Running is my meditation.
I’ve said this many times when trying to convince myself that it’s ok I didn’t stick to my resolution to sit for 5 minutes a day. But I knew there was likely something more to it and that’s why I dove headfirst in to the Run Mindful retreat in Malibu earlier this year. I wanted someone to get me to sit, to FEEL the value of of that time.
Throughout that week, I realized that while running is certainly a time to get my mind right, it wasn’t mediation.
It was mindfulness and sometimes it was purely zoning out.
Mindfulness it turns out could be one of the best tricks a runner can learn…after all we know running is 90% mental, right?! Let’s dive in to what all these terms mean, why you should care and where to start.
What’s the difference?
I’ll be honest, I didn’t really understand the difference because everyone who talked about meditation said it “makes you more mindful”…so therefore wasn’t mindfulness just meditating?
Relaxing is when you zone out watching Survivor or find yourself engrossed in a book so intriguing you forget the time. It’s when your mind shuts down and you let go…but that’s not meditating.
Mindfulness is when you’re aware of the present moment. You don’t judge it as good or bad, you just breathe and accept it for exactly what it is.
Meditation is sitting with intention and focus. You’re learning how to let go of the monkey mind and find the space between your thoughts.
Now we know the difference, so what’s the big deal? Why is everyone suddenly talking about mediation and mindfulness?Is it mindfulness or meditation? And can it make you a better runner? #running Click To Tweet
INeedMotivation.com lists 100 benefits of mediation, here are just a few:
5- Leads to a deeper level of physical relaxation.
8- Decreases muscle tension
9- Helps in chronic diseases like allergies, arthritis etc
12- Enhances the immune system
14- Enhances energy, strength and vigor
15- Helps with weight loss
30- improved performance in athletic events
31- Normalizes to your ideal weight
32- harmonizes our endocrine system
33- relaxes our nervous system
39- Helps control own thoughts
40- Helps with focus & concentration
41- Increase creativity
49- Develops intuition
50- Increased Productivity
56- Develop will power
61- Increased job satisfaction
66- Helps in quitting smoking, alcohol addiction
69- Require less time to fall asleep, helps cure insomnia
71- Reduces road rage
72- Decrease in restless thinking
73- Decreased tendency to worry
78- Grows a stable, more balanced personality
80- Helps keep things in perspective
81- Provides peace of mind, happiness
95- Helps living in the present moment
98- Experience an inner sense of “Assurance or Knowingness”
Those are long term benefits from taking a moment to sit each day…meanwhile you could actually begin to implement mindfulness during every single run! Why would you do that?
A few benefits as described by Elinor Fish, creator of Run Wild Retreats which focus on helping us learn mindful running:
- Drop Comparisons: Mindful running shifts your focus from how you compare to others to how you compare to yourself. You replace external success measurements (like race results) with internal rewards, like deriving confidence from your own evolution as a runner.
- Enjoy the Endorphins: Running triggers the release of hormones and endorphins that are known to bring about feelings of happiness and a sense of well being. However, it’s possible to miss these effects entirely when your mind is elsewhere and you are disconnected from the running experience.
- Better Running: Being mindful of whether your back is straight, core is engaged, elbows are driving back (instead of outward) can make running feel far easier… running without tension requires less energy to propel you forward.
Of course there are truly a million more reasons that apply to your situation, but in general being mindful is going to help you enjoy the run more and focus on the right things. This is not to say you can no longer chat with a friend, listen to Eminem during speed work or dial in a podcast. Consider using mindfulness as you start the run or throughout to help you reconnect.
Tips for Beginning Meditation
As with training for a race don’t expect to be perfect on day one or even to hit 20 minutes immediately. Instead, think of it like running…you start with one minute and build on that.In order to get in a place where you can let go of thoughts, it helps to have a routine or something that creates a break between your activities and simply being.
Set a timer
Set your timer for 1 minute on Monday, 2 minutes on Tuesday and so forth. The idea is to keep you from breaking your mediation to check the clock! Maybe at the end of a week you find that you can’t handle more than 5 minutes, but that’s ok. In those 5 minutes you will have made a difference already in your mindset and physiology.
Focus on your breathing
When you start out one of the easiest meditations is simply to think “in” and “out” with each breath. Try to breathe deep in to your belly to start out and then let your breath normalize.
Let your thoughts go
Meditation is thought of as a process of NOT thinking, but it’s more about letting go of the thoughts that come through and not hanging on to them. Ways to let go include imagining your thoughts in a bubble that is floating away or taking a broom and sweeping away thoughts as they come up.
Consider chanting OM like you would in yoga or picking a specific word like love, happiness or freedom. It’s impossible to be thinking and focusing on a single word at the same time. Starting your meditation this way can help you to stop the initial chatter in your mind.
Instead of trying to go it alone, use a free tool like the Headspace App. You can figure out what type of mediation works best for you this way. Maybe you like visualization or chimes or simply complete silence.
If you find that amazing ideas keep popping in your head then keep a pad of paper nearby and write them down. Try not to turn your meditation in to a to do list, but it’s not uncommon for it to help your creativity flow. Without being hindered by tasks your brain is able to tap in to other areas.
It might be uncomfortable. But I know all of you can handle discomfort because you sign up for races, you hit the gym and you make choices each day that may not be the easiest, but are ultimately in your best interest.
While you could skip the meditation and just focus on the mindful running, the truth is the two go hand in hand. Each one will make you better at the other and both will make you better at life.
Have you ever tried meditation?
Do you feel mindful during your run?
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