serious running: trail running, races, shoe reviews

Why Do You Have More Energy After Running?

posted by Chris Barber


All runners say the same thing, “When I’m tired, I go for a run and feel I have more energy when I’m done.”  This doesn’t make logical sense.  How can you get more energy by expending energy?  There are two main reasons.

Runner’s High: No, not like the runner in the picture above smoking something, it’s the euphoric feeling you get from running.  Attaining a Runner’s High makes you feel like you have more energy and highly positive feelings.  It is a mental state as a result from physical activity.

Technically, a Runner’s High is associated with the release of endorphins in the brain.  Endorphins are any group of opiate proteins with pain-relieving properties that are found naturally in the brain.  The word endorphins comes from two parts: endo- and -orphin; which are short forms of the words endogenous and morphine, intended to mean “a morphine like substance originating from within the body.”  Knowing that human cells have receptors for this drug suggests that the body produces its own morphine like substances which it is believed can be attained by running long distances and gives us the feeling of a Runner’s High.  It’s science.

So even though you have expended a lot of energy running you feel better.  Think of it like consuming alcohol.  Alcohol is a depressant and should make you tired, but it also releases endorphins, giving you the feeling of more energy.  That’s why there are laws for how late establishments can serve alcohol, because people would be able to stay there forever consuming it.  Likewise, this is why alcohol is served 24 hours in Las Vegas, NV; it’s the endorphin capital of the world!

Runners are Healthy: The other reason runners feel better after exercising is the secondary behavior of typical runners.  Runners typically engage in healthy activities because they know they have to run and need to be fresh for it.  Therefore, they usually get better sleep, eat healthy, and engage in less unhealthy activities which gives them the ability to recover quicker, feeling the benefits of running sooner after the run.  The more you run, the healthier you will be, the better your body is able to recover, giving you are great feeling after every run.  The more you run the more energized you feel after running.  I’ll post the regression later so you can really see the relationship.

You can’t make running love you, but you can teach your body to love running.  Go ahead and teach your body how to love again.  It’s been a while.

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  1. kelly brandt says:

    then why the heck am I so flippin tired all the time??? I am a “beginner”, been running seriously for 1.5 yrs now, and run about 50 miles a week. (give or take 10) Got any advice for me?

  2. Amy Reinink says:

    Great post, and hilarious photo! It’s an overall nice reminder of that most powerful get-off-the couch mantra: Have you ever felt worse after a run?

  3. Chris Barber says:

    Kelly, running for 1.5 years at about 50 miles a week is great! I wouldn’t consider yourself a “beginner.” Stick with the habit!

    If you are always tired at the end of your runs, try doing them at another time of day. Most runners feel the best after a run if they do it first thing in the morning. Since the morning is the time you feel the most tired but actually have the most energy, it is a great time to wake your body up and get moving without feeling exhausted at the end of your run. You’ll be able to feel the increased energy for the rest of the day! Also, if you run at a time of day when it the weather is most agreeable you can find you get a better feeling of increased energy from it. The harsher the conditions, the more stress you are putting on your body while releasing the same amount of endorphins in your exercise. Leverage your endorphins!

  4. Chris Barber says:

    Amy, of course I have felt worse after a run but this is usually due to some sort of illness I have. However, during the run I don’t notice or think about my fatigued body so I still get the most out of my run. I may feel more physically tired afterward but feel a lot better mentally. If I still feel physically tired as the day progresses I make sure I eat right, hydrate well, and get as much sleep as possible so my next run will be better!

  5. Eric says:

    I used to love running. I especially loved the “runner’s high” that would occur after about every third or forth run. But around April of this year, I started to notice something unsettling. Although it still isn’t a particular problem for me to run 21k just for the fun of it, I no longer find it much fun. I don’t find it painful, just not very fun. And when the run is finished, I don’t feel any sense of joy or any buzz at all. So this week I resolved not to run anymore because what’s the point? The main draw for me was how good it made me feel and I no longer can claim that. I also know it has nothing to do with overtraining as I was recovering from burnout since November of last year and only seriously resumed it again at around March. Even then it was never more then 3 times a week. I wonder if that burnout caused permanent damage by “depleting my endorphins.” Yes, I realise that makes no sense. But have you ever heard of something like this before?

    1. Chris Barber says:

      Of course I’ve heard of people burning out from running before. All runners do at one point and all runners don’t feel like running or training at some point. Some push through it because they want to attain a goal or because it has become habit for them.

      Your brain has a certain amount of endorphins to release to its receptors, but it is also constantly replenishing these endorphins it has to release. There are many other activities that result in the releasing of endorphins, the most convenient being alcohol or drugs. The reason drug addicts or alcoholics build a tolerance is because the brain can not keep up with the endorphin release to build up ratio when one is constantly abusing these drugs. This leads the addicts to have to increase their use over time in order to get the same feeling, or amount of endorphins released. The deeper you tap into your endorphin reserves the tougher it gets to release them. The brain does not have enough time to replenish the endorphin levels in order to release them at the same rate it did before the abuse. So an increase in other endorphin releasing activities (other exercising activities or drugs and alcohol) may decrease your overall endorphin levels. So perhaps your increase in running gave the same effect as an alcoholic has on endorphin release, the more you do it, the more of a tolerance you have built for this distance, and the harder you must work to induce this endorphin release. So there are two things you can do for running, run longer distances or take time off of running and allow your endorphin levels to build back up. I of course recommend running some longer distances.
      In the meantime try going trail running,, and utilize the environment to help stimiulate your brain when running. Here’s some more information:
      Another technique I use to keep my body guessing is to train for different race distances. The past couple of months my training has been to run a fast half-marathon, 50K, 10K, and then marathon with fun 5Ks in between for fun. This is another good way to keep your mind guessing and not become comfortable. Hope this helps and keep running, just make new challenges for yourself!

  6. Ollie says:

    I have the view that depression is a disease which comes from total identification with one’s thoughts and emotions and have found teachings like that of Eckhart Tolle to help me recover. What do you think?

  7. Fredrik says:

    Reading Eckhart Tolle’s The Power of Now helped me running more consciously, being in the present, without the usual dwelling on mind stuff, over and over again. I write about this on my blog.

  8. I am constantly signing in and out of my college website and it is rather annoying to always have to type in my user id. It used to be saved, but then I updated Firefox and it won’t save.. . If anyone could explain to make Firefox remember that would be great. Thanks..