Chasing the High

The runner's high is worth running after.

Chasing the High

I was raised to hate running. As a kid, it was used as punishment in school. In my adult years, it still felt that way. It hurt when I tried it and once I started I couldn’t wait for it to be over. It took me years of gaining weight from sitting at a desk all day, injuring my back from sitting at a desk all day, and being challenged to a weight loss competition at work where I sat at a desk all day to reconsider running.

Let me start with this, running isn’t all bad. Here are some pros: it’s much easier to lace up your shoes and hit the road compared to most other activities that get your heartrate up. Although a short run can feel like a long time, it’s actually pretty quick to get a good sweat going. And most importantly, you get to go get up from your desk, go outside, and explore your community, something I never thought I would look forward to having grown up only driving through LA.

Now for the cons: just getting started hurts. Joint pain. Muscle soreness. Cramps. The first run alone can force you to sit out the rest of the week just to recover. Even when it’s a 15 minute  run, it feels like an eternity, not to mention a huge bore. Your phone is constantly competing for your attention, and feels way less strenuous than running. Risk of hurting yourself is a real thing, and your mind is constantly reminding you of that, saying to yourself “I don’t feel 100 today, I’ll just do it tomorrow.”

Now back to the beginning of my running journey. Five years ago, I was 25 pounds over my ideal weight. I didn’t do much about it other than buy bigger clothes. After a number of my friends at work began complaining about their own health, lacking the motivation to control it, I had the idea of creating a weight loss competition at work to help everyone get started. Not going to lie, I was also very interested in winning some real money from my colleagues if I won. I took it seriously. I ate healthy. Drank less. Went to the gym. Watched a lot of Inside Boxing. And ran a bunch. My body was in pain, and my social life was on pause. I got competitive, determined, and a little bit obsessive. I wasn’t enjoying it. I was just doing it. But hey, I did do it.

At the final weigh in, I was 28 pounds lighter and a thousand dollars richer. Winning felt great. I took my celebration very seriously. I drank. Drank a ton. I ate like shit. Stopped going to the gym. Stopped running. A week later, I was 10 pounds heavier. Woops. So I started running again. But I couldn’t do it. When competing, I could run 3 miles every other day. Now, I could barely finish a mile before taking out my phone and saying “fuck it, I got some work to do” or “fuck it, today just isn’t a great day for a run.” I stopped running. The weight came back. I felt like junk. Life went back to normal. 

Haruki Murakami Running
Haruki Murakami What I Talk About When I Talk About Running

Years later, I came across one of my favorite fiction author’s book about his real world love of running, Haruki Murakami’s “What I Talk About When I Talk About Running.” It was his first non-fiction book, and I was surprised to see the subject he chose. He dove into the importance and influence running had on his work and his creativity. I was enamoured at the fact that this person was able to have the focus and energy to run as much as he wanted, and use that energy to write some of the greatest novels of his generation (in my opinion). To say the least, I recommend reading the book. The biggest takeaway for me was his approach to enjoying the run, being conscious and appreciative of the world around you as you pass through it, and attempting to get into a state of mindfulness and calm (known as a runners’ high) as a counter balance to the crazy busy world we live in. He also spoke of his running journey in years, even decades, not weeks or months. It was an escape from the daily grind, a way to reset your mind, strengthen your body, and observe the natural world around you.

While reading the book, I began running again. I was no longer competing with coworkers, I wasn’t even trying to lose weight, but I was curious about experiencing that euphoric feeling so many runners experience, the runner’s high. It became a goal. The high is undiagnosable for many, but recognizable when you feel it. I believe that I reached that goal. But in the process of reaching it, I found the benefit in the process itself. 

Murakami emphasized the importance of being surrounded by people and nature. His profession (much like mine at the time) demanded that he sit at a desk and stare at a screen. Rather than a treadmill at your gym, going outside provides the necessary setting to distract your mind from your to-do list. People were not made to sit all day. Starting your first run is hard. Running a marathon is hard. Trying to reach euphoria through endurance is hard. But going outside to feel better is surprisingly easy once you find a worthy excuse for it.

No matter what it is that you challenge yourself physically with, running, cycling, yoga, whatever it may be, you must respect the challenge to truly benefit from it. With that respect comes an equal amount of mental understanding and appreciation of the activity. For those that are naturally gifted, have a passion for it, are enthusiasts of endurance sports, it may seem like it comes easy.  But it’s not easy for everyone. Real life challenges, like paying bills, having limited healthy food options, taking care of your family can and will come in the way of finding that inner-voice. Especially when you’re just getting started. Still, it’s worth a shot.

As my mind and body continued to strengthen, it found its limits. Stress being the most overwhelming limitation to my health, I began slipping. Like most people, I don’t have the resources, the time or the money professional athletes have to stay fit. Social and cultural ques demand that we need to focus on work, family, social life, politics, tweets, posts, headlines, clickbait before we start focusing on our own health. Whenever I run, I stop because I lose focus, not because I actually want to stop. So, I decided to cheat. I doped.

My goal is no longer to run my fastest mile or lose the most weight. I count my ability to run in years, not miles or minutes.

I brought cannabis into my routine. I was no stranger to cannabis, but I never used it for running because I never thought to. But I’m happy I tried it. It felt similar to what I had read in Murakami’s book. It felt easier. Time slipped away. I appreciated the environment around me. The music I was playing sounded amazing. My body was in rhythm. I was experiencing a runner’s high, but I was only a couple miles in.

I began searching online for information connecting cannabis to running. It was surprisingly easy to find if you know what you’re looking for. A research study from 2015 connecting the “runner’s high” with the endocannabinoid system opened the doors to the possibility of phytocannabinoids (cannabis) being a performance enhancer unlike anything else out there. Personally, it allowed me to focus on myself like I’ve never felt before. It was a cheat code for mindfulness. It complimented being outdoors. It helped with inflammation (which is a big deal for my back). It had no side-effects. It was all natural. And I enjoyed my runs even more.

Improving my physical and mental health through mindfulness and movement have shifted my goals dramatically. My goal is no longer to run my fastest mile or lose the most weight. I count my ability to run in years, not miles or minutes. I align my weight with my mental health, not my diet. If I feel mentally strong, I eat right. If I am menatlly weak, the pressures of slamming a pint of ice cream or a bottle of tequila overcomes me (to be honest, I still enjoy indulging in my weaknesses from time to time). But in the long run, you need mental endurance to withstand it. 

Much like Murakami, I decided to use my talents in brand building to share my passion for health and movement in order to benefit others. With two-thirds of Americans not getting enough daily movement, there are a lot of people out there that can use a little optimism to get them back on their feet. Let them enjoy it rather than be overwhelmed by it. Access their mind body connection through natural supplements. And ensuring their well-being as they chase the high.

You think you can do better? Become a contributing writer!