What is runner’s euphoria, or How does sport affect our condition?
12 january 2018
Runner euphoria is a pleasant sensation that occurs after a long run, or a strenuous tempo workout, or even between loading intervals in an interval workout. Your brain is filled with a sense of euphoria. The pain from training starts to melt away. Thoughts suddenly become clearer and deeper. You feel like you can run endlessly on your pain-free legs and that you are just made to run. Even when in the end you force yourself to stop, these pleasant sensations sometimes stay with you for several hours.
Recent scientific research shows that this term is very consistent with the essence of the phenomenon in question. The two main neurochemicals that actually cause euphoria in athletes are endorphins (morphine-like opioids produced in various parts of the central nervous system) and endocannabinoids (a variant of tetrahydrocannabinol produced by our body, which is found in marijuana and causes a feeling of mild intoxication ).
Unlike their synthetic counterparts, these natural neurochemicals have a positive effect on the brain and do not lead to dependence on them.
Our bodies are so intelligently designed that special organs, including the prefrontal cortex of the brain, produce endorphins and release them into the blood as pain relievers in order to withstand, in particular, the pain that is usually associated with running long and marathon distances. … Endorphins are captured by special neural receptors, which leads to a decrease in the sensation of pain in a person. Like all opioids, endorphins raise people’s mood and reduce stress on our body.
There are many theories as to why we make endocannabinoids when we run. The most popular of them claim that the mechanism of their production in the human body is a byproduct of those ancient times when our ancestors were engaged in hunting and gathering. They needed a powerful push to have the courage to burn much-needed calories and not be afraid of taking risks in the fight for food. Other animals, which also travel considerable distances in search of food, also have internal chemical processes similar to those observed in human stayers. Similar reactions are possible with high-intensity aerobic exercise. But walking, for example, does not increase the production of endocannabinoids in humans.
Not all states of euphoria in runners are the same.
The athlete’s body produces neurochemicals in accordance with the needs of each specific training day, as well as taking into account many other physiological factors. After some distances, you will feel at the height of happiness. After other races, you will be glad at least that you managed to reach the finish line.
Runner’s euphoria is important. This state implies that you can walk out the door, put in some effort, and possibly have these rewarding sensations. At the same time, if you experience this euphoria for a long enough time, you can ultimately achieve a state of flow when it is vital to you. And about what a flow state is and how it helps in life and sports, read the book “Running in the flow”.