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There's a machine at the gym where you lie on your stomach and lift a weighted lever by your ankles until your feet are near your buttocks. It works a major muscle in the backs of your legs, which I think is called the biceps femoris. A funny thing happens when I do that exercise: I feel a distinct euphoria. Call it a high if you will. No other weight machine gives me that same feeling.

Now combine this with my observation that people who are addicted to apparently boring sports such as swimming or running tend to have extra large biceps femoris and you have my newest hypothesis: Could the euphoric feeling that comes from working that particular muscle be the reason some people need to run ten miles a day?

Obviously people who exercise a lot will have larger muscles than people who don't. And it's no big secret that exercise makes people feel better in a number of ways. All I'm adding to the mix is the thought that perhaps that particular muscle is more responsible for athletic addiction than others.

I think you'd find that addictive sports are either intellectually challenging (golf, baseball, etc.), or they work the biceps femoris muscle, such as running, biking, and swimming.

I recently joined an indoor soccer team. It exercises the biceps femoris muscles, but it also requires a lot of thinking to make the right passes and plays. Indoor soccer is a fast game, mentally and physically, because you're never far from the ball. My theory predicts that this would be more addictive than most sports. I can attest that it is in fact insanely addicting. I've never experienced anything quite like it. I can see why soccer is the most popular sport in the solar system.

I wonder if the world would be a nicer place if everyone exercised their biceps femoris muscles and experienced its euphoria. A sentence you never hear on the news is "He was a marathon runner and a serial killer."
 
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Mar 25, 2009
I, too, preferfishing. Those machines in the gym don't have holders for my beer.
 
 
Mar 25, 2009
I've felt the same way after doing heavy deadlifts.

Speaking of which, try out deadlifts. They're much better for you than leg curls . . . they work the entire posterior chain (basically every muscle on the rear of your body). Here's a good video: http://media.crossfit.com/cf-video/CrossFit_DeadliftIntro.mov
 
 
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Mar 25, 2009
I wonder if it has something to do with the sciatic nerve? I wrecked my back and got sciatica in one leg from it, which inversely makes me feel like crap whenever it acts up... I'm wired and on edge all day. The sciatic nerve is a huge bundle of nerves running through the back of your leg and it would be stretched and massaged when you do that exercise.
 
 
Mar 25, 2009
I get the EXACT same feeling when I use that machine! I don't have room in my house for more than about one machine, but I should get one of those so I can use it whenever I want.
 
 
Mar 25, 2009
The biceps femoris bends your knee. Swimmers keep their legs straight, and joggers barely bend their knees at all. The rest of the population you mentioned, ok.
 
 
Mar 25, 2009
I always feel better when I can work out. All my old gyms had that same apparatus that you describe, but the Y I work out at now does that same exercise from a seated position. I must do things a little different than you, because all I get from either setup is music blurring, vision distorting pain until I stop, but that feels pretty euphoric!
 
 
Mar 25, 2009
There's also that you're laying with your upper body slightly downhill (at least in some machines I've seen). The rush of blood to your head could cause this euphoria.

There's also a host of research showing that physical activity is very beneficial to one's mental condition. In fact, it's recommended in the treatment of depression and anxiety.
 
 
Mar 25, 2009
Kevin mentioned Jim Fixx, runner AND serial killer. Fortunately, he was his own first victim, so his killing spree ended quickly.
 
 
Mar 25, 2009
Never felt that and in fact that was one of my least favorites machines at the gym. Another thing is, while I find moderately boring running or swimming, the most boring exercising experience for me is going to a gym and lift all sort of irons, I can't understand how gyms are so popular. I go more for the challenging thing, as you put it.
 
 
Mar 25, 2009
Uh, well Scott, I'm not sure of a delicate way to put this. Using this machine involves you rhythmically grinding your crotch against a padded bench while clenching enough muscles on the other side to stimulate your prostate. Are you sure you're not just getting a bit turned on?
 
 
Mar 25, 2009
Have you given any thought that it might not be the same muscle for everyone too? Just like people who enjoy crossword puzzles might be addicted to exercising their brains, swimmers might be addicted to exercising their lungs, and adult film stars might be addicted to exercising their...well, you get the idea. Although this would explain why we have body builders in this world, they may be addicted to exercising every muscle, some sort of defect. Although I think that Michael Phelps might be the exception to your rule, seeing as how he exercised that muscle, and he still chose to take a hit off a bong; or maybe his was just overworked.
 
 
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Mar 25, 2009
That is an amusing observation. Over the weekend I strained my biceps femoris moving furniture around. I do not agree with the old adage lift with your legs. Anyway I have been quite dis-euphoric this week, but as my leg loosens up I have been getting happier.

On the other hand, I am addicted to fishing which is not exactly a real sport, even less of a sport than golf. But, I am addicted and it makes me quite euphoric, but I hardly ever use my biceps femoris while fishing.
 
 
 
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