The Influence of Pleasure and Attentional Focus on Performance and Pacing Strategies in Elite Individual Time Trials

in International Journal of Sports Physiology and Performance
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Recent psychophysiological models of endurance performance explained that pacing strategies and exercise-intensity regulation influence cyclists’ ability to produce high mean power output (PO) during time trials (TTs). However, the relationships between these pacing strategies and psychological parameters of the athletes remain unknown. Purpose: To determine the impact of pacing strategies on cyclists’ mean PO during an elite TT championship and to identify the relationships between these pacing strategies and psychological parameters. Methods: Mean PO, projected frontal area, attentional focus, and pleasure were recorded for 9 male cyclists during an official individual TT national championship. Pacing regulations were quantified from PO using the new exposure variation analysis, which determines times spent at adapted PO for optimal constant-pacing strategy (APO) and inaccurate PO for optimal constant-pacing strategy (IPO). Relationships between mean PO, times spent at APO and IPO, and psychological variables were analyzed. Results: Significant relationships were found between mean PO and exposure variation analysis pacing parameters (r2 .56–.86, P > .05). Time spent at IPO was negatively related to pleasure during the individual TT (r = −.746, P = .016). Conversely, time spent at APO was significantly related to cyclists’ attentional focus (r = .827, P = .006). Conclusions: Mean PO during elite individual TTs is directly related to athletes’ ability to optimally regulate pace throughout the event. This pacing regulation is influenced by attentional focus and pleasure, underlining that coaches and athletes should devote greater attention to these psychological parameters to improve their performances.

The authors are with EA4660, C3S Health–Sport Dept, Sports University, Besancon, France. Grappe is also with the Professional Cycling Team FDJ, Moussy le Vieux, France.

Ouvrard (ouvrard.to@gmail.com) is corresponding author.
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