Drive in sports: How mental fatigue affects endurance performance

Lieke Schiphof-Godart*, Bart Roelands, Florentina J. Hettinga

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

35 Citations (Scopus)
30 Downloads (Pure)


Performance in endurance sports relies on athletes' drive, which is the sum of all factors pushing athletes to exert effort during exercise. Mental fatigue can influence endurance performance by decreasing athletes' drive to exercise. From a psychological point of view, mental fatigue has two separate components: it can affect drive by increasing the perceived effort necessary for a given task ("I cannot do this, I am too exhausted"), or by decreasing the perceived value of the reward that can be obtained ("I do not want to do this, it is not worth it"). Neurophysiological theories confirm this dual nature of mental fatigue. It is suggested that mental fatigue can activate the inhibition centers of the brain, increasing perceived effort for a given task, hence decreasing drive and willingness to act. On the other hand, it may also deactivate facilitative brain centers (normally responsible for motivated behavior and increased drive toward a reward), also resulting in decreased drive. In this Perspective we will adopt a multidimensional approach, describing how mental fatigue interacts with drive and performance in endurance exercise. We aim to show how mental fatigue affects endurance performance via two main mechanisms: perceived effort and reward. We will study the interaction between mental fatigue and other factors impacting on drive, such as perceived exertion and motivation, and examine how these factors combined result in athletes' exercise behavior (such as pacing) and performance. This will provide researchers, coaches, and athletes with useful tools in order to understand, influence and enhance athletes' drive in exercise, which is of high relevance in elite endurance sports, where mental fatigue, motivation, and stakes all are of the highest level.

Original languageEnglish
Article number1383
Number of pages7
JournalFrontiers in Psychology
Publication statusPublished - 17 Aug 2018
Externally publishedYes


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