Mindful Running

Here’s why and how to practice mindfulness while you’re in motion
  • 17 Apr - 23 Apr, 2021
  • Mag The Weekly

These days, folks are striving to be more mindful in every part of their lives. But seriously, what does that even mean?

Mindfulness is the practice of paying attention to the present moment without judgment or evaluation. In other words, simply noticing. It's noticing your thoughts, your breath, the sensations in your body; noticing when your mind wanders off or when something distracts you. And you do this without lingering or ruminating on whatever your observation.

As a runner, specifically, it's about developing a deeper relationship with running other than just clocking up miles to share with strangers, or blindly preparing for your next marathon. A mindful runner is someone who strives to evaluate their run beyond just metrics on a watch and the performance of the body, and doesn't just focus on distance and time, but also considers the impact of the run on the mind, the lessons learned on the run, and how that information can be shared to inspire others.

When we do this, when we tap into the meditative flow of a run until it becomes effortless and easy – you know, that feeling where you could run forever – that's when the flood gates of benefits open.

What are the benefits of mindful running?

Research backs up mindfulness as a performance aid. It should also come as no surprise that being a mindful runner can improve your mental well-being, too. For one, it helps with depression. Bringing mindfulness to running can also be a method of alleviating anxiety. According to a research, engaging in mindfulness diminished competition-related anxiety. That same research also found that being more mindful came with an uptick i n self-confidence.

How to be a more mindful runner

Mindfulness is a learned behaviour, and it will take some time to embody this approach. To get in tune with yourself while running, try one of the five pro tips below.

Connect with your breath

Bringing your attention back to your breath and the sensation of breathing is a quintessential mindfulness exercise. Guiding yourself through your inhales and exhales is a way to bring yourself back into the present. This skill will become more natural the more you do it. For example, while waiting in line, instead of immediately grabbing your phone, take three deep, diaphragmatic breaths to anchor yourself to that moment. Becoming a more mindful human will help you become a more mindful runner.

Run through your senses

Focusing on these things helps keep you connected to the present moment. Next time you run, you tune into specific physical sensations, like your posture and shoulders, your swinging arms, your rotating hips, your knees, and the impact of each foot plant to help achieve this. The more you can do exercises like this, the more efficiently you can run your body.

Take a break from tech

We know data is king. And runners want to record everything: pace, splits, distance – all the things. But that can become all-consuming. Instead, experts suggest ditching your watch at least once a week to focus on feeling, not metrics. Ways to do this: Beginning and ending your run with focus on the breath, before you even start moving. Closing your eyes and checking in with your body, from the feet, all the way up to the head. Spending the first mile of the run focusing on the feeling of gratitude rather than speed, gently warming up into your run.

Just visualise it

Using mental images to help prep the mind for an experience is a powerful tool. Takes advantage of this by first dedicating your runs to people in your life – those who are unable to run, friends who are no longer here, people within the community who you want to inspire – and then visualise the person in your mind and imagine you’re running towards them or that they are beside you. Do this whenever your mind begins to wonder.

Try the STOP method

When out running and a break presents itself, think STOP: 1. Stop. 2. Take a breath 3. Observe your mind and body. and 4. Proceed again. Doing the STOP method when at a traffic light or taking a quick water break can help you become more aware of your body and mind.

Ultimately, with a present-moment mindset, a mindful runner will likely put themselves in the position to increase their performance metrics, and enjoy their runs more along the way.