Tag: runners high

Does the “runner’s high” really exist?

Runner’s High – My Personal Experience

My name is Mike, I was a member of the Tickhill Running Club for almost 10 years until I was forced to relocate for my job. I feel I can provide a unique perspective on this topic, as I went from being completely out of shape (was technically considered obese), to a recreational runner, and now I love to compete in many different types of endurance races.

Given that I’ve been fortunate enough to have the resources to maintain this lifestyle change, lots of people are curious to know about different aspects of this change. One question I often get, but have trouble answering quickly, is if I have ever experienced the runner’s high that new or prospective runners often hear about.

Runner’s High Definition

Merriam-Webster defines runner’s high as the following:

a feeling of euphoria that is experienced by some individuals engaged in strenuous running and that is held to be associated with the release of endorphins by the brain.

Although the feeling of euphoria may be a more extreme experience of the runner’s high, people often report more specific feelings, such as losing sense of time (in a good way), extreme stress relief, decreased levels of physical and mental pain, etc.

While the endorphin explanation is logical, it has yet to be proven. In fact, the science behind the runner’s high is likely way more complex, with various other chemicals/molecules likely being involved, as well as external factors that affect each individual in a unique matter.

So what do we know?

While the jury is still out on what the runner’s high actually is from a scientific perspective, many runner’s report common effects. These include, but are not limited to

  • Physical and mental stress relief
  • Feeling of invincibility
  • Loss of sense of time
  • Sense of euphoria

I’ve experienced all of these, and it’s part of what keeps me motivated for running. However, to be honest, I’ve given up on trying to understand and focus on this, and now just think about the longterm benefits of running.

We know that running is good for you. There are an array of physical benefits, such as lower triglyceride levels, a higher HDL:LDL cholesterol ratio (which is good), decreased fat mass, lower resting heart rate, lower blood pressure, higher fitness levels, etc. Given these facts, it’s hard to think that some of this isn’t involved in the runner’s high, and perhaps we’re over complicating things. Perhaps these inherent benefits ARE the runner’s high.

In terms of mental benefits, I’ve noticed a huge change in my mood, ability to focus on work, general clarity (i.e. reduced “brain fog”), and more energy overall. When I run, it’s like all of these things are enhanced, and some of my most effective thinking gets done on the trail, ultimately benefiting every aspect of my life.

Now, it wasn’t that long ago that I was considered obese. I remember how I felt then, and sometimes I wonder if the sheer difference in how I feel between now and then is tricking me into thinking I’m experiencing the runner’s high, when really it’s just natural science-proven benefits of running that I should have been expecting all along.

So what does this all mean?

In my opinion, don’t even think about the runner’s high. Simply do your best to stay motivated to your health and fitness goals, and eventually you will experience it in one way or another. Setting a series of small attainable goals can help with this, as well as constantly tracking your improvement through distance ran, time to cover a particular distance, weight loss, whatever helps you keep track.

I really so think the runner’s high is simply a state-of-mind that anyone can achieve if they buy in to their health and fitness goals. Although I can’t say I’ve ever experienced a state of euphoria while running (I think a lot of others would laugh at that too), I’ve definitely experienced some mental and physical sensations, and more importantly, I’ve experienced the long term benefits of running as well.

At the end of the day, all I can say is try it for yourself. It will take a while. If you’re new to running, you may become frustrated or discouraged at first, or feel you don’t have the motivation, but once you get into it and start seeing your own personal progress, it will become easier and easier to be the person you want to be.

Lastly, if you are still reading this, thank you very much. The simple decision to go running one day truly changed my life for the better, and I hope you and anyone else can find this type of success as well. Happy running!