Wednesday, February 25, 2009

This is Our Concern

So, a recent study found that mental fatigue can have an effect on your physical performance. Let's forget for a moment that the study kind of sucked (16 people?! Talk about a sample-size!) and hold back the 'no-shit' that should be coming out of your mouth, as anyone who has done any sort of training in anything will tell you that coming into the game 'less than motivated' will lead to a sub-par performance.

Let's just think about this for a moment in terms of the things that you do to create mental fatigue before and during your workout in an attempt to minimize these less desirable in the future.

Do you audibly groan when the movements of the workout are announced?

Is the phrase 'man I hate _______' uttered from your lips?

Does the weight of the rest of your day cloud the moment?

Can you scrunch your face any harder when working out?
Do you allow the rep scheme or load of a workout to dominate your soul?

All of the above have the potential to create un-necessary mental fatigue. Stop it! Compare the placid, benevolent face of Mr. Robinson below to the Face Of Pain(Tm) of Mr. Henry above:
Which do you think sends a stronger message to the brain that all is well and it's okay to keep going?

On a personal note, I always try to remind myself before some excellent hybrid that I really do enjoy this stuff. Seriously! I wouldn't be doing it otherwise. You all are no different, whether you know it or not. Don't believe me? Look at all the happy people below. And yes, that was just post-sunrise before most people are even up.

Don't create that which doesn't need to be created,


Ross Naughton said...

Dude, you are totally harshing our godliness when you tell us what to create and what not to create.

The goddamn plane has crashed into the mountain!


FilthyBrit said...

Koo-koo-ka-choo, Mr. Robinson,
The Boz loves you more than you will know.
God bless you, please, Mr. Robinson.
Heaven holds a place for lifting weights,
Hey, hey, hey

Hey, hey, hey.

John Hill Gardner III said...

that is a badass picture of bernard

Jeremy Jones - Diablo CrossFit said...

Great observation!

Reminds me of what Malcom Gladwell found:

"a German team of psychologists published a similar study. They had a group of subjects look at cartoons, either while holding a pen between their lips--an action that made it impossible to contract either of the two major smiling muscles, the risorius and the zygomatic major-- or while holding a pen clenched between their teeth, which had the opposite effect and forced them to smile. The people with the pen between their teeth found the cartoons much funnier. Emotion doesn't just go from the inside out. It goes from the outside in. What's more, neither the subjects "assuming the position" nor the people with pens in their teeth knew they were making expressions of emotion. In the facial-feedback system, an expression you do not even know that you have can create an emotion you did not choose to feel."

I know I will be encouraging more smiles at DCF especially when everyone is suffering together.


Samuele said...

what do you know sample size and statistical power? Obviously nothing
You should also read the study properly and you will realise that the negative effect of mental fatigue on physical performance was not mediated by lack of motivation. Keep lifting iron balls

Adrian said...

Dr. Marcora,

You are correct, I know nothing of sample-size or statistical power. I have never performed a published study with controls or set peramiters.

However, I do have the pleasure of coaching many athletes of varying skill levels, ages and sexes multiple times a week. The point I was trying to convey, admittedly with a tongue-in-cheeck style, is that this phenomena is certainly known to anyone who is paying attention while observing or participating in high-intensity exercise (or high-intensity anything for that matter).

We train lawyers, doctors, stock-brokers, moms, teachers and people from many other professions on a daily basis. Sometimes the challenging work day leaves them mentally fatigued and they do not perform as well as they had hoped, even though they show up ready to work out and feel fine/not fatigued physically. I've heard this referred to as 'having a long day' (insert whatever voice inflection is necessary for you to take this in the humorous tone it is intended). I suspect that you had hypothesized this, and that is why you chose to conduct an experiment of this nature.

Being a Scientist/Researcher (I'm not sure of your offical title, please excuse my ignorance...I mean no disrespect), I'm sure the findings are useful and interesting to you. As my job is to coach, my observations allow me to reach the same, albeit far less technical and far less explanitory, end. This observational method works for me given my position/situation. I think it is great that Science can be applied to discover the 'whys' of naturally observed occurances, but I cannot wait for scientific proof while working in a real-time setting on a daily basis.

I also understand that your study had nothing to do with motivation. The phrase 'less than motivated' was a loose choice of words that was not meant to be taken as a literal connection to, or interpritation of, your study. We are a casual blog in San Francisco. Our readership is here to be informed and entertained to some degree.

Lastly, I hope you were not attempting to infer some sort of slight against us or our lifting of iron balls with your last statement. Those same iron balls (and other implements) have helped numerous people live richer, stronger, more confident, less injury-prone lives on a regular, daily basis. If my suspicions are true (they may not be...I was wrong once back in 96', so I guess I'm about due) and you are in fact looking down on us for our attachment to heavy, physical work, ask yourself if your research findings have had the same daily positive impact?

Keep rocking in academia (sincerely, it is important),
-Adrian Bozman

PS I would be happy to continue this or any discussion off line. I can be reached at adrian @

Wendy S said...

Hi Little brother whom I've never met, I really liked your post. I agree that our thoughts and actions can really influence how we feel. Hence if I think about how the rep scheme sucks, or what I hate, I will feel worse. Also if I screw up my face and drop my shoulders I will feel worse. So to get maximum out of my performance I need to optimise how I feel. To do this I need to think constructively and act positively. I like what you say. Cheers, Wendy Swift

FilthyBrit said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Nick said...

Adrian is smart.

FilthyBrit said...

Can we please get "Keep Lifting Iron Balls" on a t-shirt?

Molly Petersen Nardone said...

Thank you Adrian. This post AMAZINGLY changed the outcome of my entire week. The power of visualization cannot be measured scientifically, and yet it's witnessed every day working out, and watching little kids consistently out-perform my limited expectations. Call it science, call it real-time awesomeness. Either way- it's ligit.

Anonymous said...

I second the "Keep lifting iron balls" t-shirt. Tastefully done, of course!

James F.

Anonymous said...

I perused the Marcora paper and he had statistically significant results that were quite legitimate even with only sixteen subjects. The central limit theorem and student t distributions are powerful tools when used appropriately. Mouse studies can often only include ten mice, provided you get tight mean variances. In general given the budget, most researchers would prefer larger sample sizes.

Why does the "Keep lifting iron balls" t-shirt need to be tasteful. I am just saying.....

Anonymous said...

Okay, forget tasteful, just get the shirt done!


Anonymous said...

That couple in the grey, on the right side of the picture. . . man, they are STUNNING. Break me off a piece of that!!

Anonymous said...

Clarence traced the edges of his crucifix with his thumb and forefinger. He stared intensely at the dirt wall in front of his face. His mind had gone blank. It was the final push. The war was already won. His life lost now would serve only a generals vanity. The whistle blew with singular clarity amongst the chaos of war. Clarence legs propelled him up the shoddy ladder a with mechanical certainty. As his face arrived at the lip of the trench he experienced a dull clunk to his forehead. Amidst the encompassing brown Clarence saw blurred pink. His head rescinded and his eyes refocused. The obstruction was there to behold- superimposed onto the battle scene and leaning precariously into the trench was Boy George.

"Nobody likes a bruised strawberry," he remarked and then vanished.

Corrine said...

Michael and I are looking for a 3 member to join our team for the Silicon Valley Challenge this Sat. at noon. The details are on their website. We trying not to scale but I have a feeling I may be right on the edge. So far all we know is men should have a press of over 125 and women over 85. email me if you are interested.

Samuele said...

Dear Adrian, thanks for your reply. I am sure you understand that comments like "the study kind of sucked (16 people?! Talk about a sample-size!)" can be offensive especially considering that 1) they are unjustified and 2) they come from somebody who does not know anything about statistics and conducting experimental research in humans. In fact, the average sample size for experimental studies in human physiology is less than 10 subjects. So my study is actually quite a large one in its field!!!

Similarly the comment "hold back the 'no-shit' that should be coming out of your mouth, as anyone who has done any sort of training in anything will tell you that coming into the game 'less than motivated' will lead to a sub-par performance" is not a very nice one. In fact, anedoctal reports such as your own experience count nothing in science. Until a phenomenon is confirmed by an experiment, it does not matter how obvious it is to all of us.

In fact, it often happens that anedoctal reports are biased, and that properly controlled studies often contravene our own personal experience. After all the earth looks pretty flat to me, and the sun really seems to revolve around planet earth!!!!

Also, experiments can do something that personal experience cant. For example, experiments can quantify things properly. In my experiment, endurance performance was reduced by 15%. Interestingly, I have measured a similar effect in a study on the effects of leg muscle fatigue ( Therefore, it seems that mental fatigue is as bad as leg muscle fatigue in impairing endurance cycling performance. This is certainly not an obvious finding!!!

Finally, I have been training with weights since I was 14. So I have absolutely nothing against weightlifters. My remark on "keep lifting heavy balls" was my rude way (to keep with your rude comments) to say "do your job instead of criticising other people's work that you do not know anything about".
Hope things are settled now, and that my future research will provide you with some useful information for your work as coach and personal trainer.
Samuele Marcora

matt beaudreau said...

Samuele- glad you have been "training with weights" since you were 14. Find a Crossfit Affiliate, learn about Crossfit, watch Adrian coach (and coach EXTREMELY WELL) in the Crossfit Journal, and then chose your words more wisely. Hope things are settled now, and his work as coach and trainer can provide you with some useful information in your future research.

Anonymous said...

Was this truly a physiology study or is it more of a behavior study? Then indeed power becomes an issue.


Samuele said...

For Matt: the one who did not choose hiw words wisely in the first place was Adrian. Read his post
For anonymous: lack of power is an issue when a potentially important effect is not statistically significant because of an inadequate sample size. It does not matter whether a study is physiological or behavioral. Mine was a mix of the two and, importantly, the effects I found on perception of effort and performance were highly significant. So no lack of power in my study.

Anonymous said...


Please tell me you are not saying because you found statisitical significance your sample size was appropriate. Is that not the same as data fishing just in opposite application? Did you run a power analysis? If so, what was the number of treatments levels (k), the effect size to be detected, alpha and intended power? There is a profound difference between adequate and appropriate - is there not?

Samuele said...

you are talking about power calculations before the study begings, I am talking about the validity (in terms of statistical power) of my experimental results. These are two different things.

Anonymous said...

Indeed they are. I guess I missed that. Now I will not throw darts and ask simply - was a power analysis conducted prior to the study begining? How did you determine statistical validity post data collection?