YOUR BODY ON FEAR

When a For­tuner swerves into your path, you need to act fast to es­cape. Here’s how your bod kicks into high gear.

Bicycling (South Africa) - - STORIES - – AC Shilton

EYES // There’s a rea­son car­toons show a char­ac­ter’s eyes grow­ing saucer- size as he lies tied in the path of a train. When you’re scared, your eyes open wider so you can bet­ter see and process threats (that swervy rider to your right) and es­cape routes (the gap that’s open­ing up in front of him). A 2013 study pub­lished in

Psy­cho­log­i­cal Sci­ence found that peo­ple mak­ing a ‘scared face’ ver­sus a dis­gusted or neu­tral one en­hanced their pe­riph­eral vi­sion by 9.4%.

NECK + SHOUL­DERS // Your mus­cles tense when you're freaked out, which can wreak havoc on your bike han­dling. To re­duce this, re­lax your shoul­ders – per­form­ing some shrugs or shoul­der rolls should help you loosen up.

HEART // The body re­leases adren­a­line when you’re scared, which trig­gers a rise in heart rate. It’s part of the fight- or-flight re­sponse, says Margee Kerr, a so­ci­ol­o­gist and au­thor of Scream: Chill­ing Ad­ven­tures in the Sci­ence of Fear. “It’s meant to pre­pare us to be strong and fast.”

HANDS + FEET // If you’ve ever clutched the bar with clammy hands after out­sprint­ing a men­ac­ing dog, you know that a scare can leave your ex­trem­i­ties chilled. That’s be­cause your body pulls blood away from the skin to aid ma­jor mus­cles and your heart and lungs. This pre­pares them to do hard work to help you flee.

BLAD­DER // “So scared I peed my­self” is more than just a say­ing, says psy­chol­o­gist Denise Dixon. An in­crease in your heart rate can trig­ger the kid­neys to process flu­ids more rapidly; and voilà, you have to go. That sen­sa­tion only adds to the anx­i­ety – so maybe take a bath­room break be­fore that down­hill.

SKIN // Es­cap­ing a threat is a lot of work. Your body an­tic­i­pates this by sweat­ing to help you stay cool. But if you don’t end up sprint­ing, you won’t need that evap­o­ra­tive cool­ing – that’s why you may find your­self shiv­er­ing after a scare.

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