Do you have trouble sticking to your workout routine? Do you tire easily or find it difficult to commit to your fitness? The reason behind this might be more than just your lack of motivation. There’s a tool that our own bodies produce that can make you addicted to your workouts!
What is Adrenaline?
Our body has some amazing capabilities when it comes to dealing with stress. Adrenaline is one such hormone produced by the adrenal glands which are positioned one above each kidney. These glands are responsible for the secretion of hormones into your bloodstream in response to stimuli, which in the case of adrenaline is usually stress of one kind or another.
How does it work?
Adrenaline is commonly associated with out fight or flight reflex, and it’s a big part of how humans have survived for so long. When one is confronted with a dangerous situation, the adrenal glands release a blast into your bloodstream. The purpose of adrenaline is to potentially save a life. For starters it dilates your blood vessels and air passages. This increases the oxygen in the brain causing a boost in alertness and the resultant increase in blood-flow makes your muscles super-charged to endure physical challenges in short bursts of time.
When your brain gets a hit of adrenaline, it releases endorphins, dopamine, and norepinephrine. Endorphins are known to mitigate pain like opiates, norepinephrine closely mimics speed, and cocaine is associated with the flood of dopamine. In other words, adrenaline is kind of like a cocaine-speed-heroin cocktail, and yes just like these drugs it can be highly addictive.
How useful can it be?
If you are not looking forward to your workouts, then a boost of adrenaline can be just the thing to get all of your cylinders firing the way you want them. Adrenaline is something that will make you push yourself harder on that last set of pull-downs or that last lap of a run. Most of us are building adrenaline in the form of stress the whole day. It could be work, a traffic accident or a fight with your partner that our bodies register as stress, which indirectly triggers the release of adrenaline.
But most of this adrenaline that is released is usually wasted because we are not doing any vigorous activities with our bodies except for sitting at our desks. When we do burn through the adrenaline during specific types of strenuous exercises, that’s when the good stuff is released. The reward centers in your brain release the chemicals that bring about the feelings of euphoria and peace.
Your brain wants more of this reward-center benefits, so it starts putting together patterns like “ if my body does work hard in sudden bursts, then I get to release these feel-good chemicals!” The more your brain associates these chemicals with vigorous exercises, the more appealing these exercises will appear. So even when you are dreading your routine evening workout, you are more likely to do it in order to get your daily fix.
What is the downside?
The term “adrenaline junkie” does have a dark back story. Adrenaline is quite literally a drug and it can be abused too. Hence we have people strapping onto bungees and jumping off elevated pinnacles. Your brain knows it will get it’s hit once you are put in a state of fear, and hence it will drive you towards undertaking these crazy antics.
The other thing you have to be careful of is building up adrenaline and not effectively utilizing it. Unused adrenaline (and cortisol, which the adrenal gland also releases in response to stress) can keep you feeling agitated and stressed out. This can sometimes lead to suppression of the non-emergency bodily processes like digestion and can also put the immune system on hold. Infact adrenaline is used in the form of an epi-pen to elevate heart-rate and blood pressure in cases of nut allergies.
This is why exercise is critical in maintaining your health. Even if you would never consider extreme sports, you are still likely to build up unhealthy levels of cortisol throughout your stressful workday.
How to get your hit?
- Action Sports: Adventure sports are the popular choice when it comes to adrenaline junkies. But go in for something that requires a lot of physical exertion rather than something that just involves adrenaline rush. For example, Snowboarding, mountain-biking, or surfing is the way to go because this requires a lot of dodging of waves and obstacle tackling. You not only are high on adrenaline but you will also lose tons of calories. On the other hand , a sport like skydiving doesn’t involve any muscle and is just a rush you feel when you dive from an aircraft.Don’t just pick something because it scares you, try something that looks like fun. Let the excitement be your motivation, and you’ll barely notice you’re exercising.
- Interval training: What could be better for high-intensity bursts than interval training? We’re looking for high-intensity bursts. Virtually any form of interval training will work whether you are running or cycling and involving a lot of strength training. The important thing is to go slow at first. The adrenaline will allow you to push harder than what you usually do.
Don’t undertake dangerous levels of physical exertion just to get your fix. If you’ve stopped getting your adrenaline buzz from doing the same activity then it’s time to switch it up. Our brains fear the unknown, so trying something new will give you that hyper-alert sense that you are craving. By adding the adrenaline element to your workouts, you are not only making them more enjoyable but you are also working your ass off. It makes them fun, and it will make you want to come back for more.