At its core, running is a pretty mindless activity. You put one foot in front of the other and repeat for between 1 minute to 10 hours.
This is the reason some people hate running and find it boring.
It’s also the reason others love it. It’s one of the reasons I love running long distances – the physical repetition is the perfect opportunity to zone out and let my mind wander.
My mind makes some unusual connections while I let it wander as my body runs on auto-pilot.
With the rise in articles about mindfulness and meditation, I’ve become increasingly aware of the difference between intentionally and unintentionally zoning out.
Intentionally zoning out = Good (if not essential – especially during long, hard, runs)
Unintentionally zoning out = Bad
‘Mindful running’ has become a running industry buzzword and it can mean different things to different people.
I think of mindful running as the opposite of unintentionally zoning out – it is connecting your body and your mind.
Having a conversation with your body as you run.
Right now, with races temporarily on the back burner, it is the perfect time to add some mindful runs into the mix.
Reconnect your body and your mind on the run.
How To Do A Mindful Run
I won’t pretend to be mindfulness or meditation expert. I only know what works for me.
Consider using this process as your starting place and add to it (and remove from it) to find the process that works best for you, your body, and your mind.
- These runs should be done at a comfortable pace. The primary focus of a mindful run is to work out your mind more than your body.
- No tech, no music, no podcasts, no GPS, no Garmin. Any of these tools will distract you from your thoughts.
- Run solo. Like tech, running with others will distract you from the run.
- Run a known route so you aren’t distracted by way-finding mid-run.
- You may not be as aware of your surroundings as you focus on your body and mind, so run at a time and place where it’s safe and use your common sense.
An alternative: Some apps (like the Nike + Run app) have guided mindfulness runs. I’ve never used them personally, but they may be a good alternative if you are totally new to mindfulness practices.
Set Your Intention and Breathe
As you start, set your intention to focus on your body and mind.
Before you start running, focus on your breath.
Slow down your breath and focus on the feeling of air moving in and out of your nose and your lungs.
Feel your feet connecting to the ground.
Feel your weight balancing equally between your feet as you continue to breathe deeply.
As you start moving, notice how your weight moves as you run.
Become aware of the feeling of the bottoms of your feet hitting the ground and then lifting off.
Notice Your Body
As you continue to run, scan your body from the top of your head to the soles of your feet.
- How is your posture?
- Where is your gaze? Down at your feet or more ahead of you?
- Is your jaw loose or clenched?
- Are your shoulders down along your back or scrunched up to your ears?
- Is your chest open and broad or constricted?
- How are your hands? Loose and relaxed or clenched in a fist?
- Are your hips and pelvis feeling light or heavy?
- Continue to notice the feeling of the soles of your feet hitting the pavement.
Notice where you are holding the stress of your life in your body and how it shows up or affects your run.
Notice whatever it is you notice, pleasant or not.
Don’t assign meaning to any of the sensations you may feel (as in: I feel a niggle in my knee- that must mean I’m injured).
Don’t judge or rate these sensations as good or bad.
Change what you believe needs changing (for example, unclenching fists or your jaw) and accept everything else for what it is.
Keep intentionally breathing.
Notice the feeling of air moving in and out of your nose and lungs.
Keep taking deep breaths at a normal pace. If you are gasping for air, you are running too fast.
Notice Your Thoughts and Emotions
As you run, your mind will wander.
Acknowledge your thoughts and recognize the emotions that come and go as you run.
Notice the thoughts and emotions without passing judgement on them or rating them as good or bad.
As you finish running, reconnect to the feeling of your feet planted firmly on the ground.
Take a few more deep breaths and feel the air moving in and out of your nose and lungs.
Take a few moments to consider the run you just did and the feelings, sensations, thoughts, and emotions you noticed as you ran.
Break out your running journal and jot down your thoughts about your mindful run (while the thoughts are still fresh) before you return to real life.