How Mindful Running Can Make Your Long Runs Meditative
Mindfulness is undoubtedly one of the biggest buzzwords of the year. A technique popularly used during meditation, you can practice it anywhere while doing pretty much anything. Although the idea is relatively simple—mindfulness is all about being aware—the practice can take some time to master.
In such a busy world, getting lost in thought can be a daily occurrence. Stress about your job, your studies or about how you’re going to pay the rent can take up a significant amount of space in your mind, clouding your thoughts and keeping you from living in reality. After all, we don’t really experience life if all we can think about is the past or the future. Practicing mindfulness can bring us back into the present moment and allow us to experience the world around us.
Mindfulness has the potential to make our world more colorful, our music more enjoyable, and our food more delicious. It can help us feel happier by taking our attention away from our endless ruminating and turning our focus to what’s right in front of us. But being mindful doesn’t just happen overnight. It takes practice.
Staying mindful during exercise can also help put you in touch with your body. Mindful running is an excellent way to leave your worries behind—you can quite literally run away from your stress. Instead of getting lost in thought, lose yourself in the feeling of your feet hitting the pavement or the thumping of your heart. Feel your breath as it gets shallow, and notice the beauty of the world around you.
Curious to see what mindful running can do for you? Let’s take a look.
What is mindful running?
Chances are when you go running, you’re trying your best not to think about how you’re running. In fact, you probably already do whatever you can to avoid thinking about it.
Perhaps you have your music blaring, a favorite podcast on or an audiobook playing as so many of us do. But what if you take those distractions away? What if you just go it alone?
Meditation doesn’t always have to require sitting in complete silence or listening to whale songs. The thing is, running is basically a meditative action in itself. Step after step, one foot in front of the other, repetitive movements are what keep us moving forward. Like other activities, including yoga and Pilates, mindful running places the focus of the mind on something physical and prevents it from wandering aimlessly.
But why not just run normally? According to a 2016 study in The Translational Psychiatry, a combination of exercise and meditation can have some real benefits, including possibly reducing depression.
Photo courtesy of Andrew Tanglao on Unsplash
How do you practice mindful running?
So, if you want to try out mindful running, how do you go about it? Here are some tips for starting with mindful running.
Do your research
Although we like to think we know a thing or two about fitness, it can’t hurt to do read up on different techniques and methodologies. Books like Mindful Running by Mackenzie Lobby Havy and Run for Your Life by William Pullen provide readers detailed instructions on how to begin making the most of their runs and offer plenty of inspiration for those who aren’t sure where to start.
Curious about meditation in general? We've got an article for that, too.
Check-in with yourself
One of the most important things is to remain in the moment, taking note of exactly how you feel inside. Pay attention to your breath: is it shallow or steady? Could you hold a conversation if you wanted to? Are you letting your mind wander, or are you really one with your body?
If you start letting your mind gravitate towards negative thoughts, begin to focus on your breath. Take deep breaths in and out, or count from one to ten with each full inhale. Do whatever feels good!
Take it outside
Are you a treadmill runner? Maybe it’s time to try out something new. Many mindful runners prefer to run outside because that’s where you’ll have the most stimuli to be aware of, whether that’s a dog running alongside its owner, the cold autumn breeze, or the sounds of birds. Just being outside gives your senses plenty to latch onto, and that makes for a run that’s different every time.
Speaking of outside... Find out why taking a walk in the woods can do more for us than we may think in this article about forest bathing.
Leave the headphones behind
For all the music lovers out there, this might be the hardest idea to get behind. Still, it’s a must if you want to get the most out of your experience. Give it a try, and don’t give up if it doesn’t work the first time. It takes practice.
Notice your footsteps
As you run, focus on the way your feet strike the ground. Are you light on your feet, or are you slamming them down? The regularity of your feet hitting the ground can add to the meditativeness of the action.
Here’s a tip: Imagine yourself running away from your stressful feelings, with each step getting one step closer to peace of mind.
Keep your eyes out, folks. If you haven’t heard all about mindful running yet, we’re sure it’ll make its way onto your radar soon (like this article just did!). But hey, even if you don’t care for running—or the mindful variety for that matter. At least there’s always 8fit workouts!