The sensation of speed is thrilling, and the feeling of running effortlessly is pleasurable. Only in the greatest runners are the thrill of speed and the pleasure of running effortlessly combined in the highest degree. Fortunately, though, all runners are equally capable of increasing their enjoyment of running by improving their fitness. Again, even though the pattern of exercise enjoyment corresponding to increased exercise enjoyment has been demonstrated only in untrained populations,3 every experienced runner knows that this pattern applies to the trained athlete, too.
Speaking for myself, I have always enjoyed running the most when my fitness level has been highest. In this regard, running is no different from other activities, such as playing the violin and solving math problems. We most enjoy the things we do with the greatest competence.
Psychologists use the term self-efficacy to denote the feeling of task-specific competence. The relationship between selfefficacy and enjoyment in exercise is well demonstrated. A number of studies have shown that the increase in exercise enjoyment that many people experience when they stick with a new exercise program long enough to get measurable results is largely mediated by self-efficacy.4 In other words, people enjoy exercise more largely because they feel a greater sense of mastery of whatever form of exercise they are practicing.
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