This is a guest post by Joe over at joetherunner.com. His site is about how running can change your life; make you a better father, husband, and friend. You can check out his site at the URL above, or by subscribing to his feed here.
My love of running started off like many long lasting and fruitful relationships; rather difficultly. You see I haven’t always had the fondness for the sport that I do now. In fact at first we hated each other. There was simply no mutual respect. I used running as a way to lose some much needed weight and running used me as a moving symbol of how not to run.
However, for one reason or another I kept at it. I did lose some weight but the best outcome of our new relationship was the respect I gained for the wonderful aspects of the sport that were hidden beneath the surface. After years of using running it has become my favorite tool to deal with grief, purge stress, stay lean, maintain a positive attitude, and boost my confidence; and there seems to be a genuine scientific explanation for it.
The Science Behind The Love Of Running
The most popular explanation for my near dependency on running stems from a runner’s favorite little compound – the endorphin. Produced by the pituitary gland endorphins are proven to produce a natural feeling of well being and pain relief, and even in name have a chemical relationship to the morphine family. And though they are proven to have very powerful effects on the human body, there has been some speculation over the notion that running produces enough of them to have a measurable effect.
However, in 2008 the New York Times reported on a study done by researchers in Germany. The published findings were that running does in fact produce a surge of endorphins in the brain. Backing up the study were leading scientists, who were not directly involved, also accepting the researcher findings.
I am glad the debate seems to be satiated, but to be honest I wish they would have come to me first. I don’t know if my personal experience would have been sufficient to warrant publication in neurological journals but I would have let them study the life changing benefits running has had on me, for a fee of course.
Here is what I have discovered. First, running has the ability to do all the things you have heard. It can alter your mood in the most positive ways and has lasting effects. I also attribute it to helping me establish healthy sleep patterns, not something I see mentioned in many discussions. Also, the harder you push yourself the more endorphins are released. This was proven by the same study referenced above and backed up by yours truly.
Not Only Running Can Give You The Runner’s High
It should be mentioned that running is not the only exercise that produces these benefits. It just happens to be the only one I know how to do well. My love of running came when I embraced it for its mental as well as physical benefits. Any fitness quest comes with it fair share of challenges; embracing exercise on multiple levels delivers much needed motivation for the bumps in the journey.
Have you experienced the release of endorphins, and the runner’s high? Tell us why you love running in the comments!
I’ve definitely felt the rush! Yeah, its after a bit of discomfort, but you hit a zone on a long run when you tune everything out and just “feel it.” And afterward, even though your exhausted, you just have a better state of mind.
I actually just wrote about my love of running yesterday, given that it was Valentine’s Day! 🙂 I’ve been in a slight training rut, and had to remind myself just why I love to run – drive and determination are important, but it’s the love of the sport that will really help you achieve your goals. Check it out here: http://thefightandflightresponse.wordpress.com/2011/02/14/where-is-the-love/