Monday, May 23, 2011

A Case for Running

     The Runner's High

     Okay, so I've gotten comments from people who talk about hating running.  Well, I used to absolutely hate it too.  Whenever I tried before, I simply despised it.  It was on the same level as my distaste for peas and pineapple and if you know me, you know just how much I hate those things.  So how in the world did I get to love running so much?  It's all chemical!  Some refer to it as the Runner's High.  For a long while it was all folklore.  People talked about it, but no one could prove that it actually existed.  Apparently, personal testimony isn't enough for science.  But you can talk to a lot of runners who say that some kind of euphoric good mood would come over them during a race or after a long run.  I've experienced this myself. 
     The first time was when I ran 6 miles straight, without stopping, for the first time.  All of the sudden I was smiling and the feeling of happiness was overwhelming.  I had experiences something like this on other runs, but on a smaller scale.  This time, the euphoric feeling nearly brought me to tears.  Ericka, a friend of mine, said she has done the same thing; all of the sudden, in the middle of a run, she caught herself smiling like a loon and inexplicably happy.  It may take different circumstances to elicit the same response from other people, but most of the runners I know and talk to, experience the same thing.  But a high always leads to something else.  Do we know what it is, class?  An addiction!
     If you look up the word addiction, it's all negative and for good reason.  Most of the time addictions are about bad things like drugs, gambling, pornography and other destructive behaviors.  Something happens to your brain when you involve yourself in addicting substances or activities and it alters the way the brain functions, meaning the brains starts to crave things that are bad for it.  But what if you became addicted to something that was good for you?  Running, to me, is the best kind of addiction.  All other addictions tend to ruin your life and destroy your family and other relationships.  Not running.  Why? 
A)The "drug" is the massive release of endorphins throughout the body, not harmful substances that alter brain functions and damage cells B)It's hard to stay in shape, but what if you were addicted to a form of exercise?  It would be a lot easier to stay in shape, duh! C)The chemical reaction puts you in seriously good mood and it's not fake!  I've read articles where some psychiatrists have prescribed running to patients with depression.  My kids have told me that I'm a nicer mommy recently.  Hmmm, what I have been doing recently?  Oh, running! 
Did you see anything in there about it ruining my life because I love it so much?  Nope.  Anything to suggest that it's destroying my relationship with my family?  Nope, just the opposite.  In fact, my husband and kids are already getting excited to see me run a few races this summer(see the sidebar).

It's been said that other kinds of endurance or intense exercises can have this same effect, but not for me.  I've spent hours on an elliptical, swam long laps in a pool, scrunched up in yoga and pilates poses, but nothing else has ever given me a high before.  Why?  Well, I know the chemical reaction going on, but there is also something pyschological about running.  In my mindset, running is hard.  So here's the argument:  If I think running is hard and yet I do it, I have proven to myself that I can do something hard.  If doing something hard makes me proud of myself and my accomplishment, then running will make proud of myself and my accomplishment.  I think this adds to that chemical reaction and provides me with that addicting high.

As far as proving that the runner's high exists, they have done it.  Here is a link to an article I've found about it:  Yes, Running Can Make You High

In the end, running makes me happy.  Sometimes I can pinpoint the second those endorphins are being released.  I feel stronger, happier, more content with life in general.  What's cooler, is this effect doesn't wear off immediately after the run, it keeps going and often lasts me until my next run.  And when I do get stressed or when life is just throwing me too many curve balls, running clears my head and helps relieve the stress.  If you're looking for a reason to run, here is my first reason: the high. 

Look for "A Case for Running" to be a regular feature here every Monday.  I find the blogs I like to read the most have features that they run on a regular basis, so I thought I'd try it. 

Comment Time:  Has anyone here ever experienced a high from running or can attest to it's addicting nature?  Let me know!!


Natalie said...

I totally agree. I used to HATE running, until my husband got me started training for a few races. After I ran my first race I was excited to keep running and doing more races. Although my schedule isn't such that I can run consistently, I do when I can. Thanks for sharing on this blog. I noticed you are running the Dam Race, me too, only I'm on a relay team.

Jani said...

I'm going to try again to start running this summer. Hope I can experience the "high".