runners high

All You Need To Know About Runner’s High

When it comes to running, perhaps you are nothing short of being a hard-working and passion runner who wants nothing but the best for you and your body. You spend almost every minute of your waking day lacing up and going out for a long run right before work, or even afterwards. Your dedication to running knows no limits, and as a result, you see the benefits from doing so on your body and mind.

Speaking of benefits, one particular aspect that comes around when you run is what is known as “runner’s high.” Perhaps you have heard of the expression before, but maybe you are not quite sure just what it refers to. Not only that, but also you are interested in learning more about it and, if beneficial, would like to learn just how to achieve it.

Despite the uncertainty of this term, there is no need to fret. After all, we are here to help! Read on to learn more in this article about runner’s high, including how it works and how you can go about getting it. We will be answering your queries in our extensive frequently-asked questions post, and soon enough, we can definitely ensure you that you will know all that there is to know about runner’s high, to guarantee your running success in the future.

Without further ado, let us get right down to it!


What are the benefits to running?

First things first, we will need to look into just what are the benefits to running, before we can learn more about that of runner’s high. This is to ensure that you have a solid foundation of just what running entails when it comes to your health on your body and mind, and from there work your way into the specifics of each point.

With that said, here are the benefits to running, physically and mentally:

1. Running strengthens your muscles.

While this sounds like an obvious, it is none truer that running, indeed, works out your muscles, especially your calves and thighs. Considering that you are using your body is pushing against invisible forces, i.e. gravity, to propel yourself forward, it increases your muscle’s resistance to push back, thereby making them stronger.

As already mentioned, running targets the leg muscles like the calves and thighs (quadriceps and hamstrings), but it also works out the rest of your body. Little did you might believe that running enhances your core muscles, i.e. abs, while also that of your chest, lower back, and arms, to some extent. In essence, running is an all-around exercise that will no doubt make you feel like a stronger person at the end of the day.

If you do not know about "what muscles does running work" , I think you can find the answer here​.

2. Running improves your cardiovascular health.

Aside from working out your muscles, running also works on your cardiovascular system, particularly the heart and the lungs. Considering that it is an aerobic exercise, running causes your body to work harder to run faster: it does so by having your heart pump faster and stronger in order to transfer blood faster throughout the system, to the muscles in the legs as means of driving you forward in an efficient fashion. Even at rest does your heart continue to beat strongly, which ensures that it is a happy and healthy one.

As a result of stronger heart and lungs, your chances of getting high blood pressure, type-2 diabetes, and Alzheimer’s disease are less likely. From there, you can be confident that you will have little to no trouble staying fit and healthy throughout the rest of the years, all because of running and staying dedicated to it altogether.

3. Running speeds up your metabolism.

If the results of gaining muscle and improving your cardiovascular health were not enough, then knowing that running enhances your metabolic system should be one reason to continue running! Whenever you train aerobically, you result in increasing the metabolic rate in which your body processes energy. In other words, metabolism is literally a means to maintain life, but in the sense of exercise, it is to keep your metabolic rate in top shape to remain optimally healthy.

One great benefit to an increased metabolism is the food you can consume. While this is not to say that you can eat a lot of junk food, just because you had finished a long, strenuous workout, you burn energy faster with a higher metabolism, which burns off the food faster than if you were not to have a fast metabolism. It helps to especially load up on carbs and proteins to keep you alert and energized for your next run, and we assure you, it helps!

4. Running makes you confident.

Especially if you suffer from low self-esteem, running can actually boost your confidence levels. This is more of a mental aspect than a physical one, but the act of running and pushing yourself to do your best generates good results, and from those results do you feel good about yourself. The sport offers a safe, non-pressured environment to do what you love to do, and in the end, you can feel happy doing so without any problems at all!

5. Running makes you sociable.

Believe it or not, running also has the potential to make you more sociable. How does this work? To start, you might choose to join a running club or organization in which other like-minded individuals share the same passion for the aerobic sport.

As a result, you probably hang out with these people before, during, and after runs, which can contribute to a sense of camaraderie among all of you. It fosters an outgoing nature, and you can make friends while also getting in shape for your next big run!

For more reasons why you should start running, check out this video here: 

What is runner's high?

Perhaps you might know or not know, but in essence, a runner’s high is both a physical and psychological after-effect that is associated with, of course, running. It is sensation of well-being that you receive after a long, sweaty run, which results in feelings of elatedness, happiness, and relief. Runner’s high is also commonly referred to as “nature’s painkiller.”

Why does runner’s high happen? Essentially, it is a way of your body trying to react, even counteract, the stress levels associated with running: considering that you are working extra hard to push your muscles and body parts forward in the sport, your body needs to find a solution to ease up the possible tension from all of the pressure placed on it- if not, then you risk not only burning out, but also feeling horrible at the end of a run, which can otherwise hurt your chances of wanting to run again at a later time.

What creates the runner's high? Is it real?

As previously mentioned, a runner’s high occurs while running, particularly in long, endurance-based workouts such as half-marathons and marathons- however, other long distance-based runs such as 5Ks and 10Ks can also create runner’s high in the individual, albeit at a less-intense level.

In the past, people had believed that runner’s high was caused by the body’s increased production in endorphins, which are a particular chemical secreted by the endocrine system. What makes endorphins distinctive is that it is known to have morphine-like qualities that can, in a sense, mollify pain in a pain killer-like fashion, so that instead of feeling utterly exhausted and unwell after an intensive run, you actually feel rejuvenated and motivated to keep going in future runs.

However, it appears that the endorphins narrative nowadays is becoming less of a fact and more of a speculation, especially with new research showing that runner’s high might not just be the cause of endorphins, but also other factors, too.

For instance, other chemicals, such as norepinephrine secretion, dopamine, and serotonin, are thought to be causes of the runner’s high. Also pain inhibitors, these neurotransmitters are also secreted during exercise, so that instead of considering endorphins as the sole indicator of creating a runner’s high, perhaps it is an amalgamation of all these neurotransmitters in the process.

Another reason for runner’s high that scientists have looked into is the change in body temperature. Naturally, when one goes out for a run, the body temperature increases internally as a result of augmented physical activity which causes the muscles and body mechanisms to increase production, as means of driving you forward on the road.

Hence, this increase in body temperature leads to the stimulation of the hypothalamus, a region in the front of the brain which is directly linked to the autonomic nervous system (ANS) to regulate aspects such as the body’s temperature. The hypothalamus works to help cool off the body during and after the run, and scientists have speculated that this process has an effect on mood change in the brain, which might be the cause of enhanced positive feelings afterwards, i.e. runner’s high.

For more thoughts and ideas on how runner’s high is created (and whether it is real or not), feel free to check out this useful video here: 

How can I get a runner's high?

Now that you know the basics of how a runner’s high is created, it is now time to start achieving it! You might think that it will be difficult to obtain, but you might be surprised to discover just how simple it is. After all, it is only a matter of conditioning yourself through running that you can be on track to getting that desired bodily sensation.

With that said, we offer you just a few pointers on how you can go about getting a runner’s high. While it might be a bit of a challenge at first, you will pick it up quickly and soon enough, you will feel accomplished and satisfied afterwards with all of your hard work. Here are the tips and tricks to get you started:

Before you run:

1. Adopt the right mindset.

Before you even go about starting your run, you will need to take a step back and get into the right mindset in order to ensure a good run ahead of you. In other words, your mind needs to be in a good place, which means not too stressed and stable enough.

In addition, it is a matter of envisioning just what you expect from the run, as means of increasing your chances of getting that coveted runner’s high in the end. Know just how long, how far, and how intense you expect your body to go, and from there you are already one step ahead in terms of achieving that elated sensation.

2. Fuel up on food.

The next before you run, it helps to take in a good amount of complex carbohydrates (e.g. whole grains like pasta and bread) and lean protein (e.g. white chicken, eggs). Both of these food items will give you the energy and that extra boost to power through the strenuous workout the following day, for the sugars will take a longer time to burn off, thus giving you more drive to keep going in the long run, literally and figuratively. Besides that, it is also not a bad idea to balance it out with fruits, vegetables, and calcium, not just for the sake of getting a runner’s high, but also for getting enough nutrition to remain healthy for life.

For more information, we have 2 in depth articles you can read here:

3. Set a schedule.

Being consistent is key to becoming a better runner, whilst also getting a runner’s high. Use a planner to schedule the workouts that you plan to do, and make sure to keep it regular. By penciling it in, you are more likely to follow through with it than if you did not create one in the first place. Doing so is a good idea, for in the end, you can simply cross it off your planner and feel a sense of accomplishment and productivity in your day.

During the run:

1. Start by warming up.

In general, when it comes to any sort of run, it is imperative to start out by properly warming up. After all, doing so will help to loosening your body and to prevent any possible pulled muscles or injuries from occurring. Your body will become more flexible and be less tired and sore after you finish the run. Trust us, your body will thank you for it later on.

How do you go about warming up? It is simply a matter of starting with a slow jog at about half of your maximum speed for about five minutes. You can choose to do a loop around your block or a couple of laps around the track; as long as it warms up your muscles in a gradual fashion, then you know that you are on track (literally and figuratively) to a solid workout. Soon enough, you can ease into your normal pace to begin your actual run.

2. Increase your speed.

Once you have properly warmed up, you can start to pick up the pace. This is not a matter of going from zero to 100 mph, but rather gradually accelerate until you are at about 70 percent of your maximum speed: you should feel slightly uncomfortable, but still able to maintain the speed for a while.

On the other hand, 70 percent might be a bit too much for some runner to keep at a consistent pace, so reducing it to 60 percent is fine, as long as you can maintain it. Anything below 50 percent, however, is considered a jog, so sticking anywhere between 60 to 80 percent of your maximum speed is the best way to go about it.

3. Keep a consistent pace.

As previously discussed in the above point, it is important to hold your running speed for the majority of the run, that is, excluding the warm up and final stretch. For the most part, it is by keeping a regular speed for 80 percent of the run, and while it can get tiring sooner than later, pushing through it will ultimately make you a stronger runner. Once again, it is a matter of maintaining anywhere between 60 and 80 percent of your maximum speed, so that you do not burn out so quickly and can be readily available to work out again the following time.

Aside from a consistent pace, consistency can also be proved through interval runs, in which you run at varying speeds—some fast, some slow—for a given amount of time and/or distance. Consistency does not necessarily mean run at the same speed at all times, but rather maintaining a regular run throughout, some of which can challenge your body to become faster and stronger.

4. Zone out.

While it might be difficult to do, zoning out during the majority part of your workout is where you can let your body do most of the work and let your mind rest. The payoff to this strategy is that you are channeling more of the energy from your brain to your body, so that you can move forward in a more efficient manner. Not only that, but also you will feel peaceful, stressing less as you let the runner’s high slowly start to make its appearance in your body.

That said, you might be wondering just when do you know that you have zoned out? In essence, you will begin to realize that running is not as challenging as it was just a few miles ago, as well as feeling less resistance when conquering rough terrain such as trails and sand. You might be too quick to say that it is the cause of your improved running performance, and while it might be that, it is also in part due to the runner’s high coming in.

5. Go all-out.

As you are nearing the end of your run, you will need to kick it by picking up the pace, to the point that you are maxing out at 90 percent or above your maximum speed. This is where the runner’s high takes full effect, and it helps to start running faster within the last mile or half-mile of the workout.

Granted, you might be exhausted to sprint to the end, but tell yourself that it will be over quicker if you pick up the pace. Once you get into that mindset, it is just a matter of going faster and pushing yourself to the limit!

***Other things to consider***

  • 1. Avoid routine. This is not to say that you should not be running every day, but rather varying your workouts each time. Running the same route every time is not only boring, but also can create stagnation in your running abilities, as you will discover that you are not improving as much as you wanted anymore.

    Therefore, to avoid getting into the boring habit of running the same distance and speed every day, we encourage you to perform interval training (e.g. fartlek’s, circuits, etc.). Varying the speeds and distance each time will keep your body alert and constantly conditioning in order to become a better runner, thereby increasing your chances of a runner’s high.
  • 2. Be patient. Do not expect your runner’s high to happen overnight. Just like with getting into shape, the process takes time. Keep an open mind, and continue to push yourself during each workout. Trust us, you will see the results before you know it!
  • 3. Start slowly. Similar with being patient, starting gradually especially if you are a novice is the best way to go. By doing so, you will avoid injuries and prevent burnout, which will keep you fresh and ready to give it your all with each workout.

Hence, it is a matter of starting with shorter distances at slower speeds before eventually making your way to higher, more challenging paces once your body is conditioned. Doing so with pay off in the long run, and you will feel accomplished sooner than later.

For more ways on how to achieve a runner’s high, check out this video here: 

When do you get runner's high and how long does it last?

As mentioned before in this article, runner’s high happens when you perform long and endurance-based runs, usually anywhere between 5Ks to ultra-marathons. Essentially, the more you run, the more intense the runner’s high will be once you finish it. In the end, it can make you feel a huge sense of accomplishment, which can motivate you to continue to achieve it every single time you lace up and go out for a run.

In terms of just how long a runner’s high last, it depends on many different factors, such as how long you run, how intensely you do so, and your current running abilities. On average, runners have claimed that the after-effects of running lead to a runner’s high that lasts anywhere between one to two hours, although some have claimed as long as four hours! While brief, it is in those moments which make you feel the happiest, as well as inspire you to continue running for the sake of achieving it again.

What does runner's high feel like? How can I feel runner's high again?

Again, a runner’s high gives you the sensation of being elated, confident, happy, and overall satisfied with what you have accomplished, namely, a long, tiring run. Aside from that, you might also feel pain-free, since the chemicals secreted by your body are activated and block any pain from entering your brain. Many people enjoy this feeling after a run, and we do not see why you cannot enjoy it as well!

If you are interested in getting a runner’s high again, then it is simply a matter of going out for another run in due time. It should not be a problem to do, especially if you tend to have a regular schedule every day, as well as spicing it up from time to time with interval training and resistance training (e.g. weights) to enhance your body’s abilities to run faster and better.

What are some specific running sites to help me learn more about runner’s high?

Finally, if you are interested in learning more about runner’s high and all things about running, in general, then we encourage you to check out some of these listed down below:

WebMD- great website for general medical questions concerning health and sports.

Runner’s World- excellent site for all things pertaining to running. a reputable source for learning how to take care of your body and be healthy.


All in all, a runner’s high is something that many runners want to achieve on their runs. Giving you a sense of happiness and strength, it is a desirable feeling and it is just a matter of working hard for it whenever you go out for a long, challenging run. By knowing yourself and what you want, you will achieve the runner’s high in no time.


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