Why Do I Cry When I Jog?

I jog. I jog so I can eat cake. I’m not kidding. 

I’m a slow, steady runner. I jog between an 11-minute mile and a 12-minute mile. I jog five times a week and I love it.

But here’s the weird part: Sometimes I cry. 

My friend, Heather Champ mentioned that she has emotional moments after a run and I wrote back letting her know she wasn’t alone. But it still seems a bit peculiar. I’ve always wondered about it.

The triggers tend to be so sporadic and unrelated to one another, I’m not sure there is a trigger. They range all the way from a song, to a podcast, to a story on the news, to smelling someone’s treadmill fart, to nothing at all. The only regularity has to do with time. It always happens after the 20-minute mark. 

I just cry. 

I don’t feel unhappy. I just cry. And I know that some folks may roll their eyes at this next part, hell, I’m rolling my eyes just thinking about it, but is this what folks mean when they talk about reaching a level outside of oneself, (and because I can’t think of a less sophomoric word) is this some type of zen? 

I’m not suggesting that I reach some major breakthrough, quite the opposite. I’m wondering if it’s one of the few times during my life, I am without thought. Do I run myself empty? Do I exist without care, responsibility or worth? Or is it simply that I have run off all the sugar coursing through my blood and I’m crying because my body needs more cake?

I just cry.

I try and hold back, because who wants to see a girl crying on a treadmill, but I get the feeling that if I let myself just go, like, become a blubbering mess, I’ll end up on the other side (going nowhere, mind you) different.

Whatever the reason may be, sometimes when I jog, I cry.

30 Comments

  1. Runner’s high?

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  2. Do you run in the morning? Somewhat related: when I’m at the Toronto Film Festival watching movies all day, I’ve noticed striking differences in how I react to what I see during the morning v. the rest of the day. Short version: I’ve been known to be a sobbing mess during 9 am screenings. Maybe there’s something to circadian rhythms and emotions.

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  3. Missy: I generally run in the morning. Great question. Not something I even thought about.

    Why do you suppose that happens to you/us?

    Also, is it 24 hours from one point for everyone? Maybe I don’t quite understand circadian cycles.

    I wonder then if I still worked the night shift at the diner and therefore slept until 3 PM and ran in the afternoon (still first thing getting up) if it would still happen.

    Are we most vulnerable to emotions first thing after waking? Or is morning what brings it on? I should ask Heather when she runs and when she is more likely to cry.

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  4. Ok, I’ve got one that’s really weird too. It’s also really embarrassing so just let me get my courage up….I can’t believe I’m doing this…..I cry when I have an orgasm. It’s weird and there’s really no emotion attached to it, it’s just a release of all this stress. I read up on it and it happens to a few women. It’s a way for your body to heal itself from stress. Could it be the same for you? The adrenaline is causing a reaction and the stress release it just that cathartic? Just a thought.

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  5. If that’s true, then I am in big trouble. I want to punch or slap the person when I have an orgasm.

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  6. I don’t cry, I just feel awesome after my run. Like WOW, I did it. I kick ass. Maybe that’s it…?

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  7. I take this exercise class called Nia on Sunday mornings. We do the class with the lights off and in bare feet. There is lots of self-energy work in this class, as well as aerobic work. Inevitably, I cry. Sometimes, it’s just tears. Sometimes I stifle sobs. Usually it’s about 3/4 of the way into the class. I used to cry in yoga class too whenever we did heart openers and hip openers. Hips are where we “store” our “emotional pasts” so it makes sense.

    I only cry when I run because running f-ing hurts. Everything.

    I suspect you’re reaching a point in your run where you’re able to let go, and that’s why you cry, regardless of the trigger.

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  8. I love it. I write something about crying while jogging and it leans toward orgasms.

    I have heard of people crying from orgasms, btw. It must be common enough to have heard of it.

    Punching people? That was in an episode of Californiacation if I recall correctly.

    It’s definitely something to think about. I wonder if men ever feel this way, actually. Or if it’s specific to women. And if it is, 100 bucks says it’s related to the big H. (hormones!)

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  9. I cry after orgasm, but only after the really intense ones (which are far and few between unfortunately) I feel like my whole body just becomes overwhelmed and the only release is through crying. I’ve always to chalk it up to hormones. Being a student midwife I’m learning all about our bodies, hormones and how they can affect us. I know that oxytocin is definitely released during sex.

    I also get choked up at yoga sometimes. Even before we start doing anything. Just sitting there quietly, in a room of people reaching towards peace, i get all hippy on myself and swoon on the vibrations in there.

    I have a feeling your 20 minute marker, while for most people releases adrenaline “runners high”… yours might be releasing something different or a combination that causes your tears.

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  10. This happens to my best friend, too! She will be listening to a podcast or reading a book while working away on the Stairmaster and suddenly she is crying. And not just crying — bawling, like tears streaming down her face. To the point where she gets worried that other gym-goers think she’s either an emotional wreck or a really heavy sweater.

    We’ve discussed this topic many times before and deduced that the culprit is probably hormones, as you mentioned. Do you take birth control? I think the artificial hormones can cause major swings in emotion. Of course, the thyroid issues may also be causing those hormones to be out of whack. The only other thing I can come up with is the idea that you’re increasing blood flow to some of the more emotional areas of your brain, thereby releasing endorphins which results in tears. I occasionally get giddy when playing volleyball; like laughing uncontrollably at something only remotely funny…I always chocked it up to being over-tired.

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  11. i really loved this post, so i wanted to chime in.
    i also run so i can eat cake – well, because i love cake but i love running too, so maybe that is just half the reason.
    i don’t cry when i run, i feel so super happy and in charge of all sorts of crazy shit about 20 or 30 minutes in.
    i cry after orgasms (not sad, though, as someone else mentioned too) and also during hip-openers in yoga. funny stuff.

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  12. um, i do the same thing too…you know, when i jog. which isn’t very often. i do the slow and steady thing too. i went to the shoe store and i was like “i need new running shoes” and the clerk was like “what kind of running do you do?” so i was like “um, the slow kind”
    i left out the whole crying while running thing. i guess it’s a release for me. i cry while i write sometimes too. i hate myself for being such a pussy sometimes. jeez.
    glad to know i’m not alone though.=)

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  13. Johnny English April 3, 2009 at 12:00 am

    I cry too when I run!

    I used to think it was the sandpaper underwear that I used to wear as part of one of those crazy “lose 30 pounds in 30 days” type diets…

    But I actually think that the high one gets as the endorpins kick in just gets you that way… I know the “I’m not even” sad tears and believe me, it’s pure Euphoria.

    Try listening to a live set from Tiesto or Armin Van Buuren…

    Bring some Kleenex!

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  14. you’re still using the Vaseline, right?

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  15. I’m a male, and i run long distance. After about a 3-5 mile run, maybe 20 minutes or so, i get an emotional “high”. i just get really happy, and everything makes me smile, but maybe an hour, hour and a half later i get an emotional “down”. I’m sure its just related to endorphins, but its still annoying and i was curious if there was some way around it.

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  16. The emotional “down” you get is just your body returning to its normal everyday form. Basically, think of it as three forms: high, normal, and down. When you run you go from normal to high, and after a bit you go from high to normal. Exercising is one of the best ways to keep yourself in the normal and high levels and away from the down. Consistent exercising can lead to you hardly feeling the down level, and you can happily go through life with a happy or normal state of mind. Hope this helped!

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  17. I’m male and i run about 4 miles, usually 4 maybe 5 times a week.
    A short while into the run i do feel great, it feels good to be out running and focusing on nothing apart from what is in front of me. However near the end of the run maybe just when im finished i feel tired, sometimes drained and quite sad, i do get this urge as though i could cry. After a short while this passes but i’ve often wondered why this happens.

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  18. I am relieved to see your post. I googled-“crying while running?” because my run two nights ago was interrupted with a drop down on the ground cry fest. It felt really good. I think when you run, you are shaking off the stresses of life, it makes you feel your body. It was intense. I hope it happens again. Quite dramatic…in the mud and everything. lol.

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  19. I also cried today while running the 4-mile for Haiti fundraiser in Central Park this morning… after the 3rd mile I got really emotional, I felt physically exhausted and felt tears running on my cheek… I didn’t have to force myself to cry, all of a sudden they started falling down my cheeks… my first impulse was to control it but immediately I just said “go with it” just let it all out and yes it felt so good and in a sense cathartic… I’ve recently gone through a breakup, as well as trying to heal some childhood wounds, and feel a bit emotionally fragile. Nonetheless the experience was so relieving! And I hope it will happen again — instead of eating chocolate, I am going to go for a good run!

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  20. I also cry when I get to about 40 minutes into a speed walk. I think it comes from every cell in your body releasing toxins and stress. It’s a great feeling, sad but a great emotional release. You know, if you don’t exercise the stress builds up in every cell of your body which leads to cancer, anger, etc… So this release is good.

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  21. i laugh
    i sing out loud
    i talk to myself
    i point to the sky
    i shadow box
    i pump my fists
    i bark at dogs
    and hell YEAH!!! I CRY!!
    its the best part.
    running saved my life.

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  22. I’ve noticed the same thing. I’d forgotten, its been a long time since Ive run any distance. However a couple weeks ago I stepped off, and just like you said, about 20 minutes in, I busted down. Uppity little suburban neighborhood and I didn’t have the balls to stop so I just kept running. Interesting feeling really, a teardrop running into a bead of sweat on your cheek. Gotta be the endorphins but your right, it was damn near mystical, started thinking about my deceased grandfather and such. Kinda messed me up actually, stopped running again, it was damn near too intense. I’ll be going in the morning. Thanks for asking this question. :-)

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  23. This happened to me today for the first time, which is why I looked up the topic. It was the strangest thing .. I’ve felt the runners high before, but this time I felt like I was gonna cry uncontrollably. I almost felt like shouting out ‘praise the lord!’ ‘Hallelujah!’…. And I’m not even religious. I don’t know what that was but it felt amazing like some kind of cleansing from within.

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  24. i’m a short distance runner – no more than a 5K, but i run every day, and cry frequently when i get up to a really good speed after about a mile … hard to explain how fantastic i feel … connected to the universe in a way that i’ve never experienced … i’m nearly 50 and have only been seriously running for the last 2 years – wish i’d discovered this a long time ago – crazy good …

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  25. I been running track for over 5 years now and have never had a problem up until recently. Now when I run a race or do a hard work out I start wheezing. After this I start crying and I originally thought it was because of the wheezing but does anyone else wheeze before they start crying?

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  26. Honestly…. what “doug said at 10:16 pm on November 19th, 2010: ” is true for me too. I also tend to call out my distance and clap for my self. I cry because I love my life, and I used to want to end it… I cry because I have a torn ACL that I was supposed to stop walking on 15 years ago… I cry because of songs and thinking of sad stuff in the world and sunrises too. I think its part of why I love it. Oh, and I only bark at the dogs that barked at me first— the others I just say “Nice puppy” to :)

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  27. Wow. Interesting. I just started running three days ago. Really really a total beginner. I’m not even out there run walking for longer than ten minutes yet although I’ve experienced what I imagine is an endorphin effect. But tonight I didn’t get half way through the very first session of a couch to 5k program before I really had to stop and call it a day. I’m determined to keep on going because I know if I don’t give up I’ll get there and really love it. Except as soon as I’d warmed down and got in the house I couldn’t stop crying. It wasn’t because I felt sad, it was like my body and brain were making me do it for no reason. Like a physical symptom. Weird. I’m a man but that’s never stopped me crying if I want to. I just had no control over this one.

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  28. […] Why Do I Cry When I Jog? […]

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  29. Crying from running, I’ve been there! Catharsis, release of anything…doesn’t matter if it has a label on it, it’s definitely good to release. It’s free therapy, it’s meditation, reconnecting with self and clearing out the debris from our hearts and minds.
    Peace and keep running

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  30. I did just now after having many bouts as a runner, finally googled it and came across this. I think, in part, it has something to do with the flight or fight response, like it almost feels like when I run I am fighting for something whether it be strength, control, relieving stress,etc. so I think we cry as part of that feeling. it usually feels very good after too, maybe it is pent up emotions we aren’t aware of until we run and they come out along with the fight or flight adrenaline, so interesting none the less, explains why it is a good anti depressant along with the endorphins.

    Reply

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