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Steve Noud
Lab 4
Many extreme athletes will tell you that there is nothing like the rush they get from doing
something that they love whether it is BMX, skateboarding, skiing, or base jumping. The thrill and
excitement that extreme athletes get are result from putting themselves in front of risks of breaking
bones, serious injury, and sometimes fatalities. With the huge rush comes massive risk factors but
athletes push themselves passed limits that are hard to believe and can become comfortable with such
huge risks. The risks cause fear but fear seems to be a main drive in continuing to push the limits in any
extreme sport. There are a few theories about the need to catch a rush like the dopamine hypothesis
which explains a biological stand and the theory of flow which is more of a psychological view.
The concept of the dopamine hypothesis is involved in the individual’s brain. The theory is that
the athlete’s brain contains fewer dopamine inhibiting receptors so when they experience a point of risk
their brain cannot inhibit the neurotransmitters. The result is a flooding of the brain with dopamine
giving the craved euphoric feeling. Although this concept is very plausible it seems to take away from
the athletes themselves. If this was the case it just presents extreme athletes as mouth foaming
adrenaline junkies that will do anything crazy to get that high but most aren’t quite like this. This could
be seen as an advantage for some athletes because they would be able to keep calm in a higher risk
situation. It isn’t easy being any kind of athlete because what you do usually requires good physical state
which takes hard work. Some say that in order to be a serious athlete it takes more than the desire for a
thrill. It takes accumulative knowledge and confidence to get to a point where you can stare down fear
and use it. The feeling is amazing because it is like controlling chaos because your perception seems to
be high tend and calm when you are facing fear. Like anything else practice can make anyone better at
something. The more practice and steady progression allows you to overcome larger obstacle that may
have once seemed too scary.
A non-biological concept was termed flow. This theory involves the loss of self-consciousness,
focus, and the sense of passing time. Flow was thought of by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, a Hungarian
psychology professor at the University of Chicago. Flow allows a person to use completely focused
motivation and apply it to whatever activity the person is involved in. The theory of flow takes emotions
and harnesses them to produce positive energy towards what you are doing. Fear for example would be
harnessed and followed with confidence that can give you the boost to face that fear. A complete
mental immersion into the task at hand is key to the success of flow. It seems that it is something that
only certain people that have experience in their hobby can achieve because in they have built the
confidence and certainty in their skills to put themselves in a place of flow. Once your skills are at a
certain point flow becomes like doing task without your mind getting in the way saying don’t do that or
that might be a little too big. Flow allows you to be confident in your actions by drawing on past
experiences and the comfort and passion you have with the sport. It can be seen as letting go of yourself
and allowing instinct to sort of take over. Scientist at the University of Regensburg say that as soon as
someone start a new sport their brains begin to change becoming more efficient allowing faster
Steve Noud
Both of these theories are very similar in the end but one seems to make more sense than the
other. Although one is explained by biology and the other is a psychological theory they both allow for
somewhat of a heightened state when involved in an activity. The thrill seeker that gets an overload of
dopamine and the meditated daredevil both has ways to get passed fear and risk to gain something
higher. Flow makes more sense because it promotes learning over time leads to the ability to gain flow.
Extreme athletes are usually looking for flow rather than a dopamine rush. Flow represents mastering
something in every aspect and becoming the best you possibly can. By mastering flow progression
should become easier and open up more opportunities.
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