Runners push themselves. We test our limits by pushing our bodies and our minds to move out of their comfort zones. You may be familiar with mindfulness meditation, a practice of being present and paying attention in a particular way. Mindful running, or bringing a new awareness to each and every run can enhance your performance and bring a new ease to your running practice.
Mindful running may sound new but in practice it has existed for years. Japanese marathon monks of Mount Hiei are reported to have walked or run a marathon each day for an incredible 1,000 days using these techniques. The monks tried to make running a natural state of being. While their methods were extreme, we can apply some of the basic principles to our own running.
Practise being uncomfortable
You are going to feel some discomfort during your run. Be hyper aware of where this is taking place. Breathe into this place. One great way to practise this is to train your mind and body to send your breath to one spot. Find a comfortable place in your house where you can spend five minutes practising.
Begin your practice by taking 20 full inhales and 20 full exhales. Count your breaths and try to keep each inhale slow and steady, then each exhale the same length as your inhale. Lift your right arm straight in the air above your head for three full minutes. Continue breathing, this time count to 10. When you have reached 10, start over. You will start to feel discomfort in your arm and shoulder. Notice how your breath changes with the discomfort. Try and breathe through the discomfort. Imagine physically sending breath to that discomfort and come back to the slow steady inhale and exhale.
Find a pattern in your breathing
Early in your run, find a pattern in your breathing. Prana, or breath, is the life force of yoga and can be applied to your running. It brings energy or nutrients to your muscles. Finding a rhythm will help you to not only concentrate on getting enough air in, but will help you to keep an even pace throughout your run. Begin with a simple breathing pattern to start. Take three strides on your inhale, and four strides on your exhale. Try and remain focused on the pattern for the first 10 minutes of your run. As you feel tired or discouraged, bring your awareness back to each inhale and exhale.
Our bodies are amazing for allowing us to run. During your run, check in with yourself. Remind yourself of what you are doing and how good you are being to yourself. Be grateful your body has the strength and agility to run and recognize that not everyone can do the same. Thank your body for running. Gratitude will bring you a new energy, allowing yourself to endure more. It will also bring you joy and happiness making the entire experience more enjoyable. Setting a mantra at the beginning of your run is a good way to remind yourself.
A simple statement to repeat throughout might be “I am strong and can move with ease.”
Bring your awareness to your run, without judgement, paying attention to your body, your breath and your mind. Notice how your arms swing, the pattern in which your feet hit the ground and how fast you are going. Notice your breath and make a note if you feel the breath become too quick. Be mindful of the thoughts coming into your mind. Acknowledge them and then come back to your run. Try a body scan every 10 minutes. Begin with your head and thoughts, moving down to your chest and breath, then to your arms, legs and finally your feet.
Being present in your run will help you better connect with your body and bring a new ease to your running.