Running is a fantastic cardio exercise; it combines the efforts of various physical practices into one. We have seen running strengthen the heart, lower body fat to the optimal level, and increase your overall mood. With all these great benefits, we wonder why more people do not do it. There must be a point in which it does begin to feel good, right?
I am sure you have all heard of the "runner's high," but is it real? And if so, how do you achieve it? Recent research studies have shown that the brain loves running and that we may be hard-wired to achieve that "high" that we all hoped our hard work would bring us. This euphoric feeling is believed to be the evolutionary cause of our ancestors' survival. They likely had to chase their dinner if they wanted to eat. With the will to survive being incredibly strong, their bodies would release endorphins to encourage them to keep running. It has been suggested that these exhilarated states are caused by the frontolimbic brain, says a study from the Cerebral Cortex.
We may no longer need to chase down our meals to survive, but that does not suggest that we cannot enjoy these natural feel-good chemicals our brains can produce. Learning how to achieve a runner's high is not an unfeasible task and doing so may help you reach your goals in the cardio fitness world.
The Spark: Serotonin and Dopamine
Our society has been able to manually create opiates like morphine to help deal with physical pain, but what if I told you that the chemicals created during a runner's high act like these medications? Scientists and doctors have found that during a 2-hour long run, a subject's brain will begin to light up in the prefrontal and limbic regions and emit out endorphins.
The Key: Keep on running. When we run for long periods, our mindset begins to want to give up. Every inch of you is screaming to stop, but to achieve this euphoric feeling, you MUST keep going. Do not get me wrong, you do not want to exert yourself to the point that you pass out, but your body can take much more than your mind reveals it can.
When our minds are at the point of exhaustion, and our limbs are beginning to feel weak, our brain kicks into overdrive and launches the process of releasing chemicals to give us that extra boost we need to keep moving.
The Conclusion: Pushing Yourself Will Be Rewarding
The next time you decide to take yourself on a run and you become depleted mid-hill, instead of letting your psyche take control, keep your legs moving and avoid giving in. The result of a runner's high will be much more rewarding than slowing down and stopping. You can make it to the top of that hill, and it will feel remarkable when you do!
Sources: Boecker, Henning, et al. "Runner's High: Opioidergic Mechanisms in the Human Brain." OUP Academic, Oxford University Press, 21 Feb. 2008, academic.oup.com/cercor/article/18/11/2523/291108.
Raichlen, David A., et al. "Wired to Run: Exercise-Induced Endocannabinoid Signaling in Humans and Cursorial Mammals with Implications for the 'Runner's High'." Journal of Experimental Biology, The Company of Biologists Ltd, 15 Apr. 2012, jeb.biologists.org/content/215/8/1331?sid=739917de-aaf2-469d-9f3a-ab04329720b7.
Disclaimer: I’m not a fitness expert, medical doctor or registered dietician. This blog is solely to share my experiences in running, fitness and nutrition. In regards to your health, please do your own study and exploration. Everything I share here comes from personal experiences, knowledge gained from sources, and is based off my own lifestyle. If you are in need of specific advice in any of these areas, please contact your own health professional.