I read the review article (abstract; full article) on the anticipatory regulation of performance and pacing strategies by Dr R Tucker in the June edition of BJSM with great interest. The idea that there is a part of the brain, as yet undiscovered, which enables one to judge the optimal work rate for a given task, is an intriguing one.
From a Darwinian view point, the idea of there being a template in the brain that one could draw upon in determining pacing strategy, carries great merit. Anthropologists have learnt of a hunting strategy used by Bushmen from Southern Africa in which the prey, such as a Kudo, is chased for many hours until it collapses in exhaustion. The Bushmen pace themselves, such that they do not succumb to exhaustion, and are able to follow the tracks of the animal when they lose sight of it. The same principle can be seen with the hunting behaviour of wolves. Having spotted a weak member of a herd of elk or other deer, they will chase it for hours on end if necessary.
It is obvious that the most successful hunters will be those who can judge their pace the best. The genes of these hunters are more likely to be passed through to the next generation. An athlete’s ability to judge pace is therefore likely to be the consequence of millions of years of mammalian evolution.
Dr. Fergus J. Dignan