“This workout feels good.”
“You’re doing well.”
“Push through this.”
Here’s a secret – these phrases will make your workout easier. According to a new study published last month in Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise, telling yourself positive, motivational phrases like those above can reduce how tired you feel and increase your overall performance during a workout. The idea behind this theory is that your perception of effort is the main determinant of your actual endurance performance. So, if you think and tell yourself that you are performing well, you will maximize how well you are actually doing. Likewise, if you berate yourself and believe that you are doing a poor job while working out, this will likely result in reduced exercise performance.
But how is this possible? It turns out that physical fatigue and tiredness is a surprisingly subjective condition. While it makes sense that physical activity should cease when our muscles run out of fuel, rodent studies have shown that the body is capable of exercise beyond its limits, as long as the mind remains willing to continue. Studies like this have caused scientists to propose the psychobiological model, in which the brain initiates exhaustion only after receiving different inputs from the body. If how tired you feel is triggered by your brain, then (to some degree) changing your thoughts can alter when you feel worn out.
In a 4-week study with humans, researchers found this self-talk to be useful. However, the research shows that there are two guidelines to follow for self talk to maximize the benefits:
First, you should select or create phrases that have particular motivational qualities for you individually. Secondly, you should deploy your phrases systematically and consistently as you continue your workout. It’s important to say the phrases with meaning and feel their sincerity to put them to work properly.
Who knew that our thoughts could have such a huge effect on our workout? The mind-body connection is powerful, and scientists are only just beginning to understand the complex relationship. If you’re ready to use this to your advantage, head over to the SRC for your workout today! Facility hours are listed here.
Workout Wednesday blog posts are written by UNC Campus Recreation staff members. Each Wednesday we’ll be swapping blog posts with the Tarheel Tone Up blog so that readers can view more diverse post topics that will benefit their health and wellness. Workout Wednesday blog posts can be found both here and on tarheeltoneup.com.