Trait emotional intelligence, mood states & cortisol response to a treadmill ultramarathon

Howe, C.C.F, Pummell, E., Pang, S., Spendiff, O. and Moir, H.J. (2018) Trait emotional intelligence, mood states & cortisol response to a treadmill ultramarathon. In: 23rd Annual Congress of the European College of Sport Science; 04 - 07 Jul 2018, Dublin Ireland. (Unpublished)


INTRODUCTION: Ultramarathon competitors experience & have to manage & overcome a complexity of physiological & psychological stresses. Trait emotional intelligence (TEI) is an individual’s perception & understanding of how their emotions impact their thoughts & behaviours during competition & plays an important role in their ability to employ strategies to regulate them. The aim of this study was to investigate TEI & its effect on performance, mood states & serum cortisol levels over an 80.5km treadmill ultramarathon. METHODS: Twelve ultramarathon runners completed an 80.5km time-trial on a treadmill & were instructed to cover the distance in the fastest possible time. Runner TEI was measured using the 33-item emotional intelligence scale (Schutte et al., 1998) prior to the trial. A mood state questionnaire (BRUMS: Terry et al., 2003) was completed prior (baseline), immediately before (pre), at 40.25km (halfway) & on completion of 80.5km (post), as were serum cortisol concentrations, measured by competitive ELISA-type electrochemiluminescence assay. RESULTS: Average completion time was 09:00:18±01:14:07 (hh:mm:ss), at a running velocity of 9.8±1.3km.h-1. Increases in serum cortisol were observed between pre & halfway, & between halfway & post time points (p=0.001 & p=0.003, respectively). Significant decreases were observed between both baseline & pre time points compared to the post time point for ‘Vigor’ (p=0.015 & p=0.01, respectively). Significant increases were also identified for ‘Fatigue’ between pre & halfway, &, pre & post (p=0.05 & p<0.01 respectively), along with halfway to post (p=0.02). Runners with higher TEI displayed greater post serum cortisol levels (r=0.78, p>0.001). Significantly higher total mood disturbance (TMD) was also observed between baseline & post, as well as between pre & post time points (p=0.001). CONCLUSION: The findings of the current study highlight the complex interactions of both physiological & psychological stresses imposed by an ultramarathon, demonstrated by the expected increase in fatigue & decrease in vigor over the course of the ultramarathon. Participants with a higher TEI displayed greater post-trial cortisol responses which may suggest that they are more aware of their emotions during an ultramarathon. These findings may give insight into what draws individuals to the sport of ultramarathon running, help to identify the stressors they face & further help develop strategies to aid both completion & performance in ultramarathon events. REFERENCES Schutte, N. S., Malouff, J. M., Hall, L. E., Haggerty, D. J., Cooper, J. T., Golden, C. J., Dornheim, L. (1998). Pers Indiv Differ,25:167–77. Terry P.C., Lane A.M., Fogarty G.J. (2003). Psych Sport Ex,44:125-139.

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