Why Pre-race Boredom is Desirable

Flexing your self-control muscles may be compromising your race performances.

Endurance athletes are masters of self-control. A big part of our success depends on persisting through fatigue and discomfort, delaying immediate gratification for the payoff down the road. This restraint places high demands on inhibitory control, one of several critical executive functions orchestrated by our magnificent prefrontal cortex, which has widespread influence over the functioning of networks distributed throughout the brain.

Analogous to our muscles, our ability to sustain inhibitory control is depleted with use and replenished through rest. For this reason, numerous studies find that physical endurance is compromised when preceded by mental tasks that place high demands on inhibitory control.  Participants in these investigations report experiencing higher levels of perceived exertion and discomfort after stretching themselves mentally.

In addition to resting the legs, athletes seeking a breakthrough performance should be reducing activities that place excess demands on their brains in the days prior to the big event. When athletes tell me that they are bored, I know that they are ready to go.

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