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Just. Try. Harder

Can you really go faster just by gritting your teeth and going for it? Yes, but it’s not easy. MR investigates the new science of effort and endurance


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Once upon a time, the popular take on running was that your subconscious was firmly in charge. A ‘central governor’ in the brain, the theory went, was in control of how fast you could go, and would shut things down before your body could suffer from heart problems or go into heat shock. Now, though, science has started to suggest that, actually, you’re the one in charge. According to the increasingly accepted ‘psychobiological’ model, there’s always more in the tank – and the real trick is accessing it. The important thing is perceived effort, typically abbreviated to PE. Your almost inevitable slowdown happens, not at some arbitrary biological limit, but when you hit the highest PE you’re prepared to put up with. The good news? By building mental fitness, you’ll increase your maximum PE – as well as ‘experiencing’ less effort at any given intensity of exercise. The even better news? Just by reading this, you’ve moved off the starting block: if you buy into the idea that it’s possible to increase your effort level with practice, you’ll build that mental fitness faster. That’s the first step: here’s how to take the rest.

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About Men's Running

While the calendar may be full of organised races and events, not everyone’s running life is dictated by competition. Goals come in many different shapes and sizes and so does the impetus to achieve them. If this issue has a theme it’s that reasons to run go way beyond simply wanting to be involved in a sport. Take for example the five blokes who used their unwanted weight-gain as a spur to getting out and reclaiming their lives (p55). Not only did they turn their health around they also found out things about themselves they never would have without running. You can also find #runspiration from your environment, whether that be the mountainous trails of Austria (p60) or the streets outside your own front door (p34). Hitting the books (and tablets, phones and laptops) is also a good way to find running inspiration. So we’ve curated our own Men’s Running library of essential reading and watching (p42), meaning you can gen up on training tips and courageous stories, while also keeping tabs on the amazing feats being performed by the professionals. Speaking of which, with athletic titans such as Mo Farah and Scott Overall entering the twilight of their careers, we look at the next generation of UK runners (p66) who’ll be inspiring people to lace up their trainers and find themselves through running. All this plus our usual mix of races, kit, recipes and training tips.