Running is a great way to keep fit. You can do it anywhere, anytime, and the only piece of equipment you need is a comfortable pair of running shoes. Many people run to improve their cardiovascular fitness, build muscle mass, and improve their mental health. Mindful running can help you achieve all these things, with additional benefits for your mental health and physical safety. To run mindfully, ditch your headphones and get outdoors. Pay attention to your body and thoughts as you run, noticing every internal sensation, and be present and aware of your surroundings.
Notice Tension and Pain
Runners are prone to injuries, and many of these injuries come from training too hard, wearing bad shoes, and failing to stretch before and after a run. By running mindfully, you are tuning in to your body as you run, which means you notice tension and pain quickly. The object of mindful running is not to travel a particular distance or achieve a target speed, so you are less likely to push through discomfort in order to attain a goal. If you have struggled with running injuries in the past, mindful running is a great approach for preventing future injury and getting on top of muscle tension or gait issues before they become a major problem.
Clear Your Mind
Mindfulness is a type of meditation, so mindful running is meditating whilst moving. Combining the mental health benefits of exercising and meditation is a great way to clear your mind and blast negative thoughts away. If you find yourself overthinking or engaging with negative thoughts, try taking a run and observing your thoughts mindfully, noticing whether they stay at the same intensity throughout your run or whether they become less intense over time. If you struggle to stay on top of your thoughts, mindful running can help you build confidence in the fact that you are not your thoughts, and separate yourself and your life from any negative thought spirals that you’re caught in.
If you are training for a race such as a marathon, you need to cultivate both physical strength and mental resilience. Mindful running forces you to keep going without any distractions, which is more challenging for most people than running to music or working out in a busy gym. It is a great way to train your brain to endure boredom and stress, both of which are likely to occur during a long race. When running mindfully without distractions, you will probably run slower than usual, so it is wise to use this as a training tool rather than apply the technique in competition settings.
Exercising is often something people do because it’s good for them, rather than because they enjoy it. Mindful running challenges this philosophy. When running mindfully outdoors, whether around city streets, a local park, or on an outdoor running track, you pay attention to your surroundings. This can help you feel connected to your community and to other people. You can increase feelings of connection and community by choosing a focus for your run, for example, noticing any wildlife and greenery that you pass as you run through the city, or saying hello to other joggers as you pass them. It is easy to feel disconnected from the world, especially as people spend more time online or at home, so turning a regular run into an opportunity for connection can improve your life significantly.
Mindful running is easy to achieve; simply run without distraction, preferably outdoors. If you enjoy don’t enjoy running, you could apply the philosophy of mindful exercise to a walk or bike ride, paying attention to your body, mind, and environment instead of talking on the phone or listening to music. If you like to exercise with other people, suggest doing a portion of your workout as a mindful run, for example for ten minutes in the middle of a run. This way, you can get the benefits of mindful running without sacrificing the social benefits of exercising with others.