Mauger, A., Jones, A., & Williams, C. A. (2009). Influence of exercise variation on the retention of a pacing strategy. A paper presented at the 14th Annual Congress of the European College of Sport Science, Oslo, Norway, June 24-27.

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"In competitions where time to completion is the measure of success, pacing strategy exerts an important influence on performance. The Theory of Teleoanticipation and the Central Governor Model, propose that a pacing strategy is set in a feed-forward manner, based on distance or duration, prior to the onset of an exercise bout. Prior experience of an exercise bout allows the construction of a pacing schema, which is used for subsequent, similar bouts of exercise. During exercise, distance or time remaining is judged by an "internal clock" that is located in the brain. It is proposed that this timing mechanism works in a scalar fashion, using relative rather than absolute quantities. Despite the apparent importance of the scalar clock to the maintenance of a pacing strategy, knowledge in this area is presently limited."

This study aimed to establish whether the introduction of an exercise bout of different distance, in the absence of distance feedback, would affect the retention of a pacing schema stored from a prior exercise bout. It also attempted to determine if the internal clock has an ability to calibrate to absolute distance, and if that mechanism is disrupted by an exercise requiring a different pacing strategy. Highly-trained male cyclists (N = 16) were randomly divided into a control or experimental group and completed four time trials of two different distances (2 x 4 km and 2 x 6 km) in varying orders, separated by 17 minutes. Ss in the control group completed both distances in a sequential order (i.e., half performed 4 km, 4 km, 6 km, 6 km, and the other half performed 6 km, 6 km, 4 km, 4 km). The experimental group completed both distances in a variable order (i.e., half performed 4 km, 6 km, 4 km, 6 km, and the other half performed 6 km, 4 km, 6 km, 4 km). During each time trial, power output, VO2, and heart rate were recorded. Ss in both groups were asked to call out their rating of perceived exertion for every km they thought they had completed.

No significant differences were found between or within groups for completion time or power output. The control group showed a significant improvement in their estimation of distance completed in both the 4 km and 6 km distances. No significant differences in distance estimation were observed in the experimental group for either of the time-trial distances.

Implication. Ss who do not receive an exercise interruption display a significant improvement in their judgment of distance completed, despite no improvement in completion time. This suggests that a learned pacing schema is robust and not negatively affected by subsequent pacing variation and can be retrieved when required. The internal clock shows an ability to be calibrated to absolute distance, although this does not improve performance.

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