We are all familiar with a runner running with air-pods and tuned into music or glaring into the mobile / tv screen while running on the treadmill. While this looks intuitive, there is a scientific reason why athletes indulge in these harmless distractions.
Let us look at some examples from studies conducted where an athlete is defocused from their primary goal..
In a much-cited 2003 study, skilled golfers putted more adroitly if they did not think about how to putt than when they did, while expert soccer players dribbled effortlessly through cones when their minds wandered but tended to bobble the ball if they paid attention to their footwork
In a 2015 study of competitive rowers, the 15 athletes rowed more efficiently when they let their minds attend to almost anything other than how their legs felt as they rowed
Let us look closer at home, that is at running, and understand if distractions have any positive effects on the performance of runners.
According to a study by Journal of Motor Learning and Development, researchers at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville and Shahid Beheshti University delved into this subject to see whether runners would perform more effectively if they were distracted, compared with if they tuned in to what was happening with their bodies.
As part of the study — the women that were randomly selected for this experiment, were asked to ran for six minutes at a time, running at about 70 percent of their top speed, while the scientists monitored their oxygen consumption, the amount of lactate in their bloodstreams and their feelings about the difficulty of each run.
These women runners were exposed to different ‘settings’ to understand the response of different visual stimuli on their performance.
As per the study — during one of these sessions, the women fixated intently on the muscles in their feet, as a way to turn their attention inwards.
During another, they counted steps, so their focus, while still on their body, was broader and more external.
In a third run, they counted backwards in threes, taking their minds off their bodies but not out of their heads.
And finally, in a fourth session, they watched a video of a basketball game, a blunt distraction that pulled their attention completely away from running.
Scientists concluded that the women consumed the least oxygen and produced the least lactate when they viewed basketball and were the most distracted. Their running, physiologically, was least taxing then. They also told the researchers that when they watched the videos they felt the least strained. Their running felt hardest, on the other hand, when they paid attention to their muscles, with the other strategies falling in between.
At Zippy — we have been extremely intentioned about every aspect of our product and we have chosen gamification to distract runners from the effort of running itself so that running becomes more enjoyable, immersive and helps our users form a life-long habit.