Howdy! I’m Diane Chesla and am Co-Race Director of the Niagara Falls International Marathon (NFIM) exploring the mind-body connection of running & how lessons learned can be applied to life.
I hate to start with bad news, but not a lot of runner’s actually experience “runner’s high.” It’s damn hard to do. Why? Probably because running is hard. It’s boring. It’s repetitive and the weather. . . it’s constantly messing with our runs because it’s either too hot, too cold, too wet or too something else. Even more bad news: getting into these really awesome states of complete bliss in sport may have something to do with our personality. Some studies actually state that flow is experienced mostly by people that are intrinsically motivated. Know someone that has a “high interest in life,” is very persistent and not truly self-centered? Ya…these are the folks that are getting high.
When I was studying this topic in my Masters I tried lots of techniques to enter these states while I was running. I had varied success. I felt like I was “knocking at the door” a few times but denied entry. Of course if you read my article on my “far out there,” runner’s high experience, you know I managed to enter the state by complete accident. Let me recap the main ways to “get high” based roughly on the theories of “flow” by Mihalyi Csikszentmihalyi:
Focus. Single-minded focus on the task at hand is important.
Relax. Kind of goes hand in hand with #1 as you need to ONLY focus on the activity you are doing.
Challenge/Skill. Your perceived challenge has to meet your skill level otherwise you are either too bored or too anxious about the activity.
Enjoyment. I would encourage everyone, regardless of whether your personality fits the description above or not to experiment with these four variables on a run.
If you’re like me, maybe after a number of attempts, in a number of different environments everything will come together and your approach won’t be so “purposeful” and “getting high” on the run will come about without much effort. You will actually be enjoying your run and then—bam—you’ll be super enjoying your run. I have to admit that I find the variable of “enjoyment” interesting. Should enjoyment not be there first?
Let me illustrate this with a story about how I went from a lame soccer player as a kid to an all star team member. I started playing soccer when I was four years old. I sucked. But I loved it. My parents brought
me to every practice and every game & I lived for the sport year after year, even though I knew I wasn’t any good. And then when I was 12 we moved. I didn’t play that summer as I missed registration in my new town but I would go out and watch other girls my age play and developed this immense yearning to get on the field and run my little heart out. So this weird thing happened the following season. That yearning turned into die-hard dedication and some kind of skill that must have been hiding inside of me all those years. All of a sudden, I was good enough to try out for rep and eventually made Captain and became a great soccer player.
What happened? I enjoyed the heck out of that game. Focus followed. I would “shake things out” to enable focus (Is that relaxation? Maybe) and I was always eager to learn new skills to up my game.
I’ll leave this article by tasking you to experiment with “getting high” on your run by finding the deep enjoyment in it. Is it slowing down? Is it speeding up? Is it running longer, or shorter? Is it pounding downhills? Is it getting hopelessly lost on a trail in the sunshine? You define it. You do it.
Task #2: Now let’s do this in your life outside of running. What do you love doing? And I mean “really, truly love” besides running? Painting? Gardening? Watching Netflix thrillers? Taking in architecture? Cooking? Something else? The next time you do something you love take time to do it with incredible purpose. Slow down. Observe. Really indulge in every little bit of what you’re doing. Enjoy the heck out of it! What we are trying to do here is experience some part of these awesome but different “states of mind” that are defined as “flow states” through focusing on the enjoyment factor.
And for my next article? I’m not really sure yet. I’m reliving these theories and going super deep into focusing on the art of enjoyment that I don’t want to preplan too much what I’m going to do next! I may delve into the world of visualization and really expose myself by sharing with you how I create my own feedback loops through self coaching and visualization to enter these states of flow.