Lockdown has been tough, hasn’t it? We’re all wondering when we can get out and do “regular” things, and there’s stress on us to sharpen our skills, or take up new hobbies … it can be overwhelming. I’ve talked before about self-care not being selfish, and I can’t emphasize it enough here – you do not have to be a superhero! I want to follow on here from that blog and talk about another handy tool to help you center and practice mindfulness. Let’s talk about Mindful Running.
What is Mindful Running?
That’s a great question. I’m sure that it probably conjures up images of some crazy combinations of yoga poses and mantras on a running track. But it’s not as complicated as it might sound. Mindful Running is connecting with your body. It’s not about how far, or how fast you run, it’s all about becoming consciously aware of your body and letting your mind relax.
It doesn’t have to be a run. It can be a walk, a cycle, a swim – but it’s connecting physical exercise with meditation and mindfulness practices in this fantastic combination that helps you really focus and get rid of the distractions and stress in everyday life.
A 2016 study into combining meditation and physical exercise found that a combination of meditation and aerobic activity helped reduce symptoms of depression. Mindfulness itself is also used as a tool in treating depression with some good results in preventing relapses and distress.
The aim of Mindful Running, though, is to become aware of how your body is feeling in the now. It’s about being active, getting outside and taking a moment to connect with your thoughts, ideas, and what is going on. It is a tool to switch off from the outside and keep your mind in the present and remind yourself you are in control of your thoughts and your body. You’re paying attention to your physical self and feelings, and how it is all connected.
How can I do it?
Mindful Running is the perfect activity to do alone or in a group. It’s also extremely flexible and works with your schedule as it can be done at any time of the day. Whether you’re in the office or at home – you can set your own time to do it. A great idea for office workers is packing your sneakers, and taking a walk in your lunch break to recharge for the afternoon (and avoid that legendary 3pm slump where your body thinks it needs a nap. Hint: make sure you’re getting enough sleep as well to prevent this!)
Here are some tips from me to help you start this healthy habit:
Ditch the headphones
I’ll be the first to admit that I love a good podcast or audiobook, but you really want your mind clear of other thoughts to start. You can then focus on connecting with your body and your mind without distraction.
Find your path
Choose a happy place to run. It can be through a park, a forest, or my favorite – the canal near my house. The idea is though to keep away from the hustle and bustle of shopping streets (too many distractions!) or busy roads (traffic dodging). Choose a peaceful, safe place to run.
The whole idea of Mindful Running is to keep your mind in the present, and it starts with connecting with your breathing. Take time before you begin to focus on it, and when you find yourself losing your concentration, bring it back to your breathing. Take a couple of deep breaths in through your nose and then exhale fully out your mouth to recenter.
Don’t focus on numbers or targets. The idea is that you are disconnecting with the outside world and connecting with your body. You don’t have to go a certain distance or hit a certain pace. Remember to switch off those notifications on your smartwatch.
It’s normal that your thoughts will wander during your run. Acknowledge them, but bring them back to center around your breathing as this happens. Inhale through your nose, exhale through your mouth and connect with yourself again.
Listen to your body
Listen to your body’s feedback. Mindful Running is about learning to understand your body’s messages, so switch up your routine and then connect with the feelings. You can try a new route going uphill, or a couple of sprints in your run. Test your body and even journal these feelings so you can track what your thoughts were as you did them.
The main thing is to come away from each session and not feel like it’s a chore or something you have to do. Mindful Running is about connecting with your body, so it’s really a moment that you’re taking to look after your body, mind, and soul. Take charge, take control, and have fun with it.
Is Mindful Running for you?
If you’ve been reading this post and thinking this is something I could get into, I’ve got some big news for you. I recently became a fully accredited Mindful Run Nederland coach. This means that I’m ready to assist you and help you with the technique.
As the only accredited trainer in Zoetermeer who speaks Dutch and English, I’m going to start running small courses in my local area, but if that’s not convenient, I also have online courses!
Of course, social distancing rules apply, but it’s essential right now to think about getting outside and getting exercise. Ready to take the plunge into Mindful Running?
Get in touch and let’s see how we can work together on not only our fitness goals but being in touch with our minds.