Mindfulness is a mental state that we can achieve by focusing on one’s awareness of the present moment. Without judgement we can acknowledge and accept current feelings, thoughts and bodily sensations without being driven by them. We can train this mental state through meditation and breath, to improve both our mental and physical health. Running can be an excellent exercise/activity where you can practice these ideas and achieve a greater sense of balance and presence. This can be applied to your other daily activities as well as make you a stronger runner.
- As you get ready, changing into your running clothes and putting on your running shoes, notice how your body is feeling. As you tie your laces, notice if your feet feel heavy or if your legs feel tired. Maybe it is early in the morning and you have a renewed sense of energy. Build an awareness of how you feel as you prepare.
- Before you walk out the door, take a moment to breathe. Take a few deep breathes, breathing in through your nose and out of your mouth to give you a grounded feeling.
- As you start to run, allow yourself to look at your surroundings, but keep your focus and attention back on yourself. Notice your breath as you move and your body begins to warm, notice your muscles and your joints. The goal is to just be aware, not try to change or “fix” anything. Notice if you are feeling pleasure, if you are enjoying the change of air and scenery. Notice if it is difficult or your brain keeps wanting to take you back outside of your body to your daily tasks.
- As you settle into your run, notice your pace. Recognize how your body adjusts. How do your muscle feel now, how is your breath? Do you feel balanced, do you feel discomfort or tightness anywhere? Don’t try to force the tension away. Acknowledge it and become more aware. If you are feeling anxious, think about your breath.
- With awareness of good sensations, we also become conscious of unpleasant ones. Become mindful of your physical capabilities and challenge yourself by accepting the feelings. But also, acknowledge when something does not feel correct or creates pain. Afford yourself the ability to stop, change your pace, or alter your route according to unhealthy discomfort.
- Feel your feet. As you run, notice how you strike the ground. Are you striking hard, or are you running with a lightness? Try to focus on the rhythm of your stride and allow that to help further relax you. Try to focus on moving your body efficiently with the least amount of force or energy, even when you are trying to push yourself harder. Try to focus on letting your body run with ease.
- Practice these ideas as you run. Try picking a stride length or section of a run to focus first. Start with 10 strides and see if you can remain present. Then try twenty, and so on. Eventually it will become easier and easier to remain present, and even, automatic at times. Don’t judge yourself. Mindfulness is skill that needs practice like any other. You will get better with time.