Slowing down during the lockdown? You’re not alone

If you’re feeling frustrated at your running abilities during the conronavirus restrictions, don’t despair. A study has found that mental fatigue — which could be exasperated by lockdown-induced social isolation, homeschooling demands and financial worries — impairs our physical performance.

Many runners have reported a lull in their abilities since the pandemic and new research could explain this change.

A study published in Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise involved 31 athletes (15 women and 16 men), who performed either a 45-minute cognitive task to induce mental fatigue, or watched a 45-min documentary as control. The athletes then performed a time-to-exhaustion test on a treadmill.

The researchers found the prolonged mental task provoked mental fatigue, which in turn worsened aerobic performance in runners. Mental fatigue increased perceived effort during a treadmill test, anticipated attainment of maximal effort, and shortened time to exhaustion similarly in both women and men.

Whether or not you’ve experienced a lull in your running performance, exercise in undoubtedly a powerful tool in helping us cope in these uncertain times. And with no races to train for it’s a great opportunity (and excuse!) to enjoy slower runs without worrying about your pace.

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