Mental fatigue and running performance

This article was originally posted by Ryan at the original HillRunner.com Blogs.

Just one topic this week but I think it’s an important one.

Have you ever had a rough day, maybe a tough day at work, then gone out for a run? Sometimes, just the release of the stress helps us run better. Sometimes, though, we feel physically drained from the day. Even if we didn’t do anything physical.

Do we actually feel this way or are we just imagining things? Well, we’re not just imagining things. Maybe it’s all in our heads but that doesn’t make it real.

Mental fatigue impairs intermittent running performance. This negative effect of mental fatigue appears to be mediated by higher perception of effort.

So what should we do about this? Well, we can’t completely avoid mental fatigue if it’s a part of our lives, as I’m sure it is for most of us. But maybe we can plan around it. Try to do less stressful, less mentally challenging things on the day before and the day of a race. As much as reasonable, also try to do less challenging things before your workouts or other hard days unless you’re intentionally trying to train to push through mental fatigue.

For what it’s worth, I also believe that the same can happen with emotional fatigue. All of these different kinds of stress and fatigue, to the body, are the same thing. So also try to stay away from emotionally stressful situations before a race or, when possible, hard workout.

Finally, remember that these things are happening. If you’re feeling physically worn down after a mentally or emotionally draining experience, don’t beat yourself up over it. Accept that you’re just worn out and give yourself a break.

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