My first introduction to mindfulness was in 2013 when I decided to study Hypnobirthing while pregnant with my daughter. “Mindfulness is the psychological process of bringing one’s attention to the internal and external experiences occurring in the present moment”. I studied mindfulness every night for about 6 months until going into labor. Although my labor didn’t go as expected I learned a lot in those 6 months of study.
Fast forward to 2016 when I took up running. I ran every day and the hours I spent running is where I worked through all my life’s hurdles. Over several months of running and thinking about my life, where it was headed and what was important I started to work through the huge challenges I was facing and eventually over time my runs became less and less about figuring things out and increasingly about being in the moment and enjoying life for what it was at that given time. So, what started out as a method to work through my problems morphed into what I’ve described in the past as meditation while running.
These days I still work through my problems on some of my runs, it seems the older I get the more I deal with when it comes to uncertainty about work and relationships, what school to put my kids into, am I overscheduling them or should I put them in another sport, am I a good mom and a good person. However, more and more I am running mindfully. Focusing on my surroundings and enjoying my running time for what it is, a break from all those worries and an escape from every day stress.
I have found that mindful running is enabling me to become centered and grounded. I listen to what my body is telling me and adjust my training run accordingly. If my body is completely exhausted I let it rest, knowing that I will be strong again tomorrow and I’ll be back on the trails. Mindfulness while running has also opened a whole new world of truly appreciating my surroundings. When I’m out in the mountains I stop to enjoy the views or the colors in the sky as it changes from blue to pink at sunset. I’m learning to appreciate all the small things that in the past I may have taken for granted.
What started as being mindful while running has now permeated my entire life and the lives of my family. We appreciate sunrise together every day. My small children sing “it’s a beautiful day” over and over and we discuss all the beautiful things around us and how much we appreciate the opportunity to experience them. We consume less and experience more. We were always a family that appreciated experiences, but I feel like we appreciate experiences so much more now and we are less material than ever before. I still have a long way to go in my practice of mindfulness and I still have many challenges to work through, but I think actively practicing the art of mindfulness is helping me appreciate my current situation and move through any challenges that arise.
Mindfulness is the psychological process of bringing one's attention to the internal and external experiences occurring in the present moment. It has generally been practiced while sitting quietly meditating, however the idea of mindful running has become increasingly popular. Running while being completely present in the moment and accepting whatever comes without judgement can literally take you farther than you thought possible.
Focus on the present moment – Focus your thoughts onto your current experience while running. Try to let go of your day to day stresses and enjoy your run. When thoughts or daily stressors enter your mind allow them to wash over your like a wave and let them go without getting fixated on them or trying to figure out answers. Allow your mind to let go of everything that is happening in your day and your life other than running.
Focus on what you feel in your body – Once you let your daily stresses go, you can start to listen to your body. Don’t judge, just observe. Listen to your breathing, how do your legs feel, how does your body feel. Are you feeling labored, like you really don’t want to run, or is your body feeling strong like you could keep running forever. If you feel some discomfort you can investigate that discomfort further. Is it a sharp pain, where your body is trying to tell you to stop, or is it just discomfort because you are pushing yourself and you can accept it for what it is, discomfort that will make you stronger. Running brings out your inner strength and mind over matter. For me, it takes about 5km’s of huffing and hating life until I settle into my happy place, and I can bounce in and out of that happy place so many times. Accepting the discomfort and moving past it knowing you’ll find that happy place again is how you can become stronger and run further.
Focus on what you see and hear around you – Feel the connection to the trail and to the nature that surrounds you. Be grateful for natures beauty and happy to be able to explore and enjoy it using your feet as a vehicle. Notice the smell of pine needles in the sun and listen for the trees rustling in the wind. Notice if you are running past rivers, creeks roads. Absorb all this information with acceptance and appreciation for what it is.
Do not judge yourself – Don’t judge the thoughts and feelings that are passing through you as good or bad and don’t try to change them. Don’t judge your body or your performance. Accept that you are trying your best and that this is where your body is now. It doesn’t mean that you can’t or won’t get faster or run longer with time and training, however it takes time and many hours of consistent training. Accept where you are now and how hard you have worked to get to your current level training. Enjoy the journey you are taking to increase your strength, stamina and health.
During the practice of mindfulness, you try to observe your thoughts and feelings from a distance, without judgement. Mindfulness means living in the moment, instead of letting life pass you by. When you are running appreciate the fact that you can run and enjoy the trails as so many people never get out to enjoy what you are able to experience.