Everything You Need to Know About Runner’s High

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If you have not experienced it, a runner’s high is hard to describe in words. It is something that is incomparable to anything logical. It is imperative to know that in order to achieve such a state, there is a long road to walk, or more accurately run. According to the peer reviewed article, The Runner’s High: Opioidergic Mechanisms in the Human Brain, ten male runners participated in a study in which the findings demonstrate that there is a noticeable change in two out of the nine items that were being rated. These two being happiness and euphoria. Hence this experiment is “the first in vivo evidence that release of endogenous opioids occurs in frontolimbic brain regions after sustained physical exercise and that there is its close correlation to perceived euphoria of runners”. In other words, this means that there is indeed a neurological reaction that provides a therapeutic effect on people who experience anxiety, depression, or other type of mental disorder. Endorphins are released by the central nervous system and like laughing, or petting a furry feline or canine, you will be very happy!

However, let’s talk the real talk. It is called high for a reason. According to the study, A runner’s high depends on cannabinoid receptors in mice,  that famous high has much more to do with a cannabinoid receptor. Mice were used in this study in order to provide tangible evidence that running for a prolonged period of time will increase the endocannabinoids and at the same time will reduce pain and anxiety.

The study states, “Ablation of cannabinoid receptor 1 receptors on GABAergic neurons inhibits running-induced anxiolysis, and pharmacological blockage of central and peripheral cannabinoid receptors inhibits analgesia”.  In other words, this type of high is in fact addictive. A healthy pack of nicotine is finally at your disposal. Both studies mentioned before provide viable evidence that suggests that this type of high will reduce negative feelings such as anxiety, depression, and pain. I do not know what is better than a natural self-induced high.

Personally, I am lucky enough to have experienced this high. As stated before, there are no words that can accurately describe the feeling. All I can do is a mere description that will not do the actual feeling justice. Before I start a run I always go through the process of meticulously picking songs for my run. There is nothing I enjoy more than being in a euphoric state while listening to some AC/DC or some random EDM track pulled out some music festival. I can feel my toes and heels against the pavement, my noodle like arms moving in conjunction, sweat trickling out of my various pores, and an uncanny grin forming on my lips. No one can touch me or take me away from this moment. It is mine and it will be mine always. I breathe in the positive and breathe out the negative energy that has been piling up in my body.

Unfortunately, I have not experienced this feeling as much as I would like to. This is because the arduous journey to the high is actually not that simple. This is because even though it is an amazing and unique state of mind, it is very difficult to achieve. In a world as hectic as ours, who has time to be naturally high when there are other harmful substances that will make us feel elevated? It is a sad phenomenon and as a runner you and I should strive to change. Not only for ourselves but for the community we are part of. It is a lonely world and the most important thing is to have something that connects us. A high that is reached by running. Something you can do in order to have a better mental health. Something you can promote and have scientific evidence for. It is quite an awesome thing.

Well now that you know this unrivaled state of mind, how do you achieve this euphoric state? I am going to quote my favorite band, AC/DC, in order to describe what you are about to do: “It’s harder than it looks, it’s a long way to the top if you wanna rock ‘n’ roll”.  Not to worry, however, I have gathered some information for you. I will help you get there and you will not regret it once you are “high”.  One thing I want you to remember is do not give up. If it is your first time, the process may sound like a terrible idea and you might actually want to run away from it.

Now let’s get you started. Carbohydrates are essential for runners. Especially in order to achieve the high. First and foremost, fuel your gears accordingly. There is an array of food selections runners can make in order to have a better result. Who would have guessed the first step was this easy? Bananas, pasta, almonds, eggs, etc. Foods that are rich in protein and have essential nutrients. The adage that some people live by, is that runners “need carbs”. However, if these aren’t high quality carbohydrates it could backfire.

Moreover, hydration is as important if not more so than food for a runner’s high. The human body is made out of around 75 percent water. Making it a key focus in order to achieve any type of neurological state. It is recommendable to wait around 45 minutes in order to allow the body to digest.

Due to the fact that runner’s high is reached by having your body in a prolonged state of stress, running for a long duration will bring you closer to the high. Yes, run for a long period of time. Put on some jams and let yourself be part of something bigger than you. It might sound a bit scary and it might sound like a hassle. Start slowly, be inspired and motivated by the fact that you are about to push your body and you are going to be able to feel it. That you will be able to feel something a large amount of people have not and will not ever experience.  

The Runner’s High: Opioidergic Mechanisms in the Human Brain  
Henning BoeckerTill SprengerMary E. SpilkerGjermund HenriksenMarcus Koppenhoefer
Klaus J. WagnerMichael ValetAchim Berthele, and Thomas R. Tolle 
A runner’s high depends on cannabinoid receptors in mice 
Johannes Fussa,b,1,2Jörg Steinlea,1Laura BindilacMatthias K. AuerdHartmut Kirchherre
Beat Lutzc, and Peter Gassa