Article Title



A competitive setting may lead to improved physical performance but physical improvement should result in greater metabolic cost and associated discomfort. PURPOSE: The purpose of this study was to determine the effects of competition on performance outcomes, physiological variables, and the perceived difficulty of completing a cycling time-trial in untrained cyclists. METHODS: Six otherwise healthy, non-cycling participants, aged 18-25, completed a 3.57 mile, max 3.5% grade time-trial on a stationary cycle ergometer in three separate lab visits. During the first visit, participants became familiar with the ergometer, time-trial course, expired gas collection mask and other data collection procedures with no data recorded. During the second visit, each participant completed the time trial with no encouragement or performance feedback. Expired gases, heart rate (HR), and rate of perceived exertion (RPE) were collected in this trial and the third. In the third visit, two participants with similar times from the individual time trial rode next to each other. To create a more competitive setting, they were also encouraged and given feedback of performance relative to the other cyclist. There was also an opportunity to earn a reward if they won the pairing. Two-tailed t-tests were used to determine if the differences between trials were significant. RESULTS: Adding the element of competition resulted in an average improvement of 2.24 minutes (p = 0.01) and 1.21 mph (p = 0.01). The competitive trial was also perceived to be significantly easier than the individual trial (p = 0.01). As would be expected with improved cycling performance, peak and average VO2 increased from the individual trial to the competition trial, however, not significantly: peak (p=0.15) and average VO2 (p=0.24). Average HR also increased from the individual trial to the competition trial (p=0.02). CONCLUSION: These results indicate that adding the element of competition significantly improved cycling performance in a non-cycling, non-competitive population. Competition was the only known factor that led to improved performance because these participants did not participate in any form of cycling or intensive training between the testing trials. The reported significant decrease in the perceived difficulty is remarkable for this non-competitive group because the external goal of winning distracted them enough from the increased intensity and made the task seem easier. We conclude that the element of competition can improve individual performance with expected increases in physiological responses but without an increase in discomfort even in a non-competitive population.

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