There is nothing quite like the feeling of finishing a hard run and basking in the magical euphoria that sets in… Happens every time, right? Well, not exactly. That euphoria is often termed a “runner’s high,” and all runners would love to experience it each time they hit the pavement. But unfortunately sometimes you get it, and sometimes you don’t. Luckily, there are some things you can do to reach this high more often, and all are completely legal.
For the longest time a runner’s high was linked to endorphins, chemicals that make you feel good that increase in the blood stream after prolonged exercise. Endorphins have long been attributed to feelings of pleasure and reduced pain, so it made sense to claim them as the source of a runner’s high. However, recent scientific studies are showing that endorphins might not actually have anything to do with the so-called runner’s high. The molecules that endorphins are made of are too large to be carried in the blood that reaches the brain. If they can’t make it to the brain, then they can’t be responsible for the runner’s high.
Endorphins may not be the source of the sought after runner’s high, but there are other mood-altering chemicals that increase after exercise. Endocannabinoids are essentially internally-produced marijuana. When these are at higher levels, you feel less pain, have a lightened mood, and are calmer in general. Another factor at play may be a hormone called leptin—the hormone that regulates hunger and makes you feel full. The hungrier you are, the more motivated you are to keep running.
Here are some things you can do to increase the likelihood of a runner’s high.
CHALLENGE YOURSELF. Push a little harder or run a little longer than you have before. In other words, stress your body (hard but not too hard). The chemicals that produce a runner’s high are effectively painkillers and are released in response to physical discomfort. In order to feel the high, you must first find some discomfort.
SLEEP. Those who get eight hours or more each night have higher endocannabinoid production. Better yet, levels tend to be three times higher in the morning than in the evening. Get a good night’s sleep and head out for that run first thing for a better chance at finding euphoria.
HOOK UP. Run with others. Science has shown that the chemicals that lead to a runner’s high are significantly higher when people run with groups instead of solo.
CHANGE IT UP. Boredom and monotony are not challenging to the body or the psyche. Run different routes with different terrains in order to ignite the excitement factor in your run.
Although you may not find this blissful state after every run, chase it down often. Challenge yourself to go longer or change up the route. Invite a friend to try out a new trail in town. And when you find that longed for runner’s high, soak it up and embrace every moment. Be thankful for the body that pushed you to that point, and know that tomorrow is another chance to be high on running again.
Visit Fleet Feet Sports for all your hot weather running needs. We have a large assortment of hydration systems, electrolyte supplements, and technical clothing to make summer running bearable.
Rachel Randall is the Marketing Director at Fleet Feet Sports. She is also a teacher, a musician, a mother of two active boys, and a runner. She finds a way to fit her runs in, but she does not clean her house unless you are coming over. For more information call 901.761.0078 or visit our website at fleetfeetmemphis.com.