Love and pain are forever intertwined thanks to neurotransmitters called endorphins. Endorphins are produced in the brain and, when in love, well...gives us such amazing lovey-dove feelings that, even if they sky fell, everything would be ok. They're also produced in response to pain as an instant pain killer - to some degree - that enables us to hang on, staying coherent in a car crash, for instance, until help arrives.
Somewhere in the middle of this broad spectrum sits the role endorphins play in exercise. If you've had one good workout you know exactly what I'm talking about. You feel amazing! You're happier, more talkative (or maybe that's just me) - and just generally have a better outlook on life. You don't get it from doing the same old-same old, rather from a level of exertion that goes above the normal "fitness threshold" to which you're accustomed.
It's highly unlikely you'll experience a runner's high, or workout high for that matter, unless you feel a little pain. I'm not saying you have to throw yourself in front of traffic, suffer through a heart attack or pick a fight with the loud-talking and rather annoying woman on the treadmill next to you who won't get off her cell phone. (Although that would probably be much deserved). Rather, you have to dig deeper. The fitter you are, the deeper you dig.
So does that mean you have to workout longer? Not necessarily. A lot of people experience a "runner's high" after long runs. When you run longer, the glycogen stores in your muscles deplete. You persist through the run, but your body is well-aware of the need for more energy. Endophins kick in to get you through the run.
Does that mean you have to workout harder? Yes. A long run is really hard work. I doubt anyone starts a long distance training run with the attitude that it will be the easiest workout of the week. Far from it. Running aside, workout highs can come from any form of cardiovascular or strength training.
What type of workouts do you have to do to get this "high"? Just about anything counts. Be creative. Have fun.
Traci's Top 10 Endorphin Boosters**
10. Any good 90-minute vinyasa flow yoga class. Very different from the rest of the list, I know. If you're in Chicago, Erica Merrill is your girl.
9. Three (3) 5-minute Stair Climber interval, followed by a one-mile hard run.
8. Jump rope one minute, 40 mountain climbers, wall squat-to-fatigue. Repeat x3.
7. Three (3) sets of box jumps - 20, 15, 10 combined with a plank-to-fatigue in between ever set of jumps.
6. Spinning: Eight 2-minute intervals alternating speed, hills, speed, hills, speed, hills, speed, hills - nonstop, no rest in between sets.
5. Four (4) quarter mile hill repeats at 5, 6, 7, 8% incline. Two minute 0% jog in between.
4. Ten (10) long jumps* followed by 30 seconds of high knees. *Long jumps are essentially a standing broad jump, repeated.
3. Squat jumps for one minute (hands behind head, squat and jump), followed by 15 push ups. One min rest. Repeat x3.
2. 20 Burpess, followed by a 2-minute hard run (or any other form of cardio that challenges you). Repeat x 3.
1. Four (4) quarter-mile repeats (running) with 2 -minute jog in between each repeat. Hard pace. Last repeat is all out effort - hold nothing back.
**ALL include an appropriate warm up before hand. This is just the one part of the workout - thrown in anywhere - that will really challenge you body.
Don't forget, you can connect with me on Facebook or Twitter at @tracidmitchell. I'd love to see you there!