Successful participation in competitive endurance activities requires continual regulation of muscular work rate in order to maximise physiological performance capacities, meaning that individuals must make numerous decisions with regards to the muscular work rate selected at any point in time. Decisions relating to the setting of appropriate goals and the overall strategic approach to be utilised are made prior to the commencement of an event, whereas tactical decisions are made during the event itself. This review examines current theories of decision-making in an attempt to explain the manner in which regulation of muscular work is achieved during athletic activity. We describe rational and heuristic theories, and relate these to current models of regulatory processes during self-paced exercise in an attempt to explain observations made in both laboratory and competitive environments. Additionally, we use rational and heuristic theories in an attempt to explain the influence of the presence of direct competitors on the quality of the decisions made during these activities. We hypothesise that although both rational and heuristic models can plausibly explain many observed behaviours in competitive endurance activities, the complexity of the environment in which such activities occur would imply that effective rational decision-making is unlikely. However, at present, many proposed models of the regulatory process share similarities with rational models. We suggest enhanced understanding of the decision-making process during self-paced activities is crucial in order to improve the ability to understand regulation of performance and performance outcomes during athletic activity.