Aerobic training drives psychological changes

Early analysis of, as-yet, unpublished research, suggests aerobic training for an ultra-marathon may be linked to psychological changes.

On a single case study, of an individual training for a first ultra-marathon, psychological measures of personality, motivation and mental toughness were taken before and after training, fifteen months apart. Analysis of data reflected:

  • Increased feelings of opportunity to demonstrate abilities, or prove oneself
  • Enhanced commitment to keeping promises
  • A greater feeling of being more influential and shaping the situation, including behaviour and performance
  • Increased self-belief at being able to deliver on tasks despite setbacks
  • An improved ability to assert and deal with challenge or ridicule

It may therefore be speculated that mental toughness is heightened as a result of a prolonged programme of endurance training and subsequently provides the individual with a number of factors that improve the likelihood of success in an ultra-marathon. An enhanced ability to cope with the demands of situational challenges, in spite of pressures, may ensure a more consistent approach to training, and racing. Increased extraversion and agreeableness, and reduced neuroticism, post training, suggest that preparation, by prolonged aerobic training, for an ultra-marathoner was associated with an increased tendency to: (a) seek stimulation, (b) assist task and goal directed behaviours, (c) be compassionate, (d) be cooperative, (e) be unselfish, and (f) be less likely to experience unpleasant emotions. 

Further research is required, due to an inability to extrapolate the finding from a single participant case study.