Mindful running is the art of keeping your mind in the present whilst on the run. A thing that is very easy to do when you are running. Especially if you are running solo. You’re not dwelling on the past or worrying about the future, but rather focusing on what you’re doing, whether it’s cooking dinner, working on a project, running on cross country paths, or writing an email.
Being mindful is reminding yourself that you’re in control of your thoughts and your body with no outer distractions causing you to move away from what you want to focus on.
How can Mindful Running be of a Benefit to Runners?
For runners, being mindful means paying attention to how their physical sensations, thoughts, and emotions are responding to running. Thinking about how their body connects, what their breathing rate is like and how relaxed they are feeling as they run. A lot of runners swear by the phrase ‘Run the mile you are in’ which is what I cover in the 100 Ways to Run Faster Guide. This is exactly what mindfulness is, knowing what state your body is in during the mile you are in and being aware of how you are feeling.
Rather than focusing on what’s hurting or how many miles you have left to run, you concentrate on where the body is. You can focus on your running form, do you feel like you are over-striding? Are your shoulders tensing up?
Being mindful while running can help focus your mind, and reduce physical tension. Especially during the latter stages of a hard session or race.
How to Add Mindful Running to Your Life
Being more mindful while you’re running may seem difficult at first, especially if you’re the type of runner who’s accustomed to thinking outside the body to distract yourself during runs. Some runners use this as a tactic to get distracted from the pain that is going on and that’s okay! Different things work for different runners. But, if you keep at it, you can really reap the benefits of mindfulness both in your running and other aspects of your life. Here are some ways you can stay mindful during your runs.
It’s easier to practice mindfulness when you’re running outdoors. You’ll give your senses many more opportunities to connect and fight against distractions of the outside world. It’s important to train your mind to do this outside a race situation so you can know what to expect come race day. Trails are an ideal place to practice mindful running, as it’s essential to be aware of what you’re doing, focus on the terrain, and avoid falling you can then focus on moving to the roads if your main race is in that terrain and scenario.
Listen to More Than Just Music
While listening to music can be beneficial for some runs, if you want to practice mindfulness, you’ll want to avoid the distraction of music. A great alternative is to listen to audio coaching, Have a listen of a session I did on mindful running here.
Use Mindful Running to Focus On Your Technique
As you are running it’s important to realise how your body is moving, you may be running with better form at the start of your run but towards the end, your back is slumped, your over-striding and your breathing is feeling laboured.
Be mindful of how your body is feeling in relativeness to the type of run you are meant to be doing. To make things easier work from head to toe. Are your shoulders tense? Are your arms swinging in a consistent momentum? How is your foot strike? Are your core and glutes engaged?
Set Yourself Small Goals
Like with your running, it is important to set yourself small goals when it comes to adding mindfulness to your life. There is little point to being a hero with it for a couple of weeks, jumping in at the deep end and getting bored of not seeing results after a couple of sessions.
Start slowly and by adding one aspect of mindful running at a time, maybe one week you are focussing on your cadence and the other you are focusing on keeping your shoulders relaxed as you run.
Be Aware of What Your Mind is Feeling
Turn your focus to your feelings and thoughts. Are you feeling pleasure for getting a break and some time to yourself by going for a run? Do you feel grateful for being healthy enough to run? What about your thoughts? Are you thinking about your lengthy to-do list?
Running can be a great way to escape from the stresses and anxiety of what is going on around you, here is a way to use running to combat these mental demons.
Pay Attention to Any Niggles or Discomfort
It’s okay to make yourself aware of pain. Think about whether or not the pain or discomfort means you need to stop or slow down, or whether you should just keep doing what you’re doing. As a rule of thumb, if an injury feels more than a 3/10 on a pain scale then it is best to stop.
Be aware of any tightness you may be feeling. Just observe it and be aware of it. You don’t need to make an effort to get rid of it mid-run because that isn’t possible. You may discover that simply the act of making yourself aware of tension will help naturally release it. If not, as soon as you get home, jump on the foam roller and work on releasing that tightness. Just being aware of these little ‘niggles’ can save you from injury.
How Do You Feel When You Finish your Run?
How do you feel when you have finished your run? Do you feel as uplifted as you were when you were mid-run? If not then it’s a sign that you need to switch up what you do post-run.
A lot of runners complete neglect the fact that after any exercise that is faster than walking it needs time to shut off and return to homeostasis. Give your body a chance to recover by adding some stretching post-run. Not only will your body be warm and ready to stretch but it will also promote recovery.
It is easy to focus on the stats and the mileage as runners and we completely neglect how our body is feeling before, during and after. Not only is this important from a health perspective but also from a performance aspect. Being more aware of how our body is feeling can make us faster runners as a whole.