Meditation: 5 Steps to Turn Your Running Into A Mindfulness Practice
It is fair to say that for a good time now we have known that running and meditation both have amazing benefits for our mental well-being. But how about combing the two and doubling the benefit? Many people these days run to 'clear their heads', we certainly can agree with that. It's normal for your mind to wander when you're running, it could be thoughts about running or what is happening at home/work (fill in the blanks...). Much of the time though, we fall into a semi-conscious state which actually means that we could be missing out on a wonderful opportunity.
Yet also, are you one of those people who would just love to sit for 40 minutes every day and meditate? And are you one of those people who just 'simply don't have the time'? Or alternatively would it be torture for you to have to sit for so long doing nothing?
Well one of the ways to maximise your run and to get in that regular meditation, is to allow the body and mind to work together with combined effort.
We've put together 5 simple steps here for you to use the next time you're after a little 'peace and quiet' from your own head.
Step 1 - How are you feeling right now?
You're about to head out of the door, your run kit is on, the watch is ready to go but, what is going on right now in this present moment? Can you get a sense of how you are feeling? Is your mind quiet, anxious, confident? Physically what is happening with your body? Maybe you feel tight from sitting at your desk, perhaps your legs are tired from yesterday's run? Alternatively, you feel light, ready to fly and you're raring to go.
There is no need to add any judgment here, just recognise how you feel. You may well notice a pattern begins to show, the you can respond in a more effective manner.
Step 2 - Breathe!
Being aware of your breath before you leave will help to give you focus as you start your run. Taking a big deep breath in through the nose and then release with a sigh out of your mouth. Do this a few times to really settle the mind and the body. Once you set off you can return to your normal breathing pattern.
Step 3 - Awareness
As you set off on your run, keep an awareness of your surroundings and that includes your body too. Now that you are moving, how does it feel? How are your muscles responding, your breath is it laboured or is it smooth? You don't have to change anything, just be aware. How does your mind feel? Is it great feeling free, do you feel anxious about your run and what is coming, is your mind caught up in the stress of work or home life? Or are you super relaxed? Either way having the awareness of your thoughts helps your mind to be calm.
Step 4 - Rhythm
You have now settled into your run, can you feel the rhythm of your breath and the way your body moves? Do you feel comfortable? Is your body moving smoothly and with balance? Are you feeling tight? It's funny how sometimes the more effort you put in normally the more we tighten up and therefore we slow down. Perhaps take your attention to your foot on the ground, where do you land first? By tapping into this rhythm it becomes a stable point of focus. So even if you are really pushing hard, notice how it can become easier to run when you bring in that rhythm.
Step 5 - Every Run is Different
Every time you put on your running shoes and step out of the door, every run is different. It doesn't matter whether you are a fully trained athlete or you're new to the sport - every run has a different dynamic. We're back to awareness a little here... notice the architecture, open spaces, trees, flowers, nature for example and really see how they look today. It is very easy for us to get lost in our own thoughts. This little exercise of awareness stops the mind from wandering and brings it back to the present moment. The more present we are and the more aware we are, it is highly likely that the way we think when we run presents itself. Are we being too hard on ourselves, are we showing feelings of confidence, am I in pain?
One of the problems of becoming 'aware' is that we start to experience both the pleasant and so-called unpleasant feelings and sensations. However - the negative feelings and pain can be used for good things. Perhaps see what happens when with awareness you allow those feelings to just rest with you for a while, in a non-judgmental manner. Rather than seeing the negative thought or pain as being part of 'me' try to just see the word 'pain' but not attach it do ourselves. If we allow ourselves to just notice and not label the feelings, they tend to magically disappear all on their own.
The bit at the end
It's worth noting however, the longer the distance you are running then the more difficult it is to remember these points, but by using the techniques regularly you'll soon see a difference in your mental state.
One final note. The one thing we do know for sure is that running releases endorphins in our brains. When that happens we feel that we can conquer the world!