The Psychology of Endurance Performance


Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


The understanding of physical performance and the limits of fatigue in man have been subject to research for over 100 years, but only in more recent decades has attention turned to psychology and the cognitive components of exercise tolerance and self-regulation of effort. The overarching aim of this project of research was to investigate the self-regulation of endurance performance by utilising contemporary research methods. In doing so, the feasibility of using these methodologies to achieve this aim was also subject to investigation. Firstly, a mixed-methods approach using the think aloud protocol was adopted to observe the thought processes of cyclists during exercise, while also investigating the potential for this methodology to interfere with task performance. The following chapter features a positional argument for executive function and the prefrontal cortex (PFC) as central to the self-regulation of endurance performance. Subsequently, a systematic review of literature is presented on the use of functional near-infrared spectroscopy (fNIRS) to study PFC oxygenation during self-paced exercise performance, reviewing both the methodology itself and study findings. A case study is then presented of best-practice use of fNIRS to investigate the influence of performance feedback and task knowledge on cycling performance and PFC haemodynamics. Finally, a field study exploring the self-regulatory capacities of endurance performers in real-world settings is presented.
Date of Award16 Jul 2023
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Edge Hill University
SupervisorDAVID MARCHANT (Director of Studies) & Lorcan Cronin (Supervisor)


  • cognition
  • cycling
  • executive function
  • prefrontal cortex
  • functional near infrared spectroscopy
  • pacing
  • running
  • self-regulation
  • think aloud
  • time-trial

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