‘Runner’s High’ and The Psychology of Victory & Defeat

Athlete experiencing 'Runner's High' after an intense workout.

Ever felt that exhilarating sensation after an intense workout? This delightful feeling, commonly referred to as ‘Runner’s High,’ stems from the brain’s chemical reactions. Dive deeper to uncover what transpires within the brain during physical exertion and during moments of victory or defeat.

Read more: ‘Runner’s High’ and The Psychology of Victory & Defeat

The Blissful Feeling Post-Workout: More Than Just Running!

Many athletes resonate with the euphoria experienced after intense physical exertion. While this sensation is frequently associated with prolonged running, it’s interesting to note that similar feelings of joy can be derived from any sustained physical activity, be it walking, swimming, cycling, or even dancing. As trailrunner and triathlete Scott Dunlap intriguingly describes his runner’s high: “It’s akin to guzzling two Red Bulls mixed with vodka, downing three ibuprofen, and having a winning $50 Lotto ticket in your pocket.” Scientifically speaking, endorphins, our body’s “feel-good” hormones, are believed to trigger this euphoria.

Brain Chemistry in Winning and Losing

Winning, especially in high-stake scenarios like finals, undoubtedly brings an unparalleled joy, not just for the coaches but equally for the players and their ardent supporters. This euphoria isn’t restricted to sports; it extends to the world of gambling where the unpredictability – the sheer ambiguity of winning a jackpot or any bet – drives excitement. Research reveals that reward uncertainty plays a pivotal role in the allure of gambling. This uncertainty, mirrored in sports, especially when up against a superior team, is palpable among fans, players, and coaches alike. Enter dopamine: a crucial neurotransmitter released during gratifying activities like eating delectable food, indulging in drugs, or during intimate moments. Intriguingly, dopamine is also secreted when the outcome is uncertain. Studies have showcased dopamine release during gambling in brain regions comparable to those activated by drug usage. In animals, there’s even evidence suggesting brain alterations due to such unpredictability.

The Thrill of Uncertainty: A Coach’s Perspective

Some coaches thrive amidst this pulsating uncertainty. Renowned coach Dick Advocaat candidly shared in an interview with de Volkskrant, “I confess, I miss the matchday adrenaline. Hearing about Ronald Koeman’s health issues, 15 years my junior, was an eye-opener. It’s a reminder of the stress our job entails. Yet, for me, the thrill is exhilarating. That’s the part I eagerly anticipate. Doesn’t everyone?”

In Conclusion: The Dance of Hormones in Sport and Life

In essence, whether it’s the ‘Runner’s High’ after an intense session or the adrenaline rush from unpredictable match outcomes, various hormones influence our reactions. While some, like Dick Advocaat, revel in the unpredictability, others might find it unsettling. But with the summer break approaching, teams, players, and fans can take a breather, temporarily bidding adieu to these hormonal surges.




Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Scroll to Top