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Happiness and Running

Posted Jan 16 2009 6:05am

My prime goal for 2009 is to maximize the happiness that I feel during or after a run.  For years, I couldn't figure out why I felt great on a run one day and terrible the next.  I now believe that most of the enjoyment comes from pacing the run gently enough--for the conditions.  Even on the tough workout days, as a teenager, I always felt better after the run.  Now I know that the "endorphin glow" at the end, can be enjoyed during the run--if there are enough walk breaks, taken frequently enough. 
 
These hormones are designed to kill pain.  When you start running your body intuitively knows that there will be some pain, and starts producing endorphins.  If you run continuously, you'll use them up for pain killing.  Each time you take an appropriate walk break, the endorphins collect and give you a psychological boost with relaxation--usually felt afterward.  Running too hard, for that day, usually leads to a reduction in the overall feeling of well being.  With the right balance, you can experience improved attitude, and enhanced vitality throughout the run.

Research studies have documented that runners tend to be happier. Other studies show that runners have among the highest levels of the positive attitude markers and among the lowest on the depressive scale.

To maximize the chance of a “happy run”, here are my suggestions:

1. Start very slowly—no huffing and puffing. Walk for 3-5 minutes, then gradually introduce the body to running over the next 10 minutes. If you will be (running 3 min/walking 1 min) later, during the first 10 running minutes, use 1-1 or 20 sec running/40 sec walking.

2. Insert walk breaks early and often. Continue to take walk breaks so that you don't huff and puff or experience dead legs. Remember that during the walk breaks, the endorphins collect and inject good feelings.

3. Don't get locked into a set pace or ratio. When you are in control over your good feelings, there's a sense of personal empowerment that increases the satisfaction from the run. This means that a 4-1 person may need to downshift to 3-1, 2-1 or 1-1 to bring back the joy.

When the pace is right, your creative/intuitive “right brain” can bestow a sense of freedom that is unsurpassed, according to thousands who have reported in.  A very simple sensation of inner peace settles in when you have not exceeded your speed limit. This often leads to an hour of right brain images, inspirations, creative ideas, solutions to problems, and access to seldom visited areas of our psyche that make the rest of the day...a very good experience.

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