Jenna Mallory1, Anna Helen Marshall1, Matthew Williams2, James Heilman3, Madison Shoemaker3, Jarrett Walbolt1. 1Montreat College, Montreat, NC. 2Baylor University, Waco, TX. 3University of Maryland, College Park, MD.

BACKGROUND: Understanding the effects of personality and anxiety on the competing forces of the parasympathetic and sympathetic nervous systems may help guide clinical and performance decisions. It has been found that competition anxiety has been linked to poorer heart rate variability (HRV) post-competition, but this effect has yet to be benchmarked with biological markers such as cortisol. The purpose of this study was to determine the effects of competition anxiety and the big 5 personality traits on heart rate variability and cortisol. METHODS: 14 endurance runners competing in a 25 kilometer trail race were recruited. Saliva, HRV, and resting heart rate were collected pre-race (before warm-up), post-race (within 5 minutes of completion), and 1hr post-race. The IPIP-NEO-120 big 5 personality survey and the Competitive State Anxiety Inventory-2 were given to participants pre-race. The collected data was analyzed using a bivariate correlation test. RESULTS: There was no significant relationship between any sub-category of competition anxiety and HRV at any time point. There was a correlation between cortisol and both somatic and cognitive anxiety at the pre-race time point (r=0.69, p=0.029 and r=0.70, p=0.025; respectively). Somatic anxiety also shares a correlation with cognitive anxiety pre-competition (r=0.68, p=0.008). 60 minute post-race HRV and the personality trait of openness displayed significant relationship (r=-0.58, p=0.030). Agreeableness was associated with competition self-confidence (r=0.55, p=0.042). Openness was also significantly correlated with somatic competition anxiety (r=0.58, p=0.029). HRV by RMSSD at 60 minutes post-race was significantly associated cortisol at both 5 and 60 minutes post-race (r=-0.59, p=0.027 and r=-0.57, p=0.044; respectively). CONCLUSION: While competition anxiety and HRV were not significantly associated, HRV was benchmarked by cortisol post-race. Some big 5 personality traits predicted competition anxiety and HRV, suggesting further research into personality’s effect on the autonomic nervous system during and in preparation for exercise is warranted.

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