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imgresWhat is a Runner’s High?

 

When we exercise, we expect to feel better as a result.  We achieve a fitness or time goal and are fired up by the accomplishment.  We lose weight and like the result in the mirror.  Maybe, we just do something we have never done before and appreciate the new mental or physical dimension in our lives.  Some athletes, however, claim to feel better after exercise because the exercise itself makes them feel better.  Significantly. Commonly, this is called a “Runner’s High.”

 

This “high” has been explained through the years as a rush of endorphins, neurotransmitters secreted by our bodies during things like pain, excitement, and sex.  Endorphins act a bit like morphine chemically, so the conventional wisdom has been that they feel like it as well.

 

On the other hand, Jude Dickson and her University of Edinburgh colleagues, in their paper Does Exercise Promote Good Health, propose three hypotheses about the Runner’s High:  the distraction hypothesis (it takes our attention away from painful things at the time), the mastery hypothesis (we learn new things and achieve a goal), and the social interaction hypothesis (things are often more fun and seem easier in a group). So, is the Runner’s High a chemical reaction via endorphins, or a psychological reaction that is somewhat coincidental to running?  Regardless, all runners have days where we feel better than others, but the feeling of euphoria associated with this phenomenon can be fleeting or nonexistent for some runners, and relied upon as a pick me up for others.  But, can it be captured, quantified, and achieved systematically? 

Although an internet search of “endorphins” and “runner’s high” yields 70,000 results, that close association has been only modestly borne out by research.   For one thing, it is hard to quantify what exactly a “high” is, as the reflections of athletes differ widely as to how a Runner’s High actually makes them feel.  Secondly, although endorphin levels seem to elevate after exercise (likely because of the stress or pain the body has undergone during the exercise), that elevation doesn’t seem to have a uniformly positive result on mood, according to Sarah Willett in an oft cited article from Lehigh University.

 

The strong association between endorphins and Runner’s High in the wider public view persists. However, despite a well respected 2008 study by German researchers which found a strong correlation between endorphin production and the bloodstream of runners during and after two hour runs, not all agree that the correlation equals causation for the elusive high, in part because the large size of endorphin molecules make them difficult to pass the blood – brain barrier.  And, after all, if there was such a strong direct result, wouldn’t we all enjoy Runner’s Highs after / during every hard workout or run?

 

Other relatively recent studies have linked the same type of brain receptors that play well with marijuana use to a naturally occurring endocannabinoid, which appears to be produced in the bloodstream in large amounts during exercise.  A 2003 study with Georgia Tech college students yielded this finding, as have several subsequent similar or related studies with mice both in the US and abroad.  These molecules appear to be much smaller than endorphins. If they can pass the blood-brain barrier, does this mean that all the times we’ve joked that “running was our drug” we weren’t really too far off the mark?

 

Ultimately, questions remain to be answered about how a Runner’s High occurs, why, and frankly, what it is, exactly.  Runners are like snowflakes.  Each of us is at least slightly different from the rest both psychologically and physiologically, and it might not be unreasonable to think that the difficulties science has had in firmly establishing a cause and effect with this phenomenon lies is the infinite amounts of ways in which running can create a positive effect in our lives.  While we wait to find out what the chemical cause is once and for all, we encourage you to enjoy your Runner’s High not because of why you have it, but for the fact you have it at all.

 

 



Lunges

Written by Coach Tom McGlynn December 06, 2019
Lunges


Hamstring Balance

Written by Coach Tom McGlynn December 06, 2019
hammy

Quad Stretch

Written by Coach Tom McGlynn December 06, 2019
quad_stretch

Toe Touch

Written by Coach Tom McGlynn December 06, 2019
tow_touch

kathy2Testimonials from the 2019 Marine Corps Weekend! 


"The Runcoach plan is hard and has a lot of volume compared to others. Many people said the mileage I was running was crazy, especially not having a time goal.

 I have pushed my son in one other marathon with 2 others. I knew how difficult it would be, on this course and with one less teammate, with my son being heavier and who knew the rain and wind that would ensue.

 Runcoach prepared me for it all. I did commit myself to it 100%. I did not miss one workout the whole 18 weeks...it's changed me and my running forever!"

- Kathy



 

"I want to thank you and your team for everything that you did for my success in the completing my first Marathon. I couldn't have done it without you and your team. All and all I faired very well considering weather conditions yesterday.

I'm a little sore but I expected that for being the longest run in my life 8 miles longer than ever ran.
Also thank you for the last minute tips for running in the rain."

- Donnie


 

"Hi Coach,

Race weekend was awesome!

I successfully completed my first Marathon and my dream Marathon the MCM. I feel great for the accomplishment!!!

Recovery is going well. Thanks for all the support!!"
- Karen

 



"Coach, I want to thank you for everything that you did for my success in the completing my first MCM. I couldn't have done it without you. All and all I faired very well considering weather conditions yesterday.

 

I'm a little sore but I expected that for being the longest run in my life. This has been the most motivating training program yet."

- Betsy



There are almost unlimited ways to get an enjoyable workout in when you are in a recovery cycle, need to give a running related sore body part a rest, or when you are hoping to add activity without additional running mileage.  In the chart below, we focused primarily on activities which function as running replacements in terms of cardiovascular stimulation vs activities like yoga, which may have other helpful primary benefits such as flexibility, etc.

Have a question, comment, or recommendation on your favorite cross training exercise? Write to your coach!

cross_training_grid_cropped_v2




Many runners have a tough time sticking to beneficial patterns of eating because the rest of life outside of running doesn’t always cooperate with that intention.  What to do?

Here are a few tips to help keep up with nutritional demands in the midst of a hectic daily schedule:

waterKeep a full water bottle on the bed stand and drink first thing in the morning. We know we should hydrate.  We also know we shouldn’t rely on coffee or Diet Coke all day, but are inclined to do that in order to stay “up” for the various challenges in our path from 8-5 (or longer).  Water also aids in digestion, allowing our bodies to assimilate the good (or not so good) food we consume in a more efficient way.

The best way to ensure you act on good intentions is to eliminate the obstacles holding you back.  You may forget a water bottle at home and/or yet again arrive to the start of your run, under-hydrated. In an ideal world, you should hydrate systematically throughout the day, with sports drink as well as water.  Be sure that your blood has plenty of electrolytes and that you have replenished sufficiently from perspiration in your last training session.   Failing that scenario (and that scenario is often failed), make sure that you’ve at least given yourself a fighting chance by getting some H2O down the hatch before you do or eat anything else.




barsBuy a box of your favorite bars and stash them everywhere.

Fueling during, before, and after your strenuous training is key to recovery as well as to just accomplishing the task in hand without hitting the wall.  Many times we are coming from work or another commitment, heading out first thing in the morning, fitting in a run at lunchtime, or otherwise shoehorning our workout into the sliver of time provided by the rest of the day.  Many times, that means we don’t have handy nutrition.  As a a result, we end up waiting too long to eat after a run, crash during a workout, run out of energy to even start, or finish with less punch because we ran out of gusto midway through.

Next time you are at Costco, Target, the supermarket, or shopping online, instead of purchasing a bar or two for the current instance at hand, purchase a box.  (Added bonus - this is often less expensive per unit.)  Take a few and stack them in the glove box, your briefcase, your purse, your desk, your sports bag, and in any other household vehicle you might end up driving to a run.  You’ll immediately forget about these anyway, and probably still try to address your nutrition needs on a day to day, run to run basis.  However, when you inevitably find yourself on a day where you have nothing to eat before, during, or after a run, a light bulb will go off above your head and you will be very glad you have your secret stash.

saladGet in the habit of always ordering salad on the side.

More than ever, Americans eat meals out of the home.  Social, work, athletic and other commitments leave us in need of quick meals or require us to socialize over a meal.  We all have been told since childhood that vegetables are an important part of our diet – after all, they provide crucial vitamins, minerals, fiber, and digestion regulation.  There will be plenty of times when a healthful set of options is not available.  When the opportunity is presented, always order the salad (and eat it without heavy doses of dressing).  Many times, salad is an option instead of fries or chips, vegetables are negotiable when ordering a sandwich, or a salad is possible to add on the side of an entrée for a nominal cost.  Always take this option, and you will mitigate the effects of the unavoidable bad nutrition situations you must navigate the rest of the day.



Have a healthy snack before you go

If your schedule requires you to eat out, if your office seems to have donuts or somebody’s birthday cake lurking in the break room more than once a week, or even if you are headed to the movie theater or a sporting event, have a piece of fruit or a healthy snack beforehand.  Chances are, what you have at home is less processed and better for you than concessions, party food, or sheet cake.  It is often very difficult to avoid over-consuming foods that are not helpful to your athletic goals.  By taking the edge off with a healthy snack beforehand, you increase the chances that you will make sane choices and employ appropriate portion control.

Of course, many non-runners lead busy lives and have a hard time staying on top of good nutrition.  Undoubtedly, running a session of mile repeats or a 20 miler on the weekend adds a layer of complexity and urgency to your nutrition needs, while further eroding your discretionary time to take in the appropriate food.  While none of us will be able to keep a perfect record on this front for any extended period of time, celebrate the wins when you make a good choice.  Don't dwell on the bad choices when you fall short.  If you have figured out a path to accomplishing success one time, you can find it again.  This will transform a single occurrence into an important habit.



kellyblogKelly is a woman on fire!
She just completed her second 1/4 marathon, shattering her previous personal best by over 14 minutes .
Now she has her sights set on the Nationwide Children's Hospital Columbus Half Marathon this October.
Kelly shares tips on how she got started, set and surpassed various goals, and how to maintain momentum and personal accountability! 


Major milestone accomplished: 

Truly my biggest milestone was doing my first 5k, which was about 8 years ago. I was never a runner or an athlete (typical band geek, book worm high school and college kid!).
I was fortunate to work with a lot of teachers and friends who were avid runners, and they encouraged me to get started. Honestly, I could not run more than 1 minute at a time when I first started. Completing my first 5K was such a huge accomplishment, and I have continued to move forward from there.

What is the biggest obstacle to reaching your goals and how do you get over it?

My mind. The mental game is such a big part of this process. I am learning to beat that with each big race I complete. So much of success is in proper training and preparation, and surrounding myself with a group of people that keep pushing me to be my best!

What is the most rewarding part of training? Achieving or exceeding goals?

This past week I ran my second 1/4 marathon. The first I did in May of 2018 with a time of 1:20, which I was very pleased with. I have never been super fast, and just completing it was a huge accomplishment. I set a goal of 1:15 for this last one, and crushed it by completing in just over 1:06! I am still stunned at my success, but know that my consistency and perseverance definitely paid off!

What advice would you give to other members of the Runcoach community?

Never give up on yourself! And surround yourself with like-minded friends who share your passions and enthusiasm for fitness and wellness. This is truly a journey, and it is so much more enjoyable when we do it together with friends!



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