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Title: Psychologically-informed methods of enhancing endurance performance
Author: McCormick, Alister
ISNI:       0000 0004 5989 458X
Awarding Body: University of Kent
Current Institution: University of Kent
Date of Award: 2016
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The main focus of this thesis was to determine psychologically-informed methods of enhancing endurance performance, particularly in endurance sport events. There were three main research aims. First, this thesis aimed to synthesise research conducted to date on the psychological determinants of endurance performance. A systematic literature review was conducted to identify psychological interventions that affect endurance performance in experimental research. Learning psychological skills, verbal encouragement, and head-to-head competition enhanced endurance performance, whereas mental fatigue undermined endurance performance. Second, this thesis aimed to inform the design of performance-enhancement psychological interventions for endurance sports. In the first study addressing this aim, focus group interviews were conducted with recreational endurance athletes of various endurance sports, distances, and competitive levels to identify psychological demands that are commonly experienced by endurance athletes. Seven common psychological demands were identified using a thematic analysis. These demands were commonly encountered away from the competitive environment (time investment and lifestyle sacrifices, commitment to training sessions, concerns about optimising training, and exercise sensations during training), preceding an event (pre-event stressors), and during an event (exercise sensations, optimising pacing, and remaining focused despite adversity). Psychological interventions that help endurance athletes to cope with these psychological demands could potentially enhance performance in endurance events. In the second study that aimed to inform the design of an intervention, a psychophysiology experiment applied research on the facial feedback hypothesis to determine whether frowning modulates perception of effort during endurance performance. Contrary to hypotheses, intentionally frowning throughout a cycling time-to-exhaustion test did not influence perception of effort or time to exhaustion. This finding suggests that novel interventions that are informed by the facial feedback hypothesis and that target the expression of a frown would be unlikely to enhance endurance performance. Finally, this thesis aimed to examine the effect of a psychological skills training intervention on performance in a real-life endurance event. A randomised, controlled experiment was conducted to examine the effect of learning motivational self-talk on performance in a 60-mile, overnight ultramarathon. Although performance times indicated that motivational self-talk possibly produced a performance enhancement that might benefit ultramarathon runners, additional data will be collected at the same ultramarathon in 2016 to draw firmer conclusions. Overall, the findings of this thesis draw attention to psychological factors that influence performance in endurance events and demonstrate that psychologically-informed interventions can enhance endurance performance. People involved in endurance sports, such as athletes and coaches, are therefore encouraged to systematically work on the psychological aspects of training, preparing for a competition, and competing. Suggestions for how to approach this practically are scrutinised throughout the thesis.
Supervisor: Meijen, Carla ; Marcora, Samuele Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Q Science ; QP Physiology (Living systems)