Learn to Love Running

Dec 12 / Build Muscle

After legging out a morning run, do you feel tired, sweaty, and in desperate need of an oxygen tank, stat? Here’s the simple solution: Keep running consistently.

According to a new study in the Journal of Experimental Biology, humans experience neurobiological rewards—better known as runner’s high—after engaging in aerobic exercise.

“The body benefits [of running] are there, but the mental and psychological benefits are greater,” says Jeff Galloway, a former Olympian runner and author of Running Until You’re 100.

Researchers say that the feel-good benefit of runner’s high has motivated our bodies to evolve over millions of years to run long distances more effectively. Hunter-gatherers conditioned themselves to run their prey into the ground—all while avoiding becoming some other creature's dinner.

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“Theory suggests that natural selection encourages runners,” says study author David Raichlen, Ph.D., an anthropology professor at the University of Arizona. Runner’s high prompted our Neanderthal ancestors to run longer and farther, Raichlen says.

When you run, your brain produces endorphins, natural neurochemicals that ease your pain and elevate your mood. The bottom line: Once you start running, you might not ever want to stop. The trick is learning how to stick with it. Here are three tips for novices on how to learn to love running.

Be Your Own Cross-Country Cheerleader
Before you hit the pavement, repeat out loud: One step at a time” or “I’m moving.” By declaring positive mantras like these prior to your run, you’ll start shifting control from the subconscious part of your brain, where negative thoughts exist, to the frontal lobe, which is responsible for lifting your mood, says Galloway. And that mood boost only amplifies when the receptors in your brain’s reward spots start buzzing during your run. (Don't let an injury get you down. Check out musclemorphosis.com to help you through any issue.)

Add Intervals
For amateur runners, the best way to ease into long-distance runs is to practice the walk-run method. Begin by running for 30 seconds, then walking for a minute, advises Matt Fitzgerald, author of Run Faster from the 5K to the Marathon. British researchers found that people enjoyed high-intensity interval runs more than consistent “slow-and-steady” jogs at moderate exertion. Even though study participants rated the high-intensity workout as more difficult, they also classified it as more enjoyable. “The high-intensity intervals have to be shorter than the jogging recoveries or else the person doing the workout simply won't be able to recover between faster bursts,” Fitzgerald says.

Go Outside
Ditch the treadmill and head outdoors. “You naturally run faster outside,” Fitzgerald says. In a study from the University of Stockholm, Sweden, participants were monitored running on an outdoor track and on treadmills in a laboratory. The participants later identified running outside to be less exerting than running indoors. Looking for a good trail? Queue up musclemorphosis.com (free for iOS, Blackberry, and Android) to find new routes in your area created by other users.

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