Before you make any decision as a runner, whether it is to train in a group or solo, to race often or seldom, to specialize in longer or shorter events, consider how your choice will affect your motivation to try hard. Always bear in mind: There is no bad source of motivation. SETTING GOALS In the example given at the beginning of the post of the volunteer holding a raised dumbbell as long as he could, the primary reason he held it longer in his left hand than in his right was that he had a goal to shoot for when holding the dumbbell in his left hand. Numerous studies by sports psychologists have shown that setting goals enhances athletic performance.

New insights into how the brain works suggest why. As we have seen, there is really no such thing as exercising as hard as you can. One of the major factors that determine your performance limit in any given circumstance is your maximum tolerance for suffering, which is influenced in turn by a number of other changeable factors, so that your tolerance for sufferingand thus also your performance capacitychanges from workout to workout and race to race even when your fitness level does not.

In exercise science, the results of experiments in which subjects are asked to perform at a fixed exercise intensity (for example, pedaling a stationary bike at 200 watts) until they are completely exhausted are notoriously variable. If subjects are asked to pedal a stationary bike at 200 watts as long as they can on three separate occasions, there will probably be three very different results. But when subjects are asked to complete well-defined tasks with specific goals, the results are typically much more consistent, and the performance level is higher.


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