You may have heard that some people can get “high” from running. Most of the time, people hear it from a personal trainer or someone they know who is an avid runner. But what exactly is runner’s high and how can you achieve it? The phrase “runner’s high” is used to describe a profound feeling of psychological contentment, elation and well-being that is associated with long, rhythmic-type exercise, which can be running, jogging, swimming, etc.
It is widely believed that when we exercise strenuously, our brains release chemicals known as endorphins. These are the naturally-occurring opiates in the brain, and opiates are a “feel good” chemical that provide a sense of euphoria. They produce a morphine-like effect on the brain. This is why many people feel great after they’ve had a good workout. There is a direct relationship between how much you run or exercise and how many endorphins are released; however, clinical studies are sadly lacking in this area, so there of course are skeptics in the field of medicine. There is no escaping the observation, though, that the longer you run and the more you train, the higher and happier you feel afterwards.
The skeptics do make a good argument. In one study, researchers blocked endorphin release during exercise, and the results still showed people experiencing the runner’s high. So, while endorphins do play a role, it is likely that other feel-good chemicals like norepinephrine, dopamine, and serotonin are also released during and after exercise to create this euphoric feeling. These are the neurotransmitters associated with depression and anxiety. This may be why exercise is highly recommended by psychologists to treat symptoms of depression.
Something to note is that when runner’s high wears off, there is a “crash” sort of feeling that makes a person feel less motivated to continue that kind of vigorous workout routine. However, experienced runners would advise you to continue the workout anyway because like any routine, this will take practice to train the brain to regulate itself after the high runs its course. To get and maintain a good runner’s high at every marathon or workout session, the idea is to continue to push yourself and create a regular routine of this rhythmic-type exercise that will teach the brain muscle how to respond and give you that high you need to stay motivated and energized.
Even if you are in pain during the run, you should continue to push yourself. Endorphins and neurotransmitters are natural pain relievers, so at some point you are going to cross that barrier and enter into a euphoric state of elation and energy. This is the runner’s high you’re looking for.
Have you Experienced Runner’s High?