Time to Catch Your Second Wind

January 18, 2021 ~ Written by: W.B. “Bud” Kirchner
Approx. Read Time: 7 Minutes

Feel like you are running on empty?

“Most people never run far enough on their first wind to find out they’ve got a second.” – William James


 “Be strong; things will get better. It might be stormy now, but rain doesn’t last forever.” – Unknown

This latest article related to the seemingly endless challenge of COVID-19 and its impact on the world around us is not intended to propose ‘sophisticated’ approaches as featured in previous articles, but a more prosaic attitudinal approach.

Athletes and I am guessing most non-athletes are familiar with the concept of second wind. In a nutshell, it is ‘energy’ you rely on when you put your head down and push on against ongoing resistance – both physical and mental.

Having said this, there is a bit of ‘science’ behind the phenomena.

“Second wind is a phenomenon that has become part of the lexicon in various contexts. Originally an experience related  to distance running, such as marathons (as well as other sports), whereby an athlete who is out of breath and too exhausted to continue suddenly finds the strength to press on compared to their previous performance. Some scientists believe the second wind to be a result of the body finding the proper balance of oxygen to counteract the buildup of lactic acid and other by-products in the muscles. In the vein of previous articles, second winds are associated with endorphin production.” (#2)

“A second wind is a renewed sense of vigor after becoming fatigued, a fresh conviction that one is able to achieve one’s goal, a burst of energy following exhaustion. The word wind, in this case, refers to breath. The idea is that one becomes fatigued and is out of breath, and then becomes reinvigorated and catches one’s breath. The term second wind may be used to mean a burst of energy after one becomes physically fatigued, or it may mean a burst of energy when one is mentally or spiritually fatigued. The term second wind was first used in the 1830s, to mean a renewed sense of vigor when one has become tired from physical exertion.” (#1)

Obviously, the psychological attitude that ‘getting there’ is possible underlies this ‘technique’. In act, it is inherent in a previous article. (Look Up, Look Down, Look up…..)

Another Variation on the Theme

“When the world says, “Give up,” Hope whispers, “Try it one more time.” – Author Unknown

The concept of ‘second wind’ is so common that a related vocabulary has developed as illustrated by dictionary definitions:

  • Suck it up – to endure something painful, unpleasant, or otherwise dissatisfactory; to deal with or recover from some hardship or stress.
  • Endure  – Some common synonyms of endure are abide, bear, stand, suffer, and tolerate. While all these words mean “to put up with something trying or painful,” endure implies continuing firm or resolute through trials and difficulties.

Use whatever words that give you what you need to keep going!

Interestingly enough, second wind has become an idiom that we all recognize since perseverance exists in virtually all cultures. For example:

  • “It does not matter how slowly you go so long as you do not stop.” – Confucius
  • “If you are going through hell, keep going.” – Winston Churchill
  • “Fall seven times, stand up eight.” – Japanese Proverb
  • “The pain you’ve been feeling can’t compare to the joy that is coming.” – Romans 8:18
  • “No pain, no gain” (or “No gain without pain”) – Old proverb

A Two-Step Process

As I reflect on my personal experience with ‘second wind’, primarily in the context of athletic endeavors, I realized it actually occurs in two steps.

First, as I reach the point of ‘I’ve had enough’, I realized it was my mind that engages first. Basically, with an internal message to bridge the gap and provide reassurance that additional energy is coming. Hold on, this isn’t going to hurt for much longer.

Second, soon thereafter my body reacts and endorphins as well as other biochemical reactions start to flow, my overall resilience is enhanced.

 Signs of Optimism

“When you come to the end of your rope, tie a knot and hang on.” – Franklin D. Roosevelt

In summary, the above reflects the phenomena that sometimes after you have done all you can to approach a challenge with philosophy, psychology, biochemistry, (see previous blogs) etc., the sole remaining strategy is to dig deeper and engage your ‘second wind’.

Flying in the face of simply ‘giving up’.

In the context of ‘good news’ which is, of course, a relative term and often limited to a relatively small group, (that may be presented with more than a bit of skepticism), I share links to some recent articles:

Optimism may be too strong of a word, but it does seem there could be an end (albeit distant) in sight and this after all, is the context in which ‘second winds’ is relevant. One can’t help but think of the old saying “let’s hope the light at the end of the tunnel is not a train”.


  1. Grammarist
  2. Wikipedia

Business Brain Model articles

About the Author: W.B. “Bud” Kirchner is a serial entrepreneur and philanthropist with more than 50 years of business success. He is not a scientist or an academic but he does have a diversified exposure to neuroscience, psychology and related cognitive sciences. Generally speaking, the ideas he expresses here are business-angled expansions of other people’s ideas, so when possible, he will link to the original reference.