PSYCHOLOGICAL SKILLS TRAINING IMPROVES HEAT TOLERANCE IN RUNNING

Barwood, M. J., Thelwell, R. C., & Tipton, M. J. (2008). Psychological skills training improves exercise performance in the heat. Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise, 40, 387-396.

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"Fatigue occurs earlier when working at corresponding exercise intensities in hot compared with cool conditions. Psychological skills training (PST) can modify the responses evoked by thermal stimuli such as the respiratory responses on immersion to cold water". This study evaluated if a 4-day psychological skills training package would significantly increase the distance covered during 90 minutes of running in the heat. Ss (N = 18) completed three maximal-effort 90-minute runs in the heat (30C). After the second run, Ss were matched and randomly allocated to either a control group (N = 8) or psychological skills training group (N = 10). Between the second and third runs, the control group continued normal activities, and the psychological skills training group received psychological skills training to help them tolerate unpleasant sensations arising from exercising in the heat, and to suppress urges to lower work intensity.

The distances covered in the control group did not differ between runs. In the psychological skills training group, there was no difference in distance run between the first and second runs, but a significantly greater distance was covered in the third run. There were no significant differences between the first and third runs in peak aural temperature, skin temperature, sweat volumes, interleukin-6, and prolactin in either group.

Implication. Psychological skills training enhanced running performance in the heat by suppressing the temptation to reduce exercise intensity. The exact mechanism employed by psychological skills training that causes performance improvements is not known and is not reflected in a number of physiological responses or indicators.

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