Improvement of 10-km time-trial cycling with motivational self-talk compared with neutral self-talk

Martin J. Barwood, Jo Corbett, Christopher Wagstaff, Dan McVeigh, Richard C. Thelwell

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Purpose - Unpleasant physical sensations during maximal exercise may manifest themselves as negative cognitions that impair performance, alter pacing and are linked to increased RPE. This study examined whether motivational self-talk (M-ST) could reduce RPE and change pacing strategy thereby enhancing 10 km time trial (TT) cycling performance in contrast to neutral self talk (N-ST).

Methods - Fourteen males undertook four TTs; TT1-TT4. Following TT2 participants were matched into groups based on TT2 completion time and underwent 1) M-ST (n=7) or 2) N-ST (n=7) after TT3. Performance, power output, RPE, and oxygen uptake were compared across 1 km segments using ANOVA. Confidence intervals (95% CI) were calculated for performance data.

Results - After TT3 (i.e. prior to intervention) completion times weren’t different between groups (M-ST: 1120 [113]; N-ST: 1150 [110] seconds). After M-ST, TT4 completion time was faster (1078 [96] seconds); the N-ST remained similar (1165 [111]). The M-ST group achieved this through a higher power output and VO2 in TT4 (6th-10th km). RPE was unchanged. CI data indicated the likely true performance effect lay between 13 and 71 s improvement (TT4 vs TT3).

Conclusion - M-ST improved endurance performance and enabled a higher power output whereas N-ST induced no change. The VO2 response matched the increase in power output yet RPE was unchanged thereby inferring a perceptual benefit through M-ST. The valence and content of self-talk is an important determinant of the efficacy of this intervention. These findings are primarily discussed in the context of the psychobiological model of pacing.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)166-171
JournalInternational Journal of Sports Physiology and Performance
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2015


  • Self-pacing
  • self-talk
  • motivation
  • time trial
  • perceived exertion


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