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The Central Nervous System and Its Role in Endurance Running

by | Mar 15, 2023

This article was read 3320 times. Enjoy!

The Central Nervous System and Its Role in Endurance Running

Exploring the Connection Between Our Brain and Our Athletic Performance

As an experienced endurance runner, I have always been fascinated by the connection between our brain and our athletic performance. One of the most important aspects of this connection is the role of the central nervous system (CNS) in endurance running. In this article, I will explore what the CNS is, how it works, and how it affects our ability to perform well in long-distance running.

What is the Central Nervous System?

The central nervous system is the control center of the body. It consists of the brain and the spinal cord, and it is responsible for receiving and interpreting information from the senses, making decisions, and sending out commands to the rest of the body. It is also responsible for coordinating and controlling the movement of our muscles.

The Role of the CNS in Endurance Running

The CNS plays a critical role in our ability to perform well in endurance running. Here are a few ways in which the CNS affects our performance:

1. Perception of Effort

One of the key functions of the CNS in endurance running is to regulate our perception of effort. This is the feeling of how hard we are working, and it is influenced by a variety of factors, including our level of fitness, the intensity of the exercise, and our mental state. The CNS receives information from our muscles and organs and uses this information to determine how much effort we are exerting. By regulating our perception of effort, the CNS helps us to pace ourselves and conserve energy during long-distance runs.

2. Regulation of Breathing

The CNS is also responsible for regulating our breathing during exercise. When we start to run, our muscles require more oxygen, and our breathing rate increases to meet this demand. The CNS receives signals from the respiratory system and adjusts our breathing rate and depth to ensure that we get enough oxygen to our muscles without overexerting ourselves.

3. Coordination of Movement

The CNS is also responsible for coordinating the movement of our muscles during running. This involves sending signals from the brain to the muscles to initiate and control movement, as well as receiving feedback from the muscles and adjusting the signals as needed. The CNS also plays a role in maintaining balance and stability while running, especially on uneven terrain.

4. Mental Toughness

The CNS also plays a role in our mental toughness during endurance running. Running long distances can be mentally challenging, and the CNS helps us to stay focused and motivated, even when we feel fatigued or discouraged. By regulating our mood, emotions, and motivation, the CNS can help us to push through difficult moments and stay committed to our goals.

Training the CNS for Endurance Running

Training the CNS is an important part of any endurance running program. Here are a few ways in which you can train your CNS for better performance:

1. Progressive Overload

Progressive overload is the practice of gradually increasing the intensity and volume of your workouts over time. By challenging your CNS with increasingly difficult workouts, you can train it to adapt and become more efficient at regulating your perception of effort, breathing, and movement coordination during endurance running.

2. Mental Training

Mental training involves practicing techniques that help you improve your focus, motivation, and mental toughness during endurance running. This can include visualization, positive self-talk, and mindfulness meditation.

3. Recovery

Recovery is an essential part of training the CNS for endurance running. Adequate rest and recovery time allows the CNS to repair and strengthen neural connections, which can improve your overall performance.

4. Cross-Training

Cross-training involves incorporating different types of exercise into your training routine. This can help to challenge your CNS in new ways and improve overall fitness, which can lead to better endurance running performance.


The central nervous system plays a crucial role in our ability to perform well in endurance running. By regulating our perception of effort, breathing, movement coordination, and mental toughness, the CNS helps us to sustain effort over long distances and achieve our running goals. Training the CNS through progressive overload, mental training, recovery, and cross-training can help us to improve our overall performance and reach new levels of endurance running success.

Patrick Michel

Endurance Runner – Marketing Strategist

Patrick Michel is a Montreal-based endurance runner specializing in long-distance multi-stage charity ultra runs. For almost two decades, he has inspired many to engage in running, get fit and grow stronger physically and mentally. He has also written many articles about running.