Morgan, W. P., Horstman, D. H., Cymerman, A., & Stokes, J. (1983). Facilitation of physical performance by means of a cognitive strategy. Cognitive Therapy and Research, 7, 251-264.

Army males (N = 15) ran on a treadmill at 80% VO2max until exhaustion. Different topics of thinking were used:

  1. a cognitive (dissociation) strategy that took the Ss' minds off the discomfort of fatigue,
  2. a placebo that had nothing to do with performance, and
  3. a control that allowed the Ss to use whatever thoughts developed.

Physiological measures and metabolites did not differentiate the performances, meaning that under all conditions the same energy cost and level of fatigue was reached. However, the distraction from the sensory discomfort of the performance facilitated a greater tolerance of discomfort.

Implication. When performing fatiguing tasks, mental thought content that distracts the athlete from thinking of pain and effort should produce a longer and more sustained form of effort. The most obvious content for such distractions would be skill and strategy elements.

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