‘Talk yourself into going faster’
Professor Samuele Marcora is director of research at the School of Sports and Exercise Sciences at the University of Kent. He is a leading expert on psychobiology in endurance
CW: You suggest that perception of effort can put a false ceiling on performance. What are the practical implications of this? Samuele Marcora: If your physical preparation has been right and you have reached your maximum physiological potential, you have another avenue for improvement: working on the psychological aspects. CW: ‘Positive self-talk’ is one example of a mental strategy. What exactly is it? SM: It basically involves talking to yourself, either out loud or in your head. It is important to individualise the statements, using ones that work for you and which can be practised. They should be positive, not critical; "I can keep going" rather than, "I am near my limit." CW: Can you give a practical example of this? SM: If you are going into the last quarter of a time trial, positive motivational talk might be: "This is what all the training was for. Don’t waste all that effort now — keep pushing." CW: How often should riders practise techniques like this? SM: Regularly. The best way to reduce effort is to train hard. By regularly inducing an acute mental stress, you will adapt to this stress and become more resistant to psychological fatigue. I also suggest that riders sometimes schedule hard sessions for times when they are going to be mentally fatigued, such as at the end of a difficult day at work.