Is "feeling good after exercise" the fourth great lie? (Long)

Okay, I’m a couch potato. A slug. I HATE pointless exertion (like, oh, picking up a weight only to put it back down in the same place. And doing it over and over and over…) and I’ve never found a sport that interests me.

As you’d expect, I’m far from being in great physical shape. Not greatly fat, but I’m pretty steadily about ten pounds over ‘ideal’ weight and I’m soft. Weak, okay?

Anyway, we want to sell our current house in a year or so, so we’ve started doing repairs and minor renovations to increase its value. Three weeks ago I decided to tackle a horrible blotch on our grounds. Our yard has a funny shape, and this part is beyond a stone fence and a line of trees. Definitely out of sight and thus out of our minds. There are about half a dozen HUGE pine trees, all of which have that ‘all the lower branches have died’ thing. Mixed amongs them are literally scores of ‘volunteer’ maple trees, some of which have shot up to thirty feet and more, though they’re weedy and thin at the base. Also some wild thorny bushes and thick clumps of forsythia that have turned into ugly mounds of mostly dead centers… Basically, the place is a mess.

So for these three weeks I’ve been getting up earlier than normal, and putting in a solid hour of doing battle with this crap before heading off to work. I’ve sawed off dead branches, sawed down trees, pruned bushes, raked and hauled everything to our ‘brush heap,’ a good 70 yards away from this area.

Now, I admit this isn’t a formal exercise program, but it’s genuinely hard physical labor – at least, by my couch potato standards. I’m working hard enough that I sometimes have to pause to catch my breathe, and I’m absolutely drenched with sweat by the end of the hour. (And if anyone is looking for a good triceps exercise, I’ll put my vote in for sawing – Man, did my arms ache after each session the first few days.)

So…as I said, I’ve done this for three weeks. And I’m seeing results. Expected – that part of our yard is looking pretty good, although I’ve still got a bit of tweaking to do. Unexpected – my pants have been seeming loose, so I got on the scales today – eight pounds vanished! Woo! I’m within spitting distance of my ideal weight!

But what I don’t seem to get is that ‘good feeling’ I thought I’m supposed to feel after exercise. You know, ‘glowing,’ ‘healthy,’ ‘energized,’ 'extra alive"? Instead, when my timer goes off I feel tired and hot and sweaty and, most of all, soooo relieved to be done for the day. I drag myself to the shower right away, because I know if I let myself sit down I’ll never get back up in time for work. :frowning:

So, tell me the truth: Is that ‘exercise makes you feel good’ thing just another benign conspiracy, like adults playing at Santa for the sake of children? Only this one is done by the physically fit to try to encourage the non-fit to join them?

Or, if it really exists, why don’t I feel it? Is it that an hour isn’t long enough? Too long? Or does it take more than three weeks to start happening? What?

When you’re already physically fit, 20 minutes in the gym is invigorating.

From my experience, yardwork always seems to put a body into slightly ackward positions that a good gym workout won’t. This awkwardness coupled with repetative motion causes aches that can detract from any good feeling.

Well, what you are doing is pretty hard labor. I wonder if that makes a difference?

I do a lot of running, and while I do tend to huff and puff during my workout, I do find that when I finish, I do have a good feeling.

I think the key is not to work out too hard. When I run really far or really fast, and exert myself more than normal, I’ll just feel tired and spent afterwards. But if I don’t overdo it, I do have that post-exercise high.

So I don’t think it’s a lie. It just doesn’t happen every single time.

I wanted to type something informative and witty, but my knowledge of the subject is sketchy at best. So someone can expand on this. Or correct me if I’m way off base.

Working out produces endorphines.
Endorphines make you feel good.
Working out regularly means more endorphines when you do work out.

The good feeling after exercise comes AFTER you’ve got the gunk off of you. I run really hard (<6:30 miles) for four miles every morning - and I feel like total garbage until I’m out of the shower.

I do think it takes more than three weeks to get a good feeling when you are finished with exercise. Most exercise programs that I have taken through college or the YMCA or a health club, have told me that it will be six weeks before I see results.

There comes a certain point where it’s no longer painful and verges on the fun, or at least less painful. It’s a very grey area, and goes from painful --> not painful --> enjoyable over a matter of weeks. Sounds like you are still in the painful stage, but it does go away! The worst thing you can do at this point is stop.

Once you have finished clearing up the woods in back of your house, take a brisk walk for that hour in the morning. You have already done such wonderful things for your body, you don’t want all that to go away.

I’m on a running program myself, a very conservative one. I hope to be able to run a 5K at the end of the winter. Right now I gasp for breath after each section of my workout, but in four or five weeks I know I will be, if not actively having fun, at least seeing where it could be fun, if you know what I mean.

When I’ve been working out regularly, I actually feel great a day or two after the exercise–after the damage the exercise did has healed, and about when it’s time to exercise some more… So, a couple days after working out really hard, I feel like working out really hard. :dubious:

Immediately after working out really hard, I’m exhausted. If not hurt.

There’s a difference between exercise and hard labor, especially for someone who’s sedentary.

I’ve never gotten to the “Enjoyment” stage myself, but have gone through stints of working out regularly wherein I got to the “No longer feel like puking afterwards” stage.

For me, the “Feel Good” stage comes when I’m DONE with the workout, but I think that’s mostly psychological, because (a) I feel like I’ve accomplished something, (b) the pint of ice cream I eat as a reward for said accomplishment therefore makes me feel less guilty :wink: , and (c) I’m so dog-exhausted that I don’t tend to give a flying flip about things that would normally cause me stress or crankiness.

(Seriously, if I work out hard enough, I do sometimes have moments where I’m lying on the couch afterwards, trying to work up enough energy for a shower, but in the meantime lovingly contemplating the bookshelf and thinking about how pretty it is and about how life with bookshelves is hardly worthy of complaint.)

FWIW, I’m not overweight, but I’m not in good shape, either.

Even when I was very fit (playing for 4 football teams a week) I never found boring exercise invigorating. Playing games yeah but running laps no.

I tell people now that I will take up jogging the first time I see a jogger having fun doing it. I’ve never seen a jogger, weight trainer or aerobics buff smile while working out.

I have to ask what are the other 3 great lies? Is one “Of course I’ll still respect you in the morning”?

I’m usually feeling pretty damn good during my low-volume, high-intensity sessions, especially on deadlift or squat day. But that’s not where you’d want to start.

That’s funny, I used to smile and laugh when I was doing step aerobics. We would all work out together in one of those mirrored rooms, where you can hardly get away from your reflection. I usually tried to avoid looking at myself in the mirror, but once in a while I would take a peek and grin at how silly I looked.

Also at times I would try to picture everyone in the room doing things like “raise the roof” stomp stomp without the music. And I would grin. The instructors loved me because I couldn’t keep the goofy grin off my face. I didn’t have the heart to tell them it was because I was imagining how absurd we all looked in out workout clothes.

Better that than to be imagining how y’all would look without clothes . . . :eek: :smiley:

I use a heart rate monitor when I work out, and I’ve discovered that if I just exert myself at a “comfortable” level, I naturally end up the low end of my cardio range then it sucks. I’m working hard, but it’s just drudgery. My eye is constantly on the clock, counting down the minutes till I can quit. When I finish exercising, I’m exhausted. My energy level bottoms out and takes hours to recover. I just want to flop down on the couch and not move, but I force myself to stretch out, even though, dammit, stretching out sucks, too. My bod is tired and achy and my flexibility isn’t very good.

On the other hand, if I get my heart rate right up in the high end of my safe range, then exercise actually feels good. I’m working harder for sure: the sweat pours off of me in buckets and my lungs are going like bellows. But I feel great. It’s not hard to keep going. If my heart rate starts to dip, then I buckle down and go faster and it’s—I never thought I would ever say this about exercise, but—it’s actually fun. As I watch my heart rate go up, I feel elated. When the workout is over, I feel invigorated, and a good stetch is just the icing on the cake.

Unfortuantely, this contributes to my asocial and grumpy workout habits. I am not interested in anything but putting on my motivational music, getting on the Elliptical, getting up right up to 85% of my max heart rate, and staying there for thirty minutes. I can’t have a conversation while I’m doing it, and I have no interest in going for walks with my friends or taking classes, because I can’t maintain my HR in the golden range. “It’s a beautiful day outside! Come for a walk with us! Take off your headphones and talk to us! Come take this new abs class! It’s super-keen! You do the Elliptical every day! It’s so boring!” Bah. Bah, I say! I’ll take my boring workout, thankyouverymuch, 'cause it feels gooood.

When the endorphins finally kick in I’m usually too stoned out of my mind on the runner’s high to smile. Seriously. It feels really, really, really good. Only problem is, I usually have to run at least 3 miles before it kicks in.

The kind of good feeling I get really depends on the workout, too. Weightlifter’s burn is pretty different from runner’s high, for example. With a runner’s high, I feel like I can run freaking forever. It’s the ambulatory equivalent of cruising down the interstate during a sunny afternoon with the radio blasting, a drink in your hand and a full weekend ahead of you. Weightlifter’s burn just makes me feel like my whole body is made of fire (in a good way).

Really, it’s those two things that make me exercise more than anything else. Being in shape is great, but is far too long term to grab my attention.

What the shit is a “runners high”? I’ve heard about it but in my three seasons of track and one season of cross country as well as conditioning training for ice hockey all I experience is a feeling like I want to stop running.
I’ve been trying to get in shape again but I just hate going to the gym now. In high school and college I used to go almost every day. I felt like I was forgetting something if I didn’t go. Part of it was social. Part of it was to stay in shape for sports.

Now I don’t do anything athletic. There’s really no reason for me to work out other than in some abstract “it’s good for you” sense. Half the people I work with are unathletic IT types so there’s no real pressure that people are in better shape than me. Basically what was once enjoyable has turned into a stupid chore of picking up heavy objects and moving them around for no reason four an hour.

Ironically, the guy from NYSC just called to bother me about signing up for a membership once my free trial expires.

I really think it’s different for different people. Some people, no matter how much they exercise, will always hate exercise, or even if they don’t might feel ambivalent or just “thank God that’s over” afterwards. Unfortunately, exercise is necessary to good cardiovascular health.

Personally, I have days where I feel absolutely wonderful during and after a good run - my body feels like it’s humming and I feel like I can conquer the world. I can’t wipe the smile off my face because I’ve gotten into a certain groove that some books refer to as the “flow” where I feel I can run for miles and miles or hours and hours without stopping, and by the time I’ve finished, I have reached some sort of sensory nirvana. Other days, I come home, thinking “Oh, thank God. It’s over. I don’t feel any different from before I exercised except hotter and sweatier. But I did it. Now it’s time for dinner.”

So, my answer would be that, no, the belief that exercise makes you feel wonderful isn’t bullshit. It truly makes some people feel absolutely empowered and vigorous after they’re done. But sometimes that doesn’t happen. For some people, their only feeling after exercise is sweaty relief that it’s over.

Either way, hopefully you feel some satisfaction that you’ve cleaned your lawn up, and good job for getting out there!

That would be funny too, what with all the butts and bellies and thighs and breasts bouncing.

/wipe up the drool, boys :wink:

Your brain produces pain-relieving opiate proteins called endorphins that it releases during stressful or painful times (as a protective measure). When you exercise hard enough, your brain will release some endorphins, and these can generate a slight euphoria - this is probably a big contributer to the feel-good-after-exercise thing. A true runner’s high is when your body has been pushed far enough that your brain considers it a life-or-death emergency and floods your system with all the endorphins it can muster. It’s been compared to being on morphine, as they both attach to the same brain receptors and are chemically very similar (in fact endorphins were named after morphine, ‘endo’ == ‘within’, morphine from within).

I’ve only ever gotten a runner’s high once, oddly enough when swimming. I was swimming 33 laps (a mile) every morning, and that morning, I really really really didn’t want to. But I forced myself to go through with it, and toward the end, I started getting this odd, detached feeling. It was like I was weightless, not even in the water, just gliding in the air. I decided to keep swimming, and it was… incredible. It was like my mind and body were totally separated (ugh, how cliched) - I was definitely telling my body what to do, and it was definitely doing it, but it wasn’t sending back any signals of effort. I mean, none at all, not even “Hi, I’m your arm and I’m just letting you know I’m still here” signals. I swam for more than two hours straight that morning, and only left because adult swim ended. I remember on the drive home I kept slapping my hand up against the roof and yelling in exuberance, and I’m usually a pretty soft-spoken guy. That was a beautiful morning.

So, in summation, never tempt me with morphine. Does anybody have any, by the way?