Don’t Surrender to the Runner’s High

By Patrick McNerthney 

The funny thing about running is how bad it is for your body (you know, knees, joints, nose–to be honest, breathing that hard can make your nose hurt!). Basically the concrete, dirt, grass, pollution, temperature (too hot, too cold, too bad…) or whatever you run on and in is out to get you, so it attacks your feet and lungs viciously and sends jarring reverberations throughout your precious old bones (or young bones if you’re not my age) to the point where they can actually explode. Especially if you run at “breakneck” speeds like I do…

…Okay fine…like I used to do before I became my age.

Which reminds me, long ago, (picture me  no longer old),  I ran all the time. Two miles, four miles…sometimes even six or ten. And despite the fact that I was fit, exuberant, and energized, it was still a miserable challenge. MISERABLE.


Yet, I must admit that even though I was obviously not Born to Run (love you Bruce), I did experience periods of time during long runs when I became totally unconscious of my legs moving. I was running without even noticing how painful and awful it was. 

Other times, I actually got high (ahem, “runner’s high,” thank you very much.) I’m pretty sure this euphoria was the result of producing an overabundance of endorphins, due to length of exertion and physical strain. Kind of my body’s way of saying, “Oh, we’re NOT dying? Cool, let’s have some fun with this then.”  Or maybe it’s dopamine, I can’t remember which neurotransmitter does what. But the bottom line is, it felt good. I was in a groove, feeling the flow, beating a steady rhythm with each knee-jarring clomp-clomp-clomp, my body rewarding my brain by giving it drugs that made it tell me, “Yep, this feels good! Good I tell ya–just keep on keepin’ on.”

Weird. Weirder still that I listened to me.

But there’s a dark side to this “runner’s high.” It’s when RUNNING becomes so unconscious that it becomes ROUTINE.


When running at breakneck speeds becomes habitual, we lose sight of the fact that it comes at the expense of our physical, mental, and emotional health. Indeed, we’re not talking about exercise anymore (although it applies to that as well)—now we’re talking about our work (aka,  our lives).

Full disclosure, epiphany time: I don’t run anymore. At least not for exercise. I do run through my work week like everybody else – with my hair on fire. Hmmmm, now that I think about it, that doesn’t feel particularly awesome either. I better re-read this one for more than typos…

(Do you?)

We race through our workday (work week, year, decade) unconscious of anything but the need to push forward and “get it done.” But we rarely question what “it” is exactly, or how the frenetic pace impacts us. Nor are we encouraged to do this with our culture mantra of “rugged individualism” and “achievement demonstrates worth.”

Lesson to be learned here: Don’t surrender to your runner’s high. It’s worth spending time examining what you’re working so hard to accomplish, how it affects you, and whether there’s a better way to do this. 

And coincidentally, when it comes to caring for your residents and loved ones, Fine Art Miracles (FAM) can offer you That Better Way. FAM champions creative expression as the perfect tool to help the elderly, children with challenges, and anyone needing help with life’s daily processes reconnect with the belief they matter. 

This means FAM can give those suffering from anxiety and depression (thanks to social isolation) a way OUT, a path to rekindle their confidence, self-worth, mastery, optimism, and their belief that they have a place in the world. Check out how FAM programs like Art Therapy, Music Therapy, Dance & Movement Therapy, Art2Go lessons, and even Drumming & Exercise Therapy deliver results. Then reach out to FAM with questions and to get started. They’re happy to help! 

Before you know it,  you’ll finally remember exactly what your “it” IS, and find a way to accomplish it that makes you and your loved one, feel physically, emotionally, and mentally, BETTER. I mean, after all, isn’t that the point?


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