I crossed the finish line. My time wasn’t great, but I completed the 12 kilometer San Francisco Bay to Breakers race. In 1986, I was young, slim, and reasonably fit. From what people said, it sounded like fun, so I did it.
And how did I feel? Honestly, I felt neither exhausted nor euphoric. I felt nothing, really, except the pain in my knees the following day. It was a task I set out to do, and I completed it. I had no doubt that I would. And I had no expectation that I’d get the “runner’s high.”
I’m still waiting for the day when exercise releases endorphins into my brain, giving me that euphoric feeling after a strenuous physical workout. When is it supposed to start happening? Please tell me, because I really want to know. I’ve been waiting 4 decades for it.
Frankly, exercise leaves me with only one, simple feeling: tired. That seems normal, doesn’t it? I’ve put out effort, I’ve burned all my calories. What else should I be expecting?
That’s not to say I don’t have my exercise routines, because I do. I make a point of walking for 20 to 30 minutes each day, outdoors. And I lift weights on a regular basis. If I’m being really good, I ride my bike once in a while. But these all have side benefits independent of any expected euphoria. Walking and biking get me outdoors. The weights allow me to avoid being embarrassingly unmanly when I have to lift something.
They are not, however, driven by any passion or expectation of euphoria. My exercise is a necessary evil, a means to an end, not an end itself. It is like sex in a passionless marriage, or the routine of a dull job. I do it because I’m supposed to, and I pretend to like it.
I could really use a dose of that alleged euphoria I hear so much about, though. It might make a difference.