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The Neuroscience of Ultrarunning with Scott Frey, PhD | KoopCast Episode #182

Thu Jun 01 2023
  • Dr. Scott Fry discusses the relationship between the brain and performance in ultra marathon events, focusing on perception of effort, coping with race day pain, and strategies for training the brain to improve performance.
  • Ultra runners are ideal test subjects for studying the role of the brain in performance outcomes that cannot be explained by traditional physiological routes.
  • The brain's prediction machine serves us differently depending on the type and duration of athletic tasks we're doing, and manipulating feedback and context can allow individuals to push themselves further into discomfort and uncertainty.
  • Normalizing the natural byproduct of the long duration prediction process during a race can help improve performance.
  • Pain is a complex phenomenon involving both sensory information and emotional reaction, and how it is interpreted is critical. Elite athletes can tolerate more pain because they can contextualize it in a way that allows them to move through it, but they still feel the pain.
  • Athletes go through two phases in their relationship with pain: tolerance and regulation. The mastery of pain regulation becomes a separator of performance.
  • Maximizing cognitive reserve by automating race day strategies and minimizing distractions can help athletes devote more attention to moving towards the finish line.
  • Preconditioning during warm-up is a real phenomenon that can increase pain tolerance or precondition the body for performance. It involves increasing blood flow, getting lactate going, lubricating joints, and raising muscle temperature.
  • There are fast and slow adaptations in our relationship with pain, similar to the experience of weightlifting where there is a quick bump in strength due to better motor unit recruitment, followed by slower changes in muscle physiology.
  • Mental skills for competition should be practiced during training, not through workbook exercises. Race simulation should include both physical and mental components, including fueling and simulating the mental experience.
  • Mental skills are of equal importance to physical fitness in sports performance, and should be treated as the base of the pyramid for optimal results. Improving mental skills can make a difference at all levels of competition, from beginner to Olympic athletes.
  • The speaker wants to make mental performance training available to non-Olympic athletes and believes there is room for improvement in this area even among elite athletes. The development of a marketplace for sports performance coaching, including psychology, mental skills, and nutrition, mirrors the speaker's experience in the field.
  • Listeners are encouraged to share the podcast with their training partners and friends to improve their performance. The podcast is unbiased and ad-free, reflecting the host's commitment to providing unfiltered content.