Next time you’re slogging away for those last 10 minutes on the elliptical, or feeling like slowing to a walk for the final half mile, try telling yourself that you’re not tired. According to a new study published in Medicine & Sport Science, it just might make it true! The study tried to get to the root of what causes physical fatigue. Is it when your muscles run out of energy via food or fluid, or is it a mental state? Previous research shows that physiologically, the body is often able to continue exercise even though the animal (or human in your case!) stops, feeling exhausted. But for some reason, your brain gives you cues that make you want to stop. Maybe it’s saving some reserves in the tank in case of emergency, but if it’s the brain, not the body making you stop, then the scientists wondered if changing the signals from the brain could impact exercise.
They monitored study participants while they cycled, and measured heart rate, pedal power, and pace. Additionally, they captured data on how difficult the exercise had seemed throughout. On a second visit, the bikers were split into 2 groups. One was to continue business as usual. The second learned self-talk that would help encourage themselves while exercising, saying things like, “You’re doing well,” or “Feeling good.” Then when the two groups were tested with the same exercise sessions, the group with the self-talk managed to pedal farther and longer while feeling less exhausted. Interestingly, though the group felt better, their bodies exhibited the same exact conditions of exertion from the first ride. I tried it out on my morning run on Tuesday. When I felt like quitting before I hit the 5k mark, I told myself, “If the marathoner’s can run 26 miles, you can easily run 3,” and “I’m not tired.” The weird things is, it worked, and I actually decreased my mile time from the previous day. So, next time you’re feeling like giving up, give yourself a little pep talk and see what happens. It just might make you suffer through your workout a little less.