The runner’s high—that elusive state people talk about reaching after exercising for a long time. It’s a feeling of euphoria triggered by a flood of endorphins released inside your brain.
But not everyone gets a runner’s high. In fact, some people never experience it at all. And while there’s no guaranteed way to reach one, there are things you can do to increase your chances.
What is a runner’s high?
Before we get into how to achieve a runner’s high, let’s define what it is exactly. A runner’s high is a feeling of elation, exhilaration, or calm that can come after an extended period of aerobic exercise.
So despite what the name suggests, you can get a runner’s high from more than just running. You can get it from swimming, cycling, rowing, and more.
The endorphins released in your brain that cause the runner’s high are like a natural opiate. They were most likely first developed to help our ancestors push through periods of high stress—like when hunting.
So why should you try to get a runner’s high nowadays? Well, on top of providing relief from intense exercise, runner’s highs can lead to lower anxiety, better memory, increased focus, and more motivation.
If you want to achieve a runner’s high, here are seven things that will help:
Run for over 45 minutes
You’ll only get a runner’s high after a long period of exercise. Usually, it takes about 45 minutes for it to kick in, but if you’re an experienced runner, it could take even longer. The longer you go, the more likely it is to happen.
Push your body
Try to push your body into a state of stress. Jogging at a light pace won’t do it. You have to be running at about 70% to 80% of your max intensity.
But be careful. You don’t want to overdo it and end up hurting yourself either. Your pace should be fast enough to push you, but slow enough to be sustainable.
Run with a workout partner
Exercising with a workout partner can also help. Think about it: If you’re running with someone, you won’t want to slow them down, and they won’t want to slow you down. So you’ll both be pushing each other to keep going, which means you’ll be more likely to reach a runner’s high.
Make running a habit
You also need to make running a regular habit before you can expect to get a runner’s high. Beginners often quit before they reach the necessary level of exertion. It’s something you have to work up to. So run often and consistently.
Add some stressors
If you’ve done all of the above and you’re still struggling to get a runner’s high, consider adding some stressors. This could be ankle weights, running up inclines like hills, fartlek interval training, or just increasing the intensity.
Get some rest
Getting a runner’s high is harder when you’re running on insufficient sleep. So try to get at least 7 hours of sleep each night so that your body is primed.
The last minutes before a runner’s high are the hardest. Your body starts to really feel the stress from exercise and longs for a break. Try thinking of other things to take your mind off of the pain. You could even listen to music or a podcast to do this. Anything to distract you from the exhaustion.
The bottom line
Achieving a runner’s high takes a lot of work. But it’s not impossible. As long as you’re deliberate about pushing yourself (but not too hard), you’re likely to get there.
Then after you experience it once, you’ll want to reach it, again and again, creating a positive feedback loop. So don’t give up and remember that it gets easier with practice.