We’ve all heard about it, that magical feeling that we achieve once we’ve pushed ourselves to our limits at five o’clock in the morning while racing the sun to that final kilometer. It is a peaceful, powerful place of fitness legend that only the truly experienced can reach. Or is it? What do we really know about runner’s high anyways? According to science, quite a bit actually.
Why do We Experience It?
It turns out that this may be a remnant of our ancient ancestors. Chasing down food or running away from predators was a matter of life and death. In order to keep our legs moving despite the strain they were feeling, our bodies likely pumped out endorphins. The feel-good chemicals acted as a natural painkiller to mask tired legs and blistered feet.
How do We Experience It?
Just like back in the day, we experience endorphins in a way similar to our medical equivalent, morphine. This hormone is also associated with falling in love and chocolate. But this isn’t the only thing that gets released while experiencing a runner’s high. Our body also produces endocannabinoids. Although it is a mouthful, this hormone is simply a naturally synthesized version of THC, the chemical responsible for the buzz that marijuana produces. Combine the sense-heightening effects of endorphins and the calming effects of endocannabinoids, and you have a classic runner’s high.
Why Haven’t I Gotten It Yet?
Although these two natural chemicals are very powerful, they can’t negate injury or lack of training. Which means that if you’re just starting out, it may be harder to achieve. Researchers offer a few ways to increase the chances of experiencing one. Running in pairs or in a group tends to increase endorphin levels. Listening to music may also cause a spike. An increase in those levels could very well lead to a “high”. Give it a try next time you hit the pavement and let us know if it works!