Mend Physical Therapy Blog and Injury Information

How Much Of Cycling Performance Is Mental?

March 9, 2022

In Boulder, cycling up canyons is part of lifestyle for many in our community and Boulder Physical Therapy clinic. These rides can be challenging as cyclists look to adjust their gears and bodies to gain an advantage over the challenging terrain. We have long know about the brain’s ability to limit a participant’s workout by increasing fatigue prior to actual physical failure. Central fatigue in the brain is a protective mechanism often at play as we push ourselves beyond moderate into a vigorous level of exercise. An interesting study was recently published on the relative contributions of physical and mental capabilities on cycling performance.

Rothlin and colleagues in the European Journal of Sports Science designed their study to determine the relative contribution of mental motivation and perseverance as well as physical fitness in cyclists (2022). They recruited 25 members of a U-17 national cycling team and determined psychological factors including motivation, mental toughness, and perseverance, as well as, VO2 max. Their cycling performance was then tested using a 1320 meter mountain cycling trial at up to a 40% grade. Authors noted that roughly 77% of the performance was secondary to VO2 max, but up to 23% was due to psychological factors such as higher achievement motivation and perseverance.

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