Like so many individuals who are starting their weight loss track and road to fit, I started running around April of 2009. Smoking became way too expensive and I needed a new hobby. In all seriousness, that is exactly how it started. I wasn't on a path I liked and when the new bill Healthy People 2010 passed to increase the cigarette tax, bringing it to $8 a pack in NJ, there wasn't any room in my budget for growth. On May 1, 2009 I quit smoking, and I started running.
I was an athlete in high school, but I was a lazy athlete. I hit a couple walls, and after a minor surgery, I simply stopped. Senior year, my gym teacher asked me to join the track team for discus, and although intrigued; my first question was, "Do I have to run?" Needless to say, I didn't join. I loathed running. None of my sports involved much cardiovascular exercise and that's how I wanted it.
We all know the advantages of cardio, and already being overweight (size 14 - 200??lbs) and quitting smoking, the first thing I did was hit the streets. I remember my first run after quitting. It was brutal. I had the hardest time running more than 1 minute straight. I did about 3/4 of a mile that day. For about 3 months, I ran 2x a week, increasing my distance and overall length very slowly. I never hit this so-called "runner's high" ever, but I kept it up because I started losing weight.
Fast forward about 16 months, and my life is completely different. I'm going to thank whoever put that bill into affect because without the increase in cigarette price, who knows where I'd be. Quick summary - moved to PA, started my own Kickboxing classes - What?! Yes, the lazy smoker - and I was running daily. I wasn't running far, but I usually ran about 1.5 miles before or after teaching a class, along with taking class, and I actually really enjoyed it. A runner's high every day? No, not really. It was a habit at this point.
One night, my now husband and I got in an argument, and I stopped what I was doing and said, I'm going for a run. I'll be back. I went out for about 15 minutes at the most, running my neighborhood streets back and forth until I calmed down. I walked back in and we resolved the issue. This was the first time I realized what my runner's high was like for me, and that it's not all rainbows and flowers per say, but running was a way I coped with my anxiety. After the 100 or so runs and trainings I've done since that day, I don't remember ever feeling that way again. A couple of injuries happened so after recovering, I only ran "when I had to" and it stopped being an outlet for me.
2 weeks ago, we started training again for a half Mudder is October and I have almost half my gym doing it and I'm super excited for it! I realized that I NEED to be ready for the about of support I need to provide for this event, and I have a desire to start running for my mentality versus for time and distance.
I have changed my mindset and it has changed my behavior - something I preach about constantly. Running became a chore. 5k's and 10k's monthly, sometimes weekly, and I stopped loving it, as we tend to do to ourselves often. There was a time where I felt I had to continue running because I am a gym owner, the person who started this running revolution, and I need to run every run! I burnt myself out quickly because I was doing it for the wrong reasons, and injuries happened.
This Saturday, we took to the trails at 8am in 95 degree weather and super high humidity. I decided to try something new. I always run with music - there aren't too many times where I haven't but it's usually fast paced beats (as my PA friends call it, Jersey Techno). This time, I put on my calmer, chill, cruising music; the music I listen to when I am cruising in the Jeep on the way to the beach. The Lumineers, Rusted Root, OAR, etc. I ran to this in the woods for over an hour, and it was amazing. I had the calm of the music, the beauty of nature, and the euphoria from my run. It was the ultimate package. Why haven't I done this before?!
I have always loved running trails more than the street (and never the treadmill). The impact of the street hurts everything, and I always feel so slanted and believe it's a reason my hips are out of alignment (and Martin Luther King Jr Drive in Philly - I will not do one anymore runs on that street!). I long to be in nature and try to be as often as I can. This kills to birds with one stone. I am going to run only when I want in the environment that suits me for pleasure, not for training. I'll continue cross training as always and I'll sprint on pavement, but I have a new way to reach a meditative state, and I'm so glad I gave running a try again in a new way.
I think we have this idea that a runner's high is supposed to happen for everyone under the same circumstance. "Maybe I need to run longer, farther, harder, to reach that state." Everyone is different. Find your runner's "sweet spot". It usually takes me anywhere from .75 - 1.5 mile to find my rhythm, and this is no different. There has been research regarding the who, when, and why about this "high" feeling that we are all trying to achieve. Check out this article from Runner's World for tips to reach your "high". Running is the same as everything else - find what works for you!