Getting the Runner’s High in Week 3!

After my minor setbacks due to allergies in Week 2, I was anxious to see what week 3 of training for the United Airlines New York Half Marathon would bring.  Part of my week was interrupted by the fact that I was travelling back to New Jersey from California in the middle of the week, so the long travel and subsequent adjustment back to east coast time effectively threw a wrench into my training for a day or two.  But by the end of the week, I still managed to see major gains in both total length of run, diet, and energy levels overall!

First, I managed to break 4 miles during a run for the first time!  And in the midst of this run I experienced what has commonly been referred to as the “runner’s high”, where the endorphins kick in, leading you into an overall sense of feeling less pain and wanting to do more.  It was the first time in my life that I’ve felt the runner’s high.  Add that to the fact that I was running outside in some great California weather and I felt like I could easily run 6 miles, possibly a little more.

But therein lies the fundamental issue with the runner’s high.  It’s a great high, and it does have you feeling less immediate pain and thinking that you can go further and harder, which is exactly where you want to get to during a race.  But in training, this is exactly where your brain should kick in to curb your enthusiasm a bit.  The fact is that 4.5 miles in one run was already almost double what I had run in any of the previous two weeks.  And although I was feeling great at that exact moment and felt I could go much more, as a Physical Therapist, I knew right then that if I did go much more, I was going to feel exponentially more sore the next day.  The simple fact is that the positive perception gained from the runner’s high in thinking that you can do more must be tempered with the realization that if you do decide to ramp it up in that moment, you’re going to be even more sore the day after.  And that’s especially true if you’re training in territory that you’ve never reached before.  No matter who you are, steady progression is ALWAYS the way to go when it comes to training for a race.

And so I decided to call it a run at 4.5 miles that day, even though the runner’s high had me feeling like I could run all the way back to New Jersey with my luggage on my back without having to take a plane from California at all.  And what happened the next day, you ask?  You guessed it, I was more sore from that 4.5 mile run than from any other training run I had in the previous two weeks.  Couple that with the plane ride back and time change, and I decided to level off the week with a nice, 2 mile run on a treadmill when I returned to New Jersey.

In terms of food, I kept with my regimen of a vegan, organic protein shake after each run, coupled with curcumoid (a naturally occurring substance in foods that’s great for inflammation) foods to deal with any inflammation that I was experiencing.  Snacks consisting of berries, especially blueberries, and turmeric, all especially rich in curcumoid, in my tea did the trick beautifully.  In addition, I discovered brown rice pasta while roaming the aisles in Costco.  I was a little skeptical at first, as my previous experience with any brown pasta only consisted of not-so-great-tasting wheat pastas.  But I was pleasantly surprised at the great taste of brown rice pasta.  After adding that last week to my regular diet, I’ve found more regularity with my energy levels overall and less spikes and dips in energy throughout the day.   

So, overall, a great week of training indeed!

Dr. James Pumarada is a licensed Physical Therapist specializing in Vestibular Physical Therapy and Running Physical Therapy with over 17+ years of experience.  He is the co-owner of Complete Physical Rehabilitation, a Physical Therapy practice based in Elizabeth and Jersey City, NJ.

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