On The Run
There are many benefits to running, both physical and mental. People have their own reasons for running, whether it's simply to stay fit, to clear their minds after a tough day at the office or to lose weight.
Another benefit that has been oft-discussed over the years is the runner's high, that elusive state of euphoria that some runners say they feel during or after a run. But does the runner's high truly exist or is it simply a mythical state created to sell running shoes?
The long-held theory was that intense exercise releases mood-altering chemicals called endorphins into the brain, resulting in the so-called high. But the theory remained just that until 2008, when German researchers were able to conclusively prove that running does cause the release of endorphins. The more endorphins a runner produces, the greater the effect.
According to the New York Times, researchers led by Dr. Henning Boecker of the University of Bonn used positron emission tomography (PET) scans and chemicals that reveal endorphins in the brain to compare runners' brains before and after a long run. Ten distance runners were recruited for the study but were not told that the researchers were looking at endorphin release and runner's high.
The runners were given PET scans before and after a two-hour run, as well as a standard psychological test to indicate their moods before and after the run. The study found that endorphins were produced during running and were attaching themselves to brain areas associated with emotions, specifically the limbic and prefrontal areas. Boecker told the Times that those areas are also activated when people are in love or when they hear a piece of music that causes euphoria.
All of this is well and good, but do you feel euphoric during or after your runs? I can't honestly say that I do. Some runs leave me feeling better or happier than others, depending on how well the run went. I definitely feel better about life in general after I complete a run, but I'm not sure I would characterize that as the same way I feel when the Patriots won the Super Bowl.
I do think I feel the runner's low, which is when I'm unable to get a run in for various reasons. If I don't get three or more runs in each week, it definitely causes a little depression. And sometimes when I'm running, I don't feel particularly good while I'm out there, but afterward, I'll be glad that I ran. I wouldn't call it a high, but that good feeling has got to count for something, right?
Starts and stops
A new study out of the UK makes perfect sense to me: Researchers at Keele University found that swearing helps with pain relief, according to a BBC News article. Dr. Richard Stephens and his team found that volunteers who swore profusely could endure pain nearly 50% longer than their more polite peers. Stephens got the idea for the study after swearing when he accidentally hit his thumb with a hammer while working on a garden shed. For the study, 64 volunteers were asked to submerge a hand in a tub of freezing water for as long as possible while repeating a swear word of their choice. They then repeated the task using a non-profanity. The volunteers were able to keep their hands submerged for an average of two minutes when using saltier language, compared with only 1:15 when they refrained from swearing. The researchers believed the pain-lessening effect occurs because swearing triggers our natural "fight or flight" response. Remember this study the next time you strain a muscle or trip on a rock while running; just be prepared to state the pertinent facts when you start dropping verbal bombs and get some perturbed looks from those around you.
On Saturday, July 18 at 9 a.m., the Wicked Running Club in partnership with the Salem Park and Recreation Department will host the first "Wicked Kidz" 1/2 Mile and 1 Mile Race at Forest River Park. Registration is $2 for each race. Trophies will be awarded to the top male and female finishers, medals to top three in each age group and ribbons to all finishers with shirts to the first 50 registrants. There will also be post-race food and beverages; sponsors are Chick-fil-A of Peabody and McKinnon's of Danvers. For more information, contact Doug Bollen at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.wickedrunningclub.com.
On the Run is a biweekly column about the North Shore running scene. Send any questions, comments, or news to email@example.com.
Saturday, July 18
*Greenbelt 5K/10K Trail Run, Pingree School, 537 Highland St., South Hamilton, 9 a.m. Run to benefit Essex County Greenbelt Association. Contact: Becky Dean (Essex County Greenbelt Association), 82 Eastern Ave., Essex, MA, 01929. Call 1-978-768-7241 x10 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
*Seacoast Seven Road Race, Stage Fort Park, Hough Ave., Gloucester, 8:30 a.m. Seven-mile race, includes fun run, trophies, prize money. Contact: Karen McCann (Charity for Seacoast Nursing and Rehabilitation), 35 Neponset St., Foxboro, MA, USA, 02035. Call 1-617-335-0232 or e-mail email@example.com.
Wednesday, July 22, 29
* Danvers 5K Fun Run, Sweet William's Garden Center, 141 Pine St., Danvers, 7 p.m. Free, timed run. All welcome. These events are part of a weekly 52-race series. E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
Visit http://coolrunning.com/eventcal/index.php for more race listings.