Exercise: It’s All In The Mind

I’ve decided to write my first blog post while the memory of our last Bootcamp session is still fresh in my mind. It’s also still fresh in my thighs, arms, and – somewhere beneath a cosy coating of fat, my abs. It was really tough! At one point, between a set of squat jumps and 50 skips, I thought to myself – if I just shuffled off into the shadows and legged it, would anyone notice I’d gone?

I could have done it. I could have gone home, curled up on my sofa, switched on Don’t Tell The Bride and tucked into my family-sized box of Celebrations. But I didn’t. I ploughed on because A) Jason would have made us do about 5,000 penalty beach runs (you will grow to know and love these) and B) because, despite finding it incredibly difficult, I really honestly love Bootcamp.

I love the feeling of my heart pumping, of my muscles burning and my sweat pouring. After nine hours sitting behind a desk at work, it’s nice to feel alive. But what is this incredible feeling that keeps us all coming back to Bootcamp every week? We all know how hard exercise is, how painful it is to go out into the night (or early morning in the case of Saturdays) and push our bodies to their absolute limits. It hurts like hell! And yet we all secretly enjoy it.

Endurance athletes call it the ‘runner’s high’. It happens while you’re exercising really hard, and scientists have even compared it to the rush drug-takers get after a dose of heroin or morphine.

What Happens During Runner’s High?

Runner’s high is a feeling of pure euphoria felt during exercise. It’s caused by chemicals called endorphins, which are basically our own personal ‘happy drugs’. Scientists still don’t know much about endorphins, except that they cause these two feelings:

  • Pain relief
  • Euphoria.

They’re feel-good hormones, and they’re there to tell us that we’re doing something healthy. While we still don’t know everything about them, we do know that the role of endorphins in our bodies is vital. Some scientists believe that too few endorphins can contribute to mental health problems such as depression and obsessive compulsive disorder.

One of the best ways of triggering an endorphin release is exercise. Others include meditation, moderate alcohol consumption (I’ll be using this excuse from now on) and, apparently – childbirth. Is childbirth better than an hour of press ups and beach runs? Probably not. I choose exercise.

Some people start up exercise regimes to burn fat and lose weight, others do it to get fitter or stronger. I don’t think it matters why you exercise – it just matters that you do it. It doesn’t matter how fast or athletic or agile you are, it only matters that you’re there trying it. While most other people are at home on their sofas, you’re out there in the cold, dark night, pushing your body and doing things you never thought you’d be able to do. There’s nothing more satisfying than knowing that.

Besides, with exercise out of the way you’re free to go home and enjoy your second dose of endorphins with a small glass of wine on your sofa! Just don’t tell Jason.


Zoe is a journalist, blogger and dedicated Fitness Bootcamper. You can follow her on Twitter @JournoZo, or read her blog at zoeego.com.