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You’ve been looking for a way to take your exercise routine to the next level, but no matter how much fitness experts and athletes tout it, the words “high-intensity workout” give you the jitters. Well, it’s time to kick your fears and grab a stopwatch. A new study in the journalPsychology of Sport and Exercisereveals the surprising secret to powering through even the toughest of interval workouts: camaraderie.
A group of 74 regular exercisers ran a series of maximum-exertion sprints interspersed with rest periods, during which researchers surveyed them on their post-workout mental states and offered either positive or negative feedback about how well they were performing. The effect? People who were told they weren’t up to speed with their peers became more and more psychologically exhausted after each sprint at a rate 20% faster than those who were given positive encouragement.
Feedback affects how well you believe you can perform a task, says Amelia Tritter, lead study author and graduate student at Western University in London, Ontario. That sense of self-efficacy, in turn, affects how you feel about the exercise you’re performing.
When it comes to ultra-intensive interval workouts like sprinting, it’s natural to increasingly doubt your ability to get through the next interval simply because you get more physically beat with each one, Tritter explains. When another person continuously reaffirms your capabilities, however, you are more likely to retain that confidence for the entire duration of your exercise, which makes you enjoy it more.
“Let’s say that you go to the gym with a workout buddy,” says Tritter. “You really want them to enforce positive encouragement. Even if it doesn’t influence how hard you work, it’ll influence whether or not you enjoy the task, and that, in turn, will influence whether or not you’re likely to do it again.”
Don’t shy away from high-intensity interval training just because you’re unsure of your ability to handle it—take your most supportive gal pal to keep you motivated, suggests Tritter, and you’ll be surprised how far that confidence boost can take you.
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