Friday, May 17, 2013

WTFriday: Runner's High

I think I experienced my first ever runner's high on Wednesday night!!!

We've all heard of the ever elusive "runner's high", but exactly WTF is it??

Essentially, a runner's high is a sudden release of endorphins which flood into the brain. This endorphin rush can be caused by things other than running; the fight-or-flight response, sex, shock, etc. Endorphin production can be caused by exercise, but is especially triggered by stress, fear, or pain.

It looked like fall on the trail! Wednesday afternoon was overcast and just about 68º, my perfect running weather.

So WTF do endorphins do?

Endorphins are a neurotransmitter, a chemical that binds to a synapse and causes a chemical reaction in your brain. Endorphins block pain but they also produce pleasurable feelings. Who remembers watching Legally Blonde?

Thanks Elle

Endorphins are exactly the reason I was crying on Wednesday night. I was out running and was using Runkeeper, a totally awesome app that I've been using the past few weeks. One of the cool things about this app, there's a "coach" who chimes in every 5 minutes and lets you know how long you've been running, how far you've gotten, and your overall pace.

When she, it is a Siri-like voice, chimed in after the first 5 minutes, she told me that I had gone more than half a mile and I realized "holy crap, I have the opportunity to beat my mile time from high school", so I pushed a little harder than I normally do for that first mile. I didn't beat my high school time, 8:36 in case you were wondering, but I did manage a fairly decent mile time of 9:09.

This was amazing to me because I have allergy and exercise induced asthma. I have never been a strong runner. When I run, I normally have two goals, keep my mile time under 12 minutes and be able to make it back to my starting point.

So this 9:09 mile was a huge deal for me. When she chimed in again at 10 minutes and told me I had gone over a mile, I was ecstatic because that 8:36 happened exactly one time. When my mile time was tested again, they do this to see if you've improved over the course of the year, it was somewhere around 10:30. Not exactly what they want to see from you.

Turning back from the halfway point
But a sub-10 minute mile?! I was over the moon. Then I thought, I wonder if I can do another one... so I tried to keep up my current pace. I was able to keep it for a while but then began slowing down. I spent a lot of time "recovery walking" for that second mile. Have you ever seen the asthma recovery walk? You lace your hands together, put them behind your head, and push your elbows back. It opens up your chest and allows you to breathe a little easier. Mile 2 was completed in 10:55.

That 10:55 upset me a little, that was a usual time for me. That 9:09 made me feel as thought today (Wednesday) was an extraordinary day! I got a little mad and then did some mental math. Two miles in just over 20 minutes... if I push harder again, I might hit 3 miles in 30 minutes.

Long story short, I did. I completed mile 3 in 9:35. I wasn't sure I would make it, I kept glancing down at my phone every few seconds to check my distance and saw it creeping ever upward... 2.87...2.89...2.90, but the time seemed to be going by even faster. Once I hit 2.90, endorphins completely kicked in and I started sprinting. I blew past a few guys stopped on the trail with their bikes, wheezing up a storm. When I run, I sound like a really squeaky Darth Vader.

This tunnel means I'm about 1 mile away from "home", time to put my rear in gear
I hit 3 miles right in front of a building with enormous stone columns. I spent a good 2-3 minutes crouched down in front of one of those columns, which happened to be right by the front door... at 5pm... trying to regulate my breathing and crying. It was totally normal for Wednesday night in the business park.

I don't think I could have made it if it weren't for that endorphin rush at the end. The feelings of elation and almost super-humanness were really intense and I love that I figured out I can push myself a little harder than I have been. That means progress!

Want to learn more about endorphins and what you can do to trigger those amazing feelings? Click here
There is also some interesting stuff about exercise and depression to be found here

Have you guys ever experienced an endorphin rush when exercising? What were you doing when it happened??

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