Background: The pattern of energy expenditure during sustained high-intensity exercise is influenced by several variables. Data from athletic populations suggest that a pre-exercise conceptual model, or template, is a central variable relative to controlling energy expenditure. Aims: The aim of this study was to make systematic observations regarding how the performance template develops in fit individuals who have limited specific experience with sustained high-intensity exercise (eg, time trials). Methods: The study was conducted in four parts and involved measuring performance (time and power output) during: (A) six 3 km cycle time trials, (B) three 2 km rowing time trials, (C) four 2 km rowing time trials with a training period between trials 2 and 3, and (D) three 10 km cycle time trials. All time trials were self-paced with feedback to the subjects regarding previous performances and momentary pace. Results: In all four series of time trials there was a progressive pattern of improved performance averaging 6% over the first three trials and 10% over six trials. In all studies improvement was associated with increased power output during the early and middle portions of the time trial and a progressively greater terminal rating of perceived exertion. Despite the change in the pattern of energy expenditure, the subjects did not achieve the pattern usually displayed by athletes during comparable events. Conclusions: This study concludes that the pattern of learning the performance template is primarily related to increased confidence that the trial can be completed without unreasonable levels of exertion or injury, but that the process takes more than six trials to be complete.