How to Trigger the Feel-good Chemicals
Sometimes we get it, sometimes we don’t. But we always want it—and more of it. It’s the runner’s high, and when we are lucky enough to tap into it our runs feel easy, exhilarating, even euphoric. But we aren’t always that lucky, are we?
Years ago, our ancestors’ survival likely depended on chasing down food. The desire to live was possibly their motivation to run and run fast, and the feel-good brain chemicals released when they did so may have helped them achieve the speed and distances required.
Nature’s home-brewed opiates, endorphins are chemicals that act a lot like their medically engineered counterpart, morphine. Runners have credited them for their feel-good effects for decades, but it wasn’t until 2008 that German researchers used brain scans on runners and were able to identify exactly where they originated.
The scientists found that during two-hour-long runs, subjects’ pre-frontal and limbic regions (which light up in response to emotions like love) spewed out endorphins. The greater the endorphin surge in these brain areas, the more euphoric the runners reported feeling.
Push yourself - hard, but not too hard. Endorphins are painkillers produced in response to physical discomfort. A short, casual run likely won't produce enough discomfort to trigger a rush.
Attempt a pace or distance that's too aggressive, and you'll possibly be too overwhelmed by the effort to feel good. As powerful as they are, endorphins can’t override an injury or lack of training.
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