Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Runner's High

As I have been progressing in my physical activity, I have pushed myself just a little bit farther and a little bit harder whenever I can. I don't think I have reached my physical limits yet, but I am searching for that wall.

I have experienced now a couple of times a condition called runner's high. It has been described to me as a state of euphoria that is experienced when a runner breaks through the wall they hit when they reach their perceived limit of physical endurance and ability.

The first time I experienced this, I didn't know it until after my workout was over and I had time to process what had happened. I had reached that wall. My legs hurt, my lungs burned for air, my head felt like a brick. Everything inside me wanted to stop. Almost everything.

There was this voice that kept saying "KEEP GOING! HARDER!" So for the first time I listened. I pushed harder and broke through. In that instant, everything changed. My legs stopped hurting and seemed to take on a life of their own. They moved easily and smoothly. My lungs were full and working with great efficiency. Their capacity seemed limitless. My head cleared and at the same time, my mind became calm. It felt like floating.

I was not expecting this the first time it happened. I knew this was the runner's high that I had heard of. This feeling of being free. What I didn't know at the time was that it would be different the next time it happened, and every time it happened.

Now that I have an idea of what it takes to get there, I have managed to be more aware of it as it happens. It is an extremely difficult place to reach. I have found that conditions need to be just right. I was working out at a YMCA last week a couple of times when we were away visiting relatives over the holidays. I knew because of the distraction all around me, I could never reach this point. I have come extremely close a couple of times at the dojo but not quite broken through.

What I seem to need is the solitude. A place where there are not "too many minds". I have also found that just the right piece of music at just the right time seems to enhance the experience. The piece of music that seems to work for me is a track called Last Stand of the Wild Things from a CD titled Universal Love.

I think because I have reached this point a few times now, I have become aware of its onset and in a way been able to take advantage of it to help me drive on the little bit harder, those few more minutes. I have also found that I have even been able to influence it a bit. This has made the experience that much more intense.

With each experience the feelings seem to deepen. I give myself permission to experience this phenomenon. It becomes an almost trance-like state where there is no pain, and no limits. The closest thing I can compare it to would be a state of transcendental meditation.

A couple of times when I reached this point, it felt like a dream-like state. I envisioned myself running across an endless grassy plain being pursued by a huge lion. The last time, I was no longer running from this lion, I was running with it.

I know this whole thing sound a bit crazy. It is the result of all kinds of different things happening in the body and the mind. A certain mix of stimuli caused by the extreme exertion. Whatever it is, I have found it to be a place where nothing else matters and I am set free. What could be wrong with that?

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