Can We Trick Ourselves to Ride Harder Against Competition?

The Central Governor hypothesis proposes that our brains ultimately governs how hard we're willing to ride, so it makes a great target for manipulating to improve our performance. So how might we practically use this ability to ride faster?

Central Governor Review

My last article I discussed the importance of the psycho-physiological relationship in determining performance. Ultimately, the main tenet of the "central governor hypothesis" is that the brain and body rely on both physiological cues (e.g. lactate levels, muscular fatigue, temperature) and also psychological cues (e.g. motivation, knowledge of performance, self-confidence, distance to finish) to regulate how hard we're willing to ride at any point in time.

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Rigging the System

The big implication from the central governor is that the brain can be messed with, in a good and ergogenic way. The critical component of this is that the brain is told something different from what is actually happening.

Physiologically, we might achieve this by keeping our neck and head area cooler through the use of ice socks or pouring cool water over our heads. This can help to fool our brain into thinking it's cooler than it really is, which may help us be willing to ride harder (This can be risky at the extremes of hot temperatures, as this might lead to working too hard and risking heat illness, so be careful and use common sense).

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Psychologically, one way to "rig" the central governor is through different sport psychology interventions, which I will leave to Jim Taylor and our other Toolbox crew. The other way is through altering your real-time feedback so that you believe you're performing different than reality.

Stone et al. 2012

We dissected an article in my last article where the focus was on lying to the participants that they were going faster or slower than they actually were. In large part, the results were inconclusive and did not find any difference between the accurate, faster lying and slower lying conditions. The basic conclusion then is that it doesn't matter what you tell your athlete about how they're performing, because they will only ride to their own desires and self-knowledge.

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