ASICS study reveals mental link to performance

26 Jun 2018

By: Sport Industry Group

ASICS has revealed the results of a four-day scientific experiment to demonstrate the power of the mind in athletic performance.

The results found that, when running in darkness, with no visual or aural stimulus, athletes experienced a 5% decline in their performance over 5km, compared to a controlled run in conditions including music, cheering and time-based feedback.

These findings would equate to a nine-minute difference in the time of a three-hour marathon runner.

The study was conducted with professional runners including former Team GB 400m runner Iwan Thomas, former Team GB Triathlete Danny Bent and ultra-marathon runner Susie Chan.

It took place on a specially-created ‘Blackout Track’ – a running space where the athlete is immersed in darkness with no distractions.

The world’s first mental performance running track was inspired by a technique practiced by long-distance runners, who train the mind by running mile-long loops without any technology. 

With regular practice, running in these more challenging conditions is said to have a counter-intuitive effect by helping to focus the mind, training runners not to rely as much on props such as music, and assisting with pace judgement. 

ASICS teamed up with Professor Samuele Marcora, Director of Research at the University of Kent’s School of Sport and Exercise Sciences, to carry out the experiment.

He said: “We wanted to show the critical role the mind plays in athletic performance. The difference we saw between the experiment conditions in just one day is similar to the difference you would see after a four-week high intensity training programme, so the mind shouldn’t be underestimated.”

British endurance runner Susie Chan added: “I was 13 seconds slower in the ‘blackout’ conditions but it felt considerably easier. I felt much calmer, in control and evenly paced, which was not what I was expecting.”

ASICS ambassador and Human Performance Coach Chevy Rough coached each participant following their run. He said: “Despite the challenging conditions on the track, almost every runner said they felt a kind of euphoria at some point, which they referred to as ‘pure running’. It shows the power of getting more in-tune with ourselves by occasionally shutting out distractions.”

ASICS intends to use the findings to provide runners with mind-training tools, building on its Runkeeper Move Your Mind challenge, which has already attracted 175,000 participants.

Further plans are in place for ASICS running communities – FrontRunners and SMSB – to host ‘Blackout’ running groups which will replicate the experience of the track.