Runner’s high. For over thirty years, it remained an unproven hypothesis. Then, in 2008, scientists backed up what athletes had been saying for generations. Exercise has a profound impact on brain chemistry, including the sensations of elation and euphoria that constitute “runner’s high.” Primarily, this has to do with the amount of endorphins released during high intensity exercise. The endorphins that flood the brain are so powerful that they can even reduce the body’s pain response, meaning that some runners can have heart attacks or break their ankles and continue on as though nothing has happened.
But how do you achieve that high, especially since some people swear they’ve never experienced it?
First, keep in mind that all exercise can trigger a change in brain chemistry, not just running. So if running hasn’t worked for you, then try something else that does leave you feeling spent but calm. Continuous activities like cycling, rowing, or using an elliptical treadmill might be better candidates for you. Even one of our TribeFIT or TribeCORE classes might be what you’re looking for.
Also, don’t be discouraged if you don’t feel that runner’s high right away. Brain chemistry is notoriously difficult to change. If it weren’t, then modern science wouldn’t still be working so hard on things like anti-depressant drugs. You may be one of the people for whom a runner’s high just isn’t in the cards, simply because endorphins effect different people differently. It’s the same with all changes to brain chemistry — you probably know some people who are more jovial after a few beers, and others who are more maudlin and weepy. What accounts for that difference? Differences in brain chemistry. It’s the same with endorphins.
And finally, the best way to experience that runner’s high is to keep trying, and remain open to the experience. Make sure to pace yourself appropriately, as fatigue can actually get in the way of your high. Try not to focus on what you’re doing right or wrong, and allow the feeling to wash over you. If it does, that’s great! If it doesn’t, you’re still reaping the rewards of exercise. It’s a win-win scenario, no matter what happens.
Do you experience runner’s high? What it’s like for you?