Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Psychological Characteristics of Endurance Athletes

James Konopack of Monmouth University and Eric Hall of Elon University presented their research on the Psychological Characteristics of Ultramarathon Participants at the 2009 American College of Sports Medicine annual meeting in Seattle, Washington. They looked at the psychological consequences of endurance runners who do 50-, 100- and 150-mile ultramarathons.

They asked ten male and ten female runners with an average age of 40.8 years to complete reports prior to and immediately after doing 50-, 100- or 150-mile runs. The athletes responded to the Activation-Deactivation Adjective Checklist, Satisfaction with Life Scale, Physical Activity Enjoyment Scale and Exercise Dependence Scale. Their baseline values were compared with normative data and changes in the Activation-Deactivation Adjective Checklist were analyzed. An independent test was used to compare the Physical Activity Enjoyment Scale between the athletes who completed their event and those who ran more than 26.2 miles, but did not finish their event.

The researchers found that 80% of the athletes displayed symptoms of exercise dependence with 10% at higher dependence risk. Baseline Satisfaction with Life Scale were high to very high, with a slightly higher rating post-event. Significantly reduced energy and increased tiredness were observed and increases in tension and decreases in calmness were borderline significant. Athletes who completed their planned running distance had significantly higher Physical Activity Enjoyment Scale scores than non-finishers.

The researchers concluded that life satisfaction was high and athletes enjoyed their activity, an effect moderated by their finish or non-finish.

Based on our observations, we also guess that the life satisfaction index of open water swimmers is extraordinarily high and they very much enjoy their chosen sport, especially when they achieve their goals.

Photo by Giorgio Scala shows the top European women competing in the 25K race at the European Open Water Swimming Championships.

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