Runners/Cyclists: Define "Second Wind", Please

I first heard this term used in grammar and then high school and always thought it was an extra burst of energy one gets before total exhaustion sets in.

This hasn’t happened to me that I’m aware of. I always just say, “hell with it”, and slow down to a walk or slow my cadence if I’m on a bike.

I have done sprints, both running and cycling, but not because I was tired and something magically happened.

Is it a myth?



A second wind is the recovery after initial exhaustion. I’ve actually felt better after “part 2” of a bike ride then the initial fatigue.

Not meaning to be obtuse, but when you say “total exhaustion”, Magiver, do you mean coming to a complete stop, and restarting or running/cycling “through” it?



When you start running/cycling, the body has to make several adjustments.

Blood is diverted from nonessential systems to the working muscles, the difference between diastolic and systolic pressures widen and the muscles increase their temperature.

Second wind is the easing of perceived effort after a labored start.

I don’t exercise extensively, but when I get on the treadmill and start jogging, after a few minutes I just want to stop. I’m tired, out of breath, my legs hurt… I just want to stop. If I keep going for a few more minutes, it all goes away and I can keep going at a steady pace for about 30 minutes (at which point, yeah, I’m done).

Yes, grinding to a complete hault and waiting an unspecified period of time. When I was a kid I would ride until my legs locked and coast until I could move again. I would then pedal much slower until I bounced back. 35 years later I now get off the bike and physically rest. The BP medicine I take has a fatiguing affect and sometimes the bounce-back never comes. It’s a long road back if I don’t get a second wind.

It’s doing something until you feel like you can’t do it anymore, resting a bit, and then being able to go on far longer than you thought.

Except that the resting part isn’t necessary. One can get his second wind while in the middle of the event. 3/4 of the way through a 5 mile run, for instance. One will feel like he can’t continue at the current pace. But if he pushes through that and doesn’t stop, he will not feel as fatigued. Then he can actually start running a little faster and finish strong. As Runner Pat explains.

The more in-shape I get, the less I noticed the second-wind. The times when I did feel like I got a second wind it was usually after becoming very out of breath from playing, say, Ultimate Frisbee. You start to play. You run around. Play hard; get winded. But then it goes away and you feel ok and can play on. That initial “winded”-ness goes away.

My personal thought is that it happens when you don’t warm up. Your body is shocked into the activity and it takes a while to catch up to what you’re doing. When it does (second wind) you’re good to go.

As a runner of fairly long distances I don’t do a specific warmup before most runs. I may run the first mile or two slower though. Some days it can take me 4-6 miles to shake off the cobwebs and loosen up the legs. It doesn’t feel the same as the “second wind” though. I don’t push hard enough at the beginning of the run to get winded in the first place. Plus, as you become more in shape, it’s harder to become winded! You have to work for it.

I’m going to try the Atlanta Marathon on October 30th.

Last time I ran it was in 1990 and I finished in 4:48 (I think. Just before they took up the cones, anyway) and in addition to the physical aspect of training for it, I think I also need to pay some attention to the mental part of it, hence the question.

I’d appreciate any and all advice from all you Doper runners, by the way!

I’d also be interested to know which ones of you my age (61) have run a marathon and what your finishing time was. Kinda give me a baseline, as it were. :wink:



The only times I have experienced what I would call a ‘second wind’ has been on very long endurance experiences. The feeling of settling in to a comfortable pace after the initial discomfort of exertion I have always considered something more mundane.

I have done a lot of long, hard ski tours. Long days of hauling a big pack or sled gaining elevation. Some long day trips where we covered a lot of terrain and vertical also. I have found often that late in the day, when normally we would be back at camp already and I am felling pretty drained, I have been able to pick up the pace and plug along to the goal. Simple, energy rich refreshment helps, usually by this point I am down to mixed nuts or trail mix that is always in the pack as a reserve. Lots of water too. I believe it is a combination of mental and physical adjustments. You realize there is no choice of stopping, you have to get to your goal, and any rest is really just going to delay that. I assume the body has to make adjustments past its usual schedule and reserves. Probably well past fat metabolization and into consuming muscle tissue by that point. All I know is I can get to a place where I can continue at a good pace for a few more hours long past my usual stopping time.

I remember one long and spectacular day mid season when we were very fit and did a day trip over the Illicillewaet Icefield, down, and back. Thirty plus kilometers and a good 3000 meters vertical. On the way back it had gotten dark, we were dead tired and considering a miserable bivouac - an excellent deterrent to stopping. We took a quick break, watered and fueled up and started again at a recovered pace, found our morning tracks and made it to the top of the glacier in little over an hour. As we suited up for the descent the moon came up and we had an absolutely fantastic run down through great snow. It seemed effortless, and the last few kilometers back to camp went quickly. Then we slept hard.