Breaking Down the 'Runner's High': Why Your Run Suddenly Becomes More Enjoyable

May 13, 2013 | Dorene Internicola

Must See Running Videos

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Although many people begin running as a practical path to weight loss or fitness, for many it becomes a love affair as the miles increase. Tom Holland, running coach and author of "The Marathon Method," tells his clients that running for 3 miles was horrible for him too, but farther down the road things changed. "It happens for different people at different times and different distances: that runner's high," he said in an interview. Holland calls it a cardiovascular turning point where the run becomes exponentially easier.

"There's a point where the run becomes enjoyable," he said. "Whether this happens at 8 or 10 or 12 miles down the road, it will happen," he said. A veteran of 60 marathons, Holland was set to run his ninth New York City Marathon earlier this month, until the 26.2-mile (42.2-kilometer) race was canceled in the wake of Superstorm Sandy.

"Over 100,000 people apply to the New York City Marathon each year," he said. "There must be something there that people want."
Gregory Chertok, a sports psychologist with the American College of Sports Medicine, said many people are drawn to running because it's an uncomplicated activity. "Put one foot in front of the other and when you work hard, you improve," Chertok said. "Not everything in life is so simple. You could spend 10 years in a ballet studio and not become a ballerina." Few runners enter a marathon to win it, he said.

"It's so rare in sporting culture for those who aren't physically or aerobically gifted to feel included in something that's competitive but not exclusive."While it's tough to categorize athletes, Chertok said, long-distance running seems to be appreciated by those who enjoy solitude - or periods of solitude - and are OK with monotony.

Chertok differentiates external from internal motivation and said studies show that people who set goals based on intrinsic motivation are more successful.
"People run with the initial goal of losing weight or getting fit, which are external goals, but during training they realize they love running, so they end up running for internal reasons," he said. Qualitative evidence for the runner's high suggests that for those prone to its euphoria, it probably contributes to running's addictive quality. "Those that have it swear by it," he said.

Most sports medicine practitioners would agree that people are born to be mobile, he said, but not necessarily to run long distances.
"Physicians will deter people from running marathon distances, but it's such a powerful allure that it becomes greater than risk of hamstring injury," he said.

Richard Finn, spokesman for New York Road Runners, organizers of the New York City Marathon, agrees that long distances do not suit everyone. "Running 26.2 miles is a big, bold brash undertaking," he said. "You've got to put heart, soul, mind, body in it for months. It's like climbing Mount Everest. Not everybody should be doing it."

He said a runner is a runner whether you're doing a marathon or a five-kilometer (3.1-mile) race. "We do running 365 days a year, since 1959," Finn said of the New York Road Runners. "Get those sneakers on and run, even on a treadmill. We're not elitist. We think running is good for you."

Holland believes running also exposes our weakest link so he urges novices to start slow. "Running is an amazing cheap thing that can make us feel great about ourselves," he said. "But the secret to running is balance. We're born to run but we're not born to run six days a week at the start."

photo: clevelandmarathon.com

Copyright © 2012 Reuters Limited. All rights reserved.
Republication or redistribution of Reuters content, including by framing or similar means, is expressly prohibited without the prior written consent of Reuters. Reuters shall not be liable for any errors or delays in the content, or for any actions taken in reliance thereon. Reuters and the Reuters sphere logo are registered trademarks and trademarks of the Reuters group of companies around the world.

Topics: NEWS | REUTERS
Must See
Antonio Brown Juggles 3 Footballs Antonio Brown Juggles 3 Footballs
Views: 1,213,937
Patrick Willis' Homegrown Off-Season Workout Patrick Willis' Homegrown Off-Season Workout
Views: 1,229,917
Roy Hibbert 540 lbs Deadlift Roy Hibbert 540 lbs Deadlift
Views: 1,576,773

Featured Videos

Kevin Love's In-Season Basketball Workout Kevin Love's In-Season Basketball Workout Views: 1,016,699
A Day in the Life With Kansas City Chiefs Tight End Travis Kelce A Day in the Life With Kansas City Chiefs Tight End Travis Kelce Views: 15,631
Path to the Pros 2015: Shaq Thompson Path to the Pros 2015: Shaq Thompson Views: 70,354
Load More

Resources

STACK Fitness

Everything you need to be fitter than ever

STACK Conditioning

Sport-specific conditioning programs

Coaches and Trainers

Tips and advice for coaches and trainers

Magazine

Latest issues of STACK Magazine

STACK 4W

Women's sports workout, nutrition and lifestyle advice

Gamer

Gaming, entertainment and tech news

Basic Training

Military-style training for athletes

News

Find the latest news relevant to athletes

Most Popular Videos

Two-Ball Dribbling Drill With John Wall Two-Ball Dribbling Drill With John Wall
Views: 3,362,717
Paul Rabil's Box Jumps Paul Rabil's Box Jumps
Views: 851,362
Roy Hibbert 540 lbs Deadlift Roy Hibbert 540 lbs Deadlift
Views: 1,576,773
Dribbling Drills for Tighter Handles Dribbling Drills for Tighter Handles
Views: 4,333,004
Ohio State Football Open Field Plyo Drill Ohio State Football Open Field Plyo Drill
Views: 9,499,111

Load More
More Cool Stuff You'll Like
Why Jogging Is Counterproductive

Why Jogging Is Counterproductive

I'll go ahead and spoil this one - the only people I've ever recommended jogging to are those who simply enjoy it or implement it as a part of their...

STACK Challenge: Army Two-Mile Run

STACK Challenge: Army Two-Mile Run

The Most Effective Form of Endurance Training

The Most Effective Form of Endurance Training

Weight Training for Runners: 3 Full-Body Moves

Weight Training for Runners: 3 Full-Body Moves

The Exercise Every Runner Must Do

The Exercise Every Runner Must Do

Get Geared Up for the Wall Jump Obstacle

Get Geared Up for the Wall Jump Obstacle

5 Questions Runners Should Ask Themselves During Every Run

5 Questions Runners Should Ask Themselves During Every Run

6 Best On-the-Go Snacks for Runners

6 Best On-the-Go Snacks for Runners

10 Fresh Running Destinations in the U.S.

10 Fresh Running Destinations in the U.S.

10 Fresh Tunes for Your Running Playlist

10 Fresh Tunes for Your Running Playlist

9 Things Every Trail Runner Should Have

9 Things Every Trail Runner Should Have

Be Ready to Run a 5K in 6-8 Weeks

Be Ready to Run a 5K in 6-8 Weeks

5 Ways to Freshen Up Your Run

5 Ways to Freshen Up Your Run

Are You Ready for the Arctic Enema?

Are You Ready for the Arctic Enema?

5 Keys and A Workout Plan for An Awesome 5K

5 Keys and A Workout Plan for An Awesome 5K

8 Things I Wish I Knew Before I Ran My First Marathon

8 Things I Wish I Knew Before I Ran My First Marathon

Hunter McIntyre Rises Above the Competition

Hunter McIntyre Rises Above the Competition

The Obstacle Course Racer's Guide to Fixing Muscle Cramps

The Obstacle Course Racer's Guide to Fixing Muscle Cramps

Off-Season Triathlon Training Tips and Workout Program

Off-Season Triathlon Training Tips and Workout Program

Learn the Secrets of Tapering

Learn the Secrets of Tapering

7 Tips to Help First-Time Marathoners Avoid Common Mistakes

7 Tips to Help First-Time Marathoners Avoid Common Mistakes

7 Endurance Tips From Ultramarathon Runner Ian Sharman

7 Endurance Tips From Ultramarathon Runner Ian Sharman

Guide to Common Running Terminology

Guide to Common Running Terminology

You're Doing It Wrong: Running

You're Doing It Wrong: Running

5 Un-Smooth Habits That Ruin Runners Races

5 Un-Smooth Habits That Ruin Runners

Ultramarathon Runner Stephanie Howe's 7 Training Secrets

Ultramarathon Runner Stephanie Howe's 7 Training Secrets

6 5K Tips for a Great Running Experience

6 5K Tips for a Great Running Experience

How to Prepare for the Spartan Race and Other Mud Runs

How to Prepare for the Spartan Race and Other Mud Runs

8-Week Spartan Beast Training Program

8-Week Spartan Beast Training Program

The Only 2 Running Diet Rules You Need to Know

The Only 2 Running Diet Rules You Need to Know

Tired of Tiring During Runs? Try These Jogging Pace Drills

Tired of Tiring During Runs? Try These Jogging Pace Drills

3 Things You Must Do Before Trying Minimalist Running Shoes

3 Things You Must Do Before Trying Minimalist Running Shoes

7-Year Old Triathlete Sets 5K Record

7-Year Old Triathlete Sets 5K Record

4 Steps to Win Your Next Race

4 Steps to Win Your Next Race

How to Design a Running Schedule That Fits Your Life

How to Design a Running Schedule That Fits Your Life

Running Tips for True Beginners

Running Tips for True Beginners

How to Start Your Barefoot Leg Workout

How to Start Your Barefoot Leg Workout

How to Control Your Breathing During an Obstacle Race

How to Control Your Breathing During an Obstacle Race

3 Crucial Strength Principles Endurance Runners Should Follow

3 Crucial Strength Principles Endurance Runners Should Follow

Are You Ready for a Tough Mudder?

Are You Ready for a Tough Mudder?

Maximize Your Trail Running

Maximize Your Trail Running

Don't Choke on Race Day: Tips to Run a Better Race

Don't Choke on Race Day: Tips to Run a Better Race

An Introduction to Strength Training for Runners

An Introduction to Strength Training for Runners

YardBarker