Second Wind in Sports- What, How, and Is it Real?

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What is the second wind in sports and how it can affect your performance during practice or competition? Find out!

I’m sure that some of us have experienced this phenomenal feeling during a run when the energy and motivation levels have dropped significantly and the running session is just not going as planned.

Either you are feeling too exhausted to see through it or you just can’t find the inner strength to push it through.

Yet suddenly, out of blue and when you are feeling like giving up, you will get a sudden rush of energy that will take you through the finish line with flying colors and without any pain whatsoever. 

This amazing yet sudden and unexplainable rush of energy that will fuel your run is called second wind is sports.

What happens to your body during the phenomenal feeling?

It takes roughly 10 to 15 minutes when the second wind kicks in. It’s because your body has stopped focusing on expelling excess carbon dioxide and started taking in more oxygen

That’s aerobic energy production, also called aerobic metabolism.

In Layman’s term, it means that the athlete will feel less pain, have easier breathing, and a renewed confidence.

The feeling called second wind depends on multiple factors. From exercise intensity and frequency to the actual shape you are in.

Even though physiologists know they happen, they don’t all agree what’s going on behind the scenes to cause it.

What is actually behind the second wind?

As mentioned before, scientists still haven’t totally agreed on the full science behind the phenomena.

There are still to this day different theories to explain why the organism starts to behave the way it does. 

One possibility to explain the feeling, is that your body switches from burning carbohydrates to fat.

The second possibility is that the second wind could have something to do with the lactic acid and oxygen in our muscles.

Studies show that Lactic acid requires less oxygen to power your muscles than other sources of fuel.

This means that after you have a build-up of lactic acid during a workout, you may be able to go harder and feel less pain.

In simple terms, this is a point that your organism reached and as a result, started to use huge amounts of lactic acid which requires less oxygen for energy. Your blood became less acidic so you were able to run faster again.

There is also a third opinion that challenges the scientists above with an idea, that it is actually our mind and brain behind it all.

Some scientists believe that the sudden burst of energy is actually something likely to be in our minds and caused by psychology or neurochemicals.

Similar to a “runner’s high”.

According to Mayo Clinic, a runner’s high is caused by a release of endorphins or your “brain’s feel-good neurotransmitters” triggered by physical movement.

After release, it effectively suppresses your perception of effort and pain.

Can we control the second wind in sports and if so, how?

Sadly, the answer to this question is no. Even though we know about this feeling and can relate to it.

In reality it is difficult to predict second wind, yet along control it. 

Even if you’re a regular runner who knows your body’s behavior during physical exertion, you can’t always control or even predict your second wind.

The thing about the second wind is you can’t count on it when you need it the most.

The only thing that you can keep in mind is the mental aspect of the phenomena.

As an athlete, you have to remember that you always have something more in the tank.

You can always do more, but you need to push yourself through that first feeling that you can do more, in order to find it, and maybe that will be the key in triggering the physical aspect of the second wind. 


Even though the phenomena of second wind is something widely discussed and has many mysterious aspects, it is still not the main focus of the medical researchers’ priority lists. 

Nevertheless, finding out specifically how it works would be a tremendous step forwards to the future of the sports industry.

Could you imagine, having a physiological mechanism by which the second wind could be artificially introduced to the organism?

It could and would completely change how we see endurance sports. The closest thing we have right now is a quick dose of painkillers or a booster shot of adrenaline.

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