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Jennifer Stahl on Thursday, Nov 07, 2013
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The next time you near the end of a ridiculously tough combination and your legs feel like they can't possibly jump one more time, start talking to yourself—it could help you find energy your muscles didn't know they had.
Physical fatigue is still largely a mystery to scientists, and we are just beginning to learn how big of a role the mind plays in the equation. For a recent study published in the journal Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, researchers asked active young men and women to bike to the point of limp exhaustion multiple times. They found that when the riders told themselves things like "Feeling good" aloud or in their heads, they were able to pedal for longer and with greater ease, even though their exertion remained the same.
It seems that a certain amount physical exhaustion is all in our heads. Some speculate that this is our brain's way of protecting the body from overexerting itself. The problem is that our brain can sometimes become a bit too mollycoddling: It would rather keep us safe than let us push to new levels.
So how can you trick your mind into letting you do 16 more fouettés? Dr. Samuele Marcola, senior author of the study, told The New York Times that simply muttering to yourself haphazardly isn't all that effective. Instead, he suggests using phrases you find particularly encouraging and repeating them on a set schedule. So next rehearsal, try starting every eight count by telling yourself, "Werk!"