Meditation and Running
October 19, 2018
I'm running outside and notice the cool, crisp air filling my lungs. I see the veins of cracks spread out on the pavement below my feet. I hear a car engine and its tires kissing the ground behind me. I notice the runner coming from the other direction wearing sunglasses, a visor and ear buds.
I'm meditating while I'm running.
Our previous post talked about Tai Chi's meditative benefits, but I want to let you know that contrary to popular belief, meditation and running go together quite well, too. Perhaps, you think about sitting cross-legged in a scent-filled room as the only way to meditate, but running outside or on a treadmill is also a perfect environment to practice this restorative exercise.
Meditation is a practice of focusing attention in order to clear the mind and reduce anxiety. Learning to focus can help you tune out distractions. Meditation is not only calming—it also has some seriously positive health results. It’s been shown in certain cases to reduce stress, ease depression and anxiety, to help people cope with pain (something distance runners deal with constantly), and even to strengthen parts of the brain. There are many ways to develop a meditation and mindfulness practice—as little as five minutes a day can still have noticeable effects.
As we runners know, running is usually not just about the run. Running can be a way to work through problems, escape negative thinking, or overcome personal demons. And, it’s backed by science: a study in Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise indicated that even 30 minutes of time on a treadmill could instantly lift someone’s mood.
There really is no right or wrong way to practice running meditation but you may have to get rid of those headphones so you can focus rather than be distracted. Here are 7 things you can do to meditate while you run:
Sit Still and Breathe
Before you start running, inhale deeply. Hold your breath for a few moments, and exhale. Do this for five minutes or so, and you will experience a deep relaxation before your run.
Set an Intention
Think about a question that's been bothering you or something that has been stressing you out. Then, tell yourself that this run will help to resolve that issue. You probably don't know
how it will be done before the run, but trust yourself that by the end you may have a resolution.
This is a word or phrase you repeat over and over again to help focus your attention and keep you in the moment. I typically use a phrase like, "I feel strong today" and I repeat it with each stride. You can research ancient Sanskrit phrases as well. Whatever you choose, it should have some meaning for you.
While running, take note of everything you see, feel and hear. This is a way to focus your mind and enter into the moment you are actually experiencing. Tell yourself what you are experiencing such as, "I am aware of wind in my ears, I am aware that that I am sweating, I am aware of the smell o
f the ocean, I am aware of construction equipment in the distance, I am aware of my heart rate increasing...”
Focus on Breath and Posture
Start running at a comfortable pace, then start to ‘shape’ the breath to count inhales and exhales. Try counting ‘inhale one, two, three; exhale one, two ...’ If you get distracted from counting, notice it and then bring your awareness back to the breath count. Be aware of slumping shoulders. Try to keep the shoulders back and the chest lifted to allow maximum oxygen to enter the body.
Take an assessment of how your body is feeling during your run. Think about your arms, your forehead, your eyeballs—and forget about your legs. Don’t just focus on legs. Use your every sense and every muscle to interact with your environment. Feel the air touching each part or the sun shining down upon you. This consistent interaction will develop a stronger connection with nature an
d add to your healing and running ability.
Think about how fortunate you are to be able to run. What would it be like if you couldn't do this? Also, take in the beauty of your environment - the place you get do the runnin
g in. Meditation means you should be immersed in the process and the feelings and sensations of running. Think about the feeling that you get to run rather than you have to run. When you are grateful for even just the opportunity and ability to be running, it opens up the space within you to become more connected to everything.
Most of all, don't think about doing meditation in the wrong way. The goal is not to clear your mind but recognize the mind is present and you are observing things in the moment. When we choose to not focus on our daily distractions, and let those thoughts leave us, we can stay in the moment and ensure we are meditating.