How I reverse engineered the runner’s high

Being a runner myself, and having ran (run?) for many years, I’ve always found the concept runner’s high, not only elusive but also particularly mysterious.
For those of you that don’t know what it is, it is simply a massive endorphin release which briefly makes you feel invincible! I have personally often used this excess of energy to fuel a short-lived sprint while I was already drained of energy. It really is quite the rush!

In any case, I wanted to write this article for a while but I wasn’t quite sure how to, and still not quite sure honestly. But what I do know, is I learned quite a few things about the runners high, enough in fact to replicate it quite consistently! 
In other words, I’ve reverse engineered the runners high.

I think that’s quite a feat because, at least from what I know, many find it quite elusive and are very happy when they experience one, but it’s never something they can replicate.
Now, I won’t proclaim that my strategy will work for everyone, but I will say that the things that work for me, really work for me. I am quite excited about the prospect that I can go out for a run and consistently replicate this surge of endorphins. 

So that was a bit of a long introduction (hey, I still gotta learn how to do this thing), but if I still have your slightest attention, let’s get to it!


The key parts necessary


Ok ok, I know I said I can always replicate the high, but honestly I can’t always. However, the reason isn’t that it sometimes “doesn’t work”, but rather that there are circumstances involved, outside my control.

See the key parts I need to trigger my high are as follows:
  • Sunny weather
  • A good song, that I currently feel strongly about, played loudly
  • A solid pace, that makes my heart pump quite a bit harder than usual
  • Beautiful scenery, usually involves something green

As the quicker of you may already be keen to point out, this unfortunately also means that my ‘recipe’ works best during the summer season. I can’t explain it and I certainly won’t apologise for it - this is just how it’s been for me. However, during said summer season I can conjure those highs out of thin air, and as you all know, they are a very pleasant feeling!
This also means I get most of my running done during the summer, leaving the fall and winter season mostly for indoor activity such as lifting weights, but hey to each their own, right?

So let’s briefly talk about each point.


Sunny weather


This one is rather simple, and unfortunately one I cannot control. But as a summer child, I definitely feel better when the sun’s out and I can lick up some smooth vitamin D from the original source. It gives my mood and my energy a bit of a boost. I usually like to say I perform about 10-15% better when the sun is out (and yes, most of that is probably both placebo and a belief I have about myself).

But this one definitely works for me, and is required to hit a runner's high.


A good song, that I currently feel strongly about


This one is a bit strange, but I usually prefer to workout with music in my ears. So whenever I come across a song that I really like, usually something that fits the mood of sunny weather, I just get in an even better mood, getting closer to the high! 
But there are two restrictions I’ve found that need to be met if I want this to help, rather than hinder. 

Firstly, I need to play a song that I usually sing along to. I don’t know what it is about trying (and failing) to sing along while pumping at 80% HR, but I think it’s got something to do with defying limits. 
Secondly, I need to play it loud. Setting the volume at 20% and switching on a song that I really like isn’t going to cut it.

Usually I will just run at whatever pace, and then when a good song comes on, I crank up the volume just to make it that more intense. 
If it is one of  the songs I usually sing aloud to, that just really hits the spot :-) 


A solid pace


This one was a bit harder for me to figure out, but when I started thinking about why I would have a runner's high during some runs, but not all of them. Upon contemplation I realised that it may have to do with pushing myself to the limit, as I noticed I would usually achieve the high while running fast.

Upon further testing I will say this is 100% true for me. Going really fast, at a pace that is just pushing my limit enough that I have a hard time finding my breath, seems to be the sweet spot for hitting a high. Having that thought of pushing your body to its absolute limits is something that really gets me going, and apparently that translates well into the physical world!


Beautiful Scenery


The last point I’ve noticed that I need is to have beautiful scenery. I think this goes hand in hand with having sunny weather, which is another point to why I’m mostly a summer runner.

But having something beautiful, like the ocean, or lots of green - like a park - I generally find very uplifting. I realise it is very individual what people find beautiful, but nature is a prominent one for me and, I think, many others.


So there you have it!



I don’t want to make this too long, and knowing me I could probably extend this to 5-6 pages if nobody is here to stop me. I am trying to make this blog a bit more of a short form, at least until I change my mind about it. 

So now that you have my recipe, go test it for yourself. Can you relate? Is it the same for you? Does none of this work for you?
I’m quite curious to hear about your experiences!


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