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Encouraging Words


You can talk yourself out of being tired while you train, say researchers.

Whether you’re a serious endurance athlete or you place your training emphasis on the development of strength, power or size (like many of M&B’s readers) it goes without saying that you may have hit a wall at some point in your training.

Even with a training partner applying the forced-rep principle of assisted training, such as during negatives (eccentric exercise), you can still reach that point of failure, where just one more rep seems like an impossible feat. Don’t stress. Help is on the way.

“Talking Yourself Out of Exhaustion,” the title of a enlightening research study presented in the May 2014 issue of Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, the official journal of the American College of Sports Medicine, gives us pause for thought.

For anyone who has been involved in serious training, this mind-over-fatigue concept is nothing new. Or is it?

Self-Talk Works, Says Study

According to the collaborative research, “The present study is unique, as it is the first to experimentally demonstrate that motivational self-talk reduces perception of effort and provides empirical support for previous suggestions that self-talk enhances endurance performance.”

In fact, this study demonstrated an 18% improvement in time to exhaustion for the test subjects who were endurance cyclists. For endurance sports, which require a continuous cyclical motion (e.g., cycling, rowing or marathon running), the ability to withstand the discomfort associated with the build up or lack of dissipation of lactic acid (pushing through those last few minutes) can make the difference between just competing and winning.

Having worked with many endurance champions, including the male and female cycling winners of the Race Across America (known as RAAM), I know firsthand what repetitive overuse in the face of fatigue can do to the mind and body of a competitor.

When examining the fatigue state during training or competition, we need to first rule out the physiological “over-reaching” (cumulative fatigue) versus the “overtrained state” (a clinical point of no return).

I’m referring to the ability to overcome what researchers refer to as the psychobiological model, which “posits that exhaustion is caused by the conscious decision to terminate endurance exercise, as opposed to muscle fatigue.”

The Voice Of Champions Is Your Own

In 1974, when I was playing football at Tulane University in New Orleans, I had the pleasure of having Arnold Schwarzenegger visit my backyard gym. The seven-time Mr. Olympia and two-term governor of California was then in town to promote the book “Pumping Iron,” and my small training center, across the street from the stadium, was the perfect backdrop for pictures and an interview by our local newspaper.

Just recently, the Governor returned to visit me at one of my GNC franchise locations to see how we were displaying his new MusclePharm Arnold Schwarzenegger Series supplement line. He was in town to begin shooting his next “Terminator” movie.

I mention my history with Schwarzenegger because bodybuilders, in particular, understand the power of the mind to drive you to push through those last few painful reps, only to do it all over again with a few short minutes of rest.

Most professional athletes understand that the rating of perceived exertion (or RPE, which can be measured during a test of maximum endurance capacity known as VO2 max) is about controlling the mind and the muscles simultaneously.

In the case of perceived exertion—“the conscious sensation of how hard, heavy and strenuous exercise is”—it can literally determine the outcome of a one-on-one competition such as pro tennis.

Even Serena “Talks” A Good Game

Having worked for five years with No. 1–rated female tennis star Serena Williams, I have witnessed time and time again her ability to use positive self-talk in the face of defeat to come from behind and win.

The test subjects in the endurance research used positive motivational phrases such as “drive forward,” “you’re doing well,” and “feeling good,” among others, to demonstrate “the degree to which psychological factors may independently affect endurance performance,” and, for that matter, most athletic performance.

Positive self-talk may turn out to be the mind/body link to optimum performance. The brain, spinal cord and other parts of the human body have the capability to produce powerful morphine-like chemicals called endorphins, which can not only reduce the perception of pain, but also trigger positive feelings as a result of exercise training, especially during endurance exercise.

The good news is that, unlike morphine, these naturally produced analgesics aren’t dangerously addictive, or we’d all be in trouble at some point in our exercising lives.

So, talk it up.

About Mackie Shilstone
One of the top trainers in the world, Mackie Shilstone has worked with such sports superstars as Roy Jones Jr., Serena Williams and Bernard Hopkins. You can learn more about Mackie by visiting his website at

Link: Muscle&Body Magazine