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Of Course a Fatigued Brain Might Just Want to Give Up and Stop Skating or Cycling Sooner

roadskater's picture

This article reminds us of some simple ideas but with some testing to back it up. Even in sports requiring lots of sprinting, there are moments that depend on endurance. In roadskating and roadcycling, that's certainly true, especially in the distances we love, some of us. The basic idea was to test whether watching relatively neutral documentary shows vs. taking a fairly mentally tough test would produce an effect on subsequent endurance athletic tests.

Although the cognitive test didn’t produce any physical fatigue, the volunteers gave up on the cycling test 15 per cent sooner when they were mentally fatigued compared to when they had simply watched the documentaries.

So I'm OK to watch some PBS before long distance workouts it seems.

But the volunteers covered less ground during the long periods of low-intensity activity, and found that maintaining any given speed felt harder when they were mentally fatigued, even though their heart rate and other physical indicators were unaffected

But there's a lot more in the article than that. Of course, I'm always interested in caffeine, as it is so often considered either way good or way bad in so many studies. 

One option, not surprisingly, is caffeine: Funded by the British ministry of defence, he’s currently studying the use of high-dose caffeine gum, which is absorbed more quickly than caffeine pills or coffee. Initial results suggest that caffeine completely reverses the decline in physical performance caused by the mentally fatiguing AX-CPT task; 

They're even considering and testing whether the mental fatigue can be part of training, but this is not a particularly popular part of the study, ha.

The test relies heavily on an area of the brain called the anterior cingulate cortex, which also happens to be the area of the brain related to perception of effort during physical exercise. As a result, prolonged use of this area of the brain makes exercise feel harder. You can read more about the AX-CPT, and try an online sample, at bit.ly/AXCPTdemo. 

[Yes, I added the bolding above.] Now where are those documentary DVDs? Can I be emotionally neutral? Hmm. 


How a tired brain can slow your physical performance - Globe and Mail -

Globe and Mail

How a tired brain can slow your physical performance
Globe and Mail
More intriguing is the prospect of training the brain to better withstand the effects of mental fatigue: no drugs needed, just a lot of hard thinking. Dr. Marcora is testing this idea by training a group of volunteers for a cycling test, ...

[Skate Bike Run Endurance Speed]


eebee's picture

Too stupid to win A-to-A

Well! So many great points in that article.

My concern with the caffeine theory is...how much caffeine did the study-participants consume habitually beforehand? And after, say, a year of using caffeine, did the effects wear off?

I found this interesting:

"More intriguing is the prospect of training the brain to better withstand the effects of mental fatigue: no drugs needed, just a lot of hard thinking."

Makes a whole lot of sense to me. This could be useful in curing this country's obesity 'epidemic' about ten years from now when these findings pop up in magazine-fluff articles. Unfortunately, Joe Bloggs still won't be in a position (or still won't be able to figure out how to achieve the position) of challenging his brain on a daily basis. For so many the world over, it's a case of: get up, survive, go back to bed. Stress isn't the same thing as a mental challenge. I know there's a world of difference between professional cyclists and professional dogsbodies, but this life might be a lot better if the dogsbodies even made it to practice after work:   

"For the rest of us, the findings about mental fatigue suggest that doing a workout after a demanding day at the office will feel tougher, even if you’ve spent the entire day comfortably sitting in your chair."

So many times this year I have decided not to go out and skate because I was too brainfried after a stressful day at work to face the steep hills at the one park, or the dog- and toddler-walkers at the other. Roadskater's couch-vortex theory proves to be a valid hack, in this case ("Whatever you do, don't go home first!").

First World problem. 

Cafe Bustello needs to be a major sponsor for the Conference on Fatigue next year.   



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