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How Does a Runner’s High Function?

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Experience the swiftness run through your body.

For every type of activity that requires some level of focus, there exists a distinct version of “The Zone (TM).” Once you are in The Zone, regardless of the actual task at hand, it appears as if your body reorganizes itself towards the activity, reallocating mental and physical resources to optimize achievement. During a brief, almost magical few minutes, your task becomes your sole existence. It is truly quite exquisite. For individuals engaged in running, there is a unique variation of The Zone exclusive to them: the runner’s high.

Have you ever finished an extended, demanding run, but instead of feeling fatigued, you feel invigorated and eager for more? This is the influence of the runner’s high. Not everyone can reach this state, but those who do describe a sense of tranquility, ease, and almost euphoria after a prolonged period of running. This outcome is a direct result of specific chemicals released into your bloodstream called endocannabinoids. Endocannabinoids are akin to endorphins in their ability to traverse the blood-brain barrier and engage your brain’s receptors. Recent investigations have revealed that athletes completing prolonged runs have elevated levels of these compounds in their bodies, contributing to the serene sensation commonly associated with a runner’s high. Interestingly, this process closely resembles the mechanism by which THC from cannabis induces a state of intoxication.

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For individuals capable of reaching a runner’s high, it transforms running into an even more gratifying form of physical activity. Aside from the intrinsic advantages that good cardiovascular health offers to your lower limbs and circulatory system, consistently attaining a runner’s high has a known tendency to alleviate persistent feelings of unease and tension. Ultimately, who has the luxury of feeling stressed when your mind is fully engrossed in running?

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