This is a guest post by Ali Schwanke, Founder of Simple Strat. You can learn more about Simple Strat here.


Why do some of our best ideas come at random times?

Perhaps you’ve had a stroke of brilliance in the shower, right before you go to bed, or when you’re out for a run (or maybe during the middle of the Good Life Halfsy!).

As an entrepreneur and marketing professional, I’ve come to depend on these sporadic sources of inspiration. For me, running somehow stitches together the ideas I’ve been tossing around all day – and suddenly I can see solutions to unsolvable problems.

It might seem crazy, but if you talk to other runners, you’ll find a similar story.


Running makes your brain an idea machine

While this random formation of ideas may seem out of the ordinary, it’s not random at all. It’s actually rooted in science and the chemistry of your brain. 

You see, activities like running release dopamine, which puts your brain into a high, relaxed state. You may have heard this referred to as the “runner’s high”. 

This flooding of dopamine on our gray matter creates a somewhat distracted mind that allows our thoughts to wander – and when our mind is relaxed or distracted, our subconscious goes to work.

This is one of my favorite trails in Lincoln – and it’s been the source of hundreds of ideas over the years.


Running helps you think better

In addition to the rush of endorphins, research shows that when we exercise, blood pressure and blood flow increase everywhere in the body, including the brain. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to understand that more blood means a boost in oxygen delivery to your brain.

This boost of oxygen improves your cognitive skills – which is excellent since these are the skills that your brain uses to think, read, learn, remember, reason and pay attention. 

Consider this — you may actually think better and more clearly when you go for a run. 

This may be the reason why, when I’m having a bad day or if I’m super crabby, my family asks me if I’ve gone for a run yet that day. 

Usually I need to “clear my head”. This advice is spot on and I feel much better afterward.


Running tips for generating more and better ideas

Over the years I’ve ran everything from local road races to Rock n’ Roll marathons. But really I just love lacing up my shoes and heading out for a few miles. In doing so, I’ve developed some practices that have led to better ideas and inspiration in the end that you may find helpful as well.

  • Plan a run after a long meeting or workshop. Your brain will likely be fatigued from having to engage for so long and it will appreciate the ability to get out and wander.
  • Switch up your route. Look for key things that inspire you on the trail. Let your curiosity determine your steps.
  • Run the same route 5 days in a row. By day 5, you may find yourself on autopilot with your brain free to wander and focus on a tough challenge at hand. Just watch out for the cracks in the sidewalk (or you’ll fall and bust open your knee, yes, I’ve done that).
  • Seed your brain in advance. Write out a list of challenges you’re dealing with. Read through those and pick a few to think about while you run.
  • Don’t forget to document your thoughts. When you get back from a run, write down the first 5 things that come to your mind. Don’t wait for a reason or understanding of these things. They may be questions, ideas, issues, etc.

What kind of ideas have you come up with while running? Please share. We can’t wait to hear your story.

Learn more about Ali Schwanke and her marketing agency Simple Strat at