November 13, 2017

Mental Health Monday: A Runner's High!

I spent so much time today writing a post, but once I was done with it, I just wasn't very happy with it. So, I scrapped it for something light-hearted and fitting for today.

As I mentioned last week, I committed myself to running Thursday, Saturday, and Monday. I wanted to try it a few times and see if I was ready to get back into running regularly.

Even though I made the three-run commitment, I wasn't magically in love with running all of a sudden! But I didn't dread the thought of it, either. I had physical therapy this morning, and I almost used that as a reason to put off the run until tomorrow. Besides, after the ab muscle spasms on Saturday, I was really worried about running again. That was miserable.

However, last week I said I was determined to do these three runs, and because I made that commitment, I knew I had to do it. The weather was perfect running weather, too!

So, as soon as I got home from physical therapy, I got dressed to run and quickly created a short playlist on my phone of my very favorite songs to hopefully keep me motivated. Once I was dressed to run, I was actually looking forward to it.

After my pace on Saturday, I honestly didn't care how slow I ran today, as long as those muscle spasms stayed away. I was super nervous about it, and I didn't feel anything until about a third of a mile in. It didn't hit me hard like Saturday, but I started feeling little twinges just under my ribs.

(If you picture 8-pack abs--the rectus abdominis muscles--the pain was at the very top of the 8-pack. I also felt it in the transverse abdominis on the right side only. It's definitely the muscle, and not my internal organs. I'm thinking it has something to do with reconditioning my abs to be flexed for so long, like they are when I run.)

I was just praying that it wouldn't move to the other abdominis muscles. Luckily, I didn't feel it spreading, so as long as it just stayed in those spots, I figured I could handle it. My legs felt a little tired, which had to have been from Saturday's run (my physical therapy is all upper body stuff). But they were tired in a good way.

When my Garmin beeped after the first mile, I looked down and was shocked to see my pace--10:55. On my first run (Thursday), I had to push really hard that last mile in order to get it under 11:00. That mile made me feel like I was running a sub-8:00 pace again--it was hard! And then considering my pace on Saturday was in the high 11:00's, I was just really surprised to see a sub-11 first mile today.

It made me a little excited, though. I never thought I'd be so excited to run a 10:55 mile, but it felt just as good running that mile as I did running a sub-8:00 mile when I was training for my 10K.

After seeing that, I decided to see if I could hold roughly that pace, but without looking at my watch. I just tried to keep the same rhythm with my legs, feet, and breathing. (Speaking of breathing, I'm so glad I was listening to music, because I'm sure my breathing was loud enough to wake the neighborhood, hahaha).

Mile two, my Garmin beeped, and I saw 10:55 again! I happened to maintain not only the same exact pace as the first mile, but also the sub-11 for a second mile. Actually seeing the improvement was enough to give me some motivation for the last mile to be sub-11 as well. I pushed the pace a little, to where it was uncomfortable, but I wasn't completely dying. I even put on a good motivating song to listen to for the last few minutes. The ab muscle pain hadn't gotten any worse, so I was pretty sure I could do it.

As soon as I hit the third mile, I stopped my Garmin and saw that I did that third mile in 10:21. I was thrilled!

I sat on the porch, out of breath and sweaty, and felt amazing. It was the perfect third run--exactly what I needed to keep me wanting more. (But not today. Ha!)

...Which brings me to the topic of a "runner's high". I can remember the exact date of the last time I felt a runner's high; it was on March 22, 2016. I ran "the best 10K workout"--3 x 2 miles at goal race pace with a 5-minute jog in between. My goal race pace was 7:55/mile, and I was super intimidated by this final, very tough workout.

I knew if I could do it, that I would probably hit my goal on race day (April 8). My two-mile split paces were 7:49, 7:51, and 7:48. I was so so so excited that I did it! I was walking on clouds for DAYS after that run. I can't even describe the feeling of a true runner's high--even hitting my goal on race day didn't feel that good. (But the Cajun Tots at McMenamins later more than made up for it)

There is something so gratifying about a tough run. In the beginning, back when I started running in 2010, I got a runner's high almost every time I went running. Each and every run felt challenging, and my pace was constantly improving, so it's no wonder I felt amazing. I loved the feeling of doing something that I had thought was impossible for me.

Feeling tired, used, sweaty, and achy after a run is the best feeling, despite sounding kind of miserable. A runner's high feels amazing--like I can do anything--and I feel like I'm floating on clouds all day afterward.

When I first heard of a "runner's high", I thought it was just a silly way of saying that we feel good after a run. I didn't think it would feel like an actual HIGH. But it does! (I mean, not that I would know anything about that, of course)

Sadly, the longer I was running, the less frequently I would feel a runner's high. I was training to get faster, and once in a great while, I'd nail a really tough run and feel the high; but most of the time, a run was a run and whether it was good or great, I just didn't feel the high from it.

After March 22 last year, I didn't feel it again. I may have gotten excited or felt happy after a run, but not the runner's high. I actually forgot what it felt like.

Until today.

I didn't run my best pace (not even close!) or hit a new distance (again, not even close!). I wasn't "training" for anything. I wasn't even trying to aim for a particular pace.

But when I finished running, and I sat down on the porch with a good song playing in my ears, I felt alive in a way that I haven't felt in a year and a half.

This run was different in some way. I am starting over with my running goals, and it feels really refreshing. I don't feel pressure to run fast, because I know that I'm not going to come anywhere near my best pace; instead, I am just hoping to see improvement over time. If the run feels easier than last time, I think that's huge progress.

So, needless to say, I am definitely excited to keep going. I am not going to make a full commitment to a running schedule or anything, but just like last week, I'm going to commit to three upcoming runs--Thursday, Saturday, and Monday. For now, I'm just sticking with three-milers until it gets easier. My main "goal" is to not have any real goals right now--just pressure-free jogging for fitness, rather than training for races.

And hopefully I'll feel the runner's high often as I improve! :)


  1. My abs would definitely feel sore when I started running again/getting back into shape after having my kids. I don't remember it happening during my runs, but the next day they'd be really sore! So I wonder if it is something related to the muscles you use in your core while you run. Regardless, I'm glad you had such a great run, and I hope the ab pain goes away soon!

  2. Great job!! This sounds like a great run! I hope your muscle spasms get better though, that sounds miserable :(

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  4. Hey Katie - maybe try hollow rocks. It works by strengthening the ab muscle's ability to hold the spine in place. It's part of the drills on the Unbreakable Runner plan, and there are videos of how to do the drill on the unbreakable runner website for free. I didn't want to link here in case it would flag my comment as spam. So glad you're running again!

  5. Cajun tots and ranch can generally solve all the world's problems I think. Glad you enjoyed your run!

  6. Yay, I'm so happy to read this! I hope there are lots more runner's highs to come!

  7. I thought the runner's high was during the run. I have not experienced it, but maybe I'll look for it after. (I ran one whole mile without slowing on Sunday)

  8. What a wonderful feeling! Don't worry about your posts not being light-hearted enough; I love your real talk :) I'm hoping to dive back into any form of exercise soon...I'm dying to feel that high again! Just curious if you'd want to share your playlist. I love hearing people's fav music! Congrats and keep doing what makes you happy :)


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