve Performance – Science of Running

Training Focus to Improve Performance – Science of Running

The Stress of Life

Pain is the name of the game when it comes to performing. We’re all used to dealing with a large amount of effort during our workouts and races. Generally we attribute this to pain coming from the muscles themselves and the effort that it is taking to generate our speed. More recently though, research has discovered that external stressors such as mental fatigue or emotional stress can impact how we feel that pain and how far we can push.

Experiments such as those by Samuel Marcora’s group in England have shown that external stressors can impact our subsequent performance and our perception of effort. In other words, if we do a mentally demanding task such as some math problems, or go through an emotionally experience, such as watching a very sad movie, and then go exercise, our perception of how hard we are working will be skewed.

While scientists are still trying to figure out the exact reasons why this occurs, one of the interesting changes that occur is that our ability to focus shifts. If we are drained from a mental or emotional experience, our focus during the challenging parts of the workout drifts. We’ve all experienced this during physical fatigue, where we might start to zone out or see our pace slowly slip as we shift our focus from racing to how much pain we are feeling. The same phenomenon seems to occur following mentally demanding tasks, where our focus shifts away from the task at hand and to more distracting…

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