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A mental technique called ”cognitive reappraisal” makes long-distance running feel easier

29 June 2018

When you’re in the middle of a gruelling long-distance run and the pain and fatigue is becoming overwhelming, an obvious strategy is to try to force the subjective experience out of your mind, for example by thinking nice thoughts or focusing on the environment around you.

The trouble is, as the physical struggle intensifies, the distraction strategy becomes harder and harder to pull off. According to a new paper in Motivation and Emotion, an alternative approach that holds promise is to practice “cognitive reappraisal” – don’t ignore the sensations as such, but try to view them in a dispassionate way, as if you are a scientist studying running or a journalist reporting on the experience.

The researchers, including Grace Giles and other members of the Cognitive Science Team at the US Army Natick Soldier Research, Development and Engineering Center in Massachusetts, recruited 24 healthy runners (aged 18 to 33, and including 15 women) whose lifestyle included completing at least one run of over nine miles per week.

The runners visited the research lab on three occasions, each time completing a 90-minute treadmill run, keeping their heart rate in the range of 75 to 85 per cent of their maximum – a level classified as “vigorous exercise”.

Read more in a post from Christian Jarrett in our Research Digest blog.

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