Sports Medicine

, Volume 48, Issue 11, pp 2479–2495 | Cite as

Perceived Fatigability: Utility of a Three-Dimensional Dynamical Systems Framework to Better Understand the Psychophysiological Regulation of Goal-Directed Exercise Behaviour

  • Andreas VenhorstEmail author
  • Dominic Micklewright
  • Timothy D. Noakes
Review Article


A three-dimensional framework of perceived fatigability emphasises the need to differentiate between the qualitatively distinct inputs of sensory-discriminatory, affective-motivational and cognitive-evaluative processes that shape the perceptual milieu during prolonged endurance exercise. This article reviews the framework’s utility to better understand how cause–effect relationships come to be and how perception–action coupling underpins pacing behaviour and performance fatigability. Preliminary evidence supports the hypotheses that perceived strain plays a primary role in trajectory regulation of pacing behaviour, core affect plays a primary and mediatory role in behavioural performance regulation, and the mindset shift associated with an action crisis plays a primary role in the intensity dependent volitional self-regulatory control of conflicting motivational drives. The constructs hypothesised to underpin perceived fatigability are systematically linked, context-dependent, constraint-based, distinguishable and show proportional continuous interdependency. They are further interrelated with dynamic changes in pacing behaviour, performance fatigability and physiological disturbance. Appropriate measurement selections for the subordinate constructs perceived physical strain, perceived mental strain, valence, arousal, action crisis and flow state are discussed. To better understand the non-proportional discontinuous effects of fatigue on discrete shifts in thought states and mindsets, non-linear dynamical systems theory is introduced as an unbiased overarching theory of governing principles in the temporal evolution of complex systems. This provides the opportunity to discuss the bio-psycho-social fatigue phenomenon from a dynamical and holistic perspective. The proposed framework offers a sophisticated alternative to the Gestalt concept of perceived exertion and comprehensively accounts for the psychophysiological processes that determine pacing behaviour and performance. It has the potential to enrich theory development and facilitate a deeper understanding of the psychophysiological regulation of goal-directed exercise behaviour.



We would hereby like to thank the reviewers and editor for their constructive criticism and insightful comments, which significantly improved the quality of this manuscript.

Compliance with Ethical Standards


No funding was received for the preparation of this manuscript. Dr Venhorst has been supported by a scholarship from the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD).

Conflict of interest

Andreas Venhorst, Dominic P. Micklewright and Timothy D. Noakes declare no conflict of interest with regards to the content of this review.


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© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Division of Exercise Science and Sports Medicine, Department of Human BiologyUniversity of Cape TownNewlandsSouth Africa
  2. 2.School of Sport, Rehabilitation and Exercise SciencesUniversity of EssexColchesterUK

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