We are referring to the sense of mastery that occurs after a period of exertion at a sustainable level following an initial period of self doubt.  The fact that the second wind is more than a sensation, but is accompanied by biochemical and physiological markers has been discovered within my lifetime.  First, let me remind you that anaerobic exercise, for example an all out sprint of 400 meters, is not sustainable and results in prompt exhaustion.  A sprint can very nearly be accomplished while holding one’s breath.  Aerobic exercise is at a sustainable level with the metabolic demands met by breathing and burning food.  The ability to sprint depends on stored chemical energy (phosphocreatine and adenosine triphosphate).  Recovery after such a sprint depends on aerobic metabolism restoring the expended chemical energy and is accompanied by continued increased breathing and burning of food (mostly muscle glycogen).


A maximum anaerobic effort results in an oxygen debt of almost 30 Liters - This much extra oxygen is extracted from the air breathed during recovery.  The sensation of second wind occurs during steady exertion with a constant oxygen debt and a steady but elevated body temperature.  These are the biochemical and physiological markers of second wind.  During such steady exertion, an increase in the level of exercise results in a new period of discomfort until a new and higher oxygen debt and body temperature is established provided that the maximum possible oxygen debt is not exceeded.  At that point, a new sensation of second wind occurs.  The highest level of sustainable activity results in a body temperature of about 104°F.  This is a new setting of our bodies’ thermostats and does not always result in a sense of being overheated until the exertion ceases, resulting in an outpouring of perspiration.  To mitigate this, a period of walking before sitting down is helpful, or alternatively undressing immediately and showering largely prevents sweating up one’s clothes.  In the first 6 months of 1967, my minimum work-out while training to climb Mt. McKinley was a two mile run in 12 minutes.  I discovered that I could do it in normal clothes without messing them up by using the above method.  Knowledge of this newly discovered physiology doubtless contributed to my discovery.


Most of the moment to moment control of breathing depends on carbon dioxide accumulating in the blood from aerobic metabolism.  Carbon dioxide is an acid substance and its relative absence renders the blood akaline.  But there are some remarkable mechanisms that anticipate future need to increase respiration.  First, anxiety increases breathing, in anticipation of fighting or fleeing.  In the absence of a jungle with standardized requirements of fighting or running, the over breathing may produce dizziness and numbness.  In the case of over breathing from blowing up too many balloons, the cause of the symptoms is obvious.  In the case of anxiety, if there is any sensation about breathing, it is likely to be a sense of not getting enough air.  Incidentally, in the case of asthma, the sense of anxiety produces hyperventilation (over breathing) unless the asthma is too severe to permit over-breathing in spite of maximum effort.


A second anticipation of future breathing requirement occurs during adjustment to high altitude.  The reduced oxygen content of inspired air tweaks the normal mechanism slightly and results in a more rapid loss of carbon dioxide, an acid substance as mentioned before.  The kidneys restore acid base balance in hours or days by excreting alkali, resulting in more increase in breathing for a given carbon dioxide production.  This is why training at altitude detracts from performance at sea level.  A given exertion requires previously unnecessary increases in breathing with peak performance blunted by intolerable sense of shortness of breath at a lower level of exertion.  I experienced this on returning to Monroe the 3rd day after 20,000 feet.  I swam a few laps as I had done during training and was much more short of breath in spite of the greatly improved general fitness after 3 weeks of near maximum effort.  But the changed respiratory sensitivity blunted performance anyway.


Finally, forceful stretching of major tendons stimulates increased respiration immediately in anticipation of the metabolic demands of the muscle producing the tendon stretching.  This is also much more obvious at altitude because of the more sensitized respiratory center in the brain.  At altitude, taking a big step up with a heavy pack required 4 or 5 deep breaths before further exertion was possible.


All of the above illustrates how finely tuned our bodies are to the requirements of survival under primitive conditions.

John A. Frantz

Chairman, Monroe Board of Health     

May21, 2001



            A Thought about Super-bowl Sunday


     We have instincts that had survival value for our pre-human ancestors, but now should be blunted or even subverted.  A primal instinct that should only be blunted can lead to AIDS and other diseases.  Bill Clinton fired a Surgeon General  for making a valid “blunting” suggestion too explicit.


      The instinct for territorial warfare has no survival value in our time.  Weapons of mass destruction have seen to that.  Team sports sublimate this instinct.  The enthusiasm for team sports is evolving into the military equivalent for the suggestion that cost Jocelyn Elders her job.


     Please be tolerant of those among us who seem to overemphasize Super-bowl.  They are either the wave of the future or emerging among us from the past—maybe they are both.          



The creation and nurture of the MBA (Master of Business Administration)


         I am an alumni magazine junkie.  I think it is because they deal forthrightly with current issues without having to worry too much about subscribers canceling.  Recently in one of my stable of such magazines I read about a new dean of  that school’s graduate school of business.  I especially liked his emphasizing community responsibility.


          Three or four years ago I wrote a health column about mad cow disease entitled The Biology of Cannibalism.  I didn’t include the following irreverent thought in my column.  “No self-respecting farmer would have thought of making involuntary cannibals out of his cattle;  some British MBA probably thought it up”.


         Was Ralph Nader’s Unsafe at any Speed another result of business interests interfering with technical decisions?  If so, we could have been spared some current hassles more important than a deficit of constant velocity joints in the Corvair’s rear suspension.  I bet the MBAs at GM were not steeped in community responsibility.  It is encouraging that the trend in industry is to send some of their technical people for graduate work in business.


          If any of my readers think of some further examples of MBAs run amuck, please tell me about it:    July 9, 2004


          Addendum, September 26, 2005:  Another encouraging trend, On Wisconsin, the University of Wisconsin alumni journal for Fall 2005, describes a new course in the School of Business called Social Entrepreneurship.  The course is about capitalism creating social value—money is merely a means to make a difference, wealth may even be an incidental result.  A result of this course is  Green Leaf Market, which doesn’t buy, sell, or ship farm produce—it merely connects the people who do, permitting local restaurants, and groceries to provide produce from nearby farms, previously so difficult  that most such produce was shipped from far away.  The Market makes its money from transaction fees or subscription fees, compare with E-Bay.  Watch for such produce in Madison grocery stores next summer.  Could we get something similar going in Monroe?  I’m sure there would still be a place for the farmer’s market.