What is Mindfulness and How to Practice Mindfulness While Running
Mindfulness is the practice of paying attention to the current moment, which is an important skill to have while doing some kind of physical activity. Running with mindfulness will help you relax and get more out of your runs by helping you to savor the moment rather than focus on the finish line.
Although the satisfaction of completing a run is a wonderful feeling, practicing mindfulness. At the same time, running will help you become more conscious of your body, breath, and environment, as well as help you reach a state of flow or complete immersion. You can reduce discomfort during your runs, improve your results, and even avoid injuries by removing yourself from mental distractions.
How Can Mindfulness Benefit Runners?
Being attentive for runners entails paying attention to how their physical experiences, feelings, and emotions respond to running, as well as how they are all connected. “Run the mile you’re in,” runners also tell one another. Staying concentrated on your workout, actions, body, and emotions are what mindfulness is all about.
According to a 2009 report on the impact of mindfulness training on long-distance runners, mindfulness training will help them “gain greater acceptance of any experience of fear about running and not to let their stresses distract and annoy them as often.”
Rather than concentrating on what’s tough or how many miles remain, you should also rely on your body’s feelings and mental condition. Focus on taking deep breaths. Keeping a good running style can benefit stride turnover while running mindfully.
Benefits of Mindfulness
Keeping your mind concentrated and reducing physical pain can be as simple as paying attention to your breath as well as your posture. Mindfulness can help many athletes, including long-distance runners. Mindfulness training has been seen to benefit athletes in the following ways:
- Reduce the tension levels. According to a report released in 2019, mindfulness meditation can help elite athletes cope with competition-related stress and anxiety.
- Improve your results. Mindfulness-based approaches can increase athletic performance and executive functions of athletes, according to new evidence. One study from 2018 found that mindful running in blackout situations increased runners’ performance. Researchers discovered that athletes were more able to concentrate when they ran in complete darkness with a flashlight.
- Assist in rehab. According to a 2018 report, mindfulness-based treatments for wounded athletes will enhance sports recovery services by raising physical pain perception and enhancing mental health.
- Reduce the chances of being hurt. Injury avoidance is linked to having more attention during any physical exercise. According to one study, mindfulness-based approaches reduced the risk of injury among high school and college students, particularly those who were stressed.
- Enhance your happiness. The effects of mindfulness on mental well-being are well known, and research has shown a connection between mindfulness and mental well-being in athletes. Mindfulness therapy increased mental well-being and strengthened flow states of baseball players, according to a 2019 survey, and a 2016 study found that combining meditation and physical activity greatly improved symptoms in depressed participants.
Mindfulness can assist athletes in focusing on stimuli they have control of, such as their running style and breathing. Although you can’t really control your emotions, mindfulness shows you how to become conscious of them by studying them.
The Flow State
“Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience“ by Hungarian-American psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, who famously coined the term “flow state,” describes this state of total immersion as “a state in which people are so immersed in an activity that little else seems to matter; the experience is so enjoyable that people can continue to do it even at great cost, for the sheer sake of doing it.”
Running is notoriously tough, and even the most seasoned runners occasionally have a bad day. However, regardless of one’s mood, energy level, or present physicality, mindful running will help runners completely immerse themselves in the process of running and genuinely enjoy it.
Any runner or exerciser will get “in the groove” by being conscious when moving, such as during a yoga session. A mindful exercise usually starts by concentrating on the breath to get the consciousness into the current moment and then moves on to paying attention to bodily stimuli.
For a few minutes when running, pay attention to your inhales and exhales until you develop a rhythm. Observing feelings in your body and muscles, as well as your gait as you stride, will help you get closer to the power of now once you get started.
When your mind is free of the normal noise and chatter, and you’re not thinking about how far you’ve come or how far you always have to go, you’re in the flow. You should easily put your focus back on your breath and body if your mind begins to drift away from the present moment.
When running, focusing on your breath and physical experiences and paying attention to your surroundings will help you maintain a flow state, making your runs more fun and successful.
There’s plenty of research that practicing mindfulness can help people relax and sleep well by activating the parasympathetic nervous system, the body’s rest-and-digest system. Athletes’ regeneration is aided by better sleep health, according to research.
Engaging the “relaxation reflex” by mindfulness will help runners and athletes heal faster because when the nervous system is down-regulated, you’ll actually feel more rest and less tension. On rest days, practicing mindfulness will help you calm and recover your muscles while also strengthening your mental health.
How to Practice Mindfulness While Running
Being more attentive when running can seem challenging at first, particularly when used to using disassociation (thinking outside the body) to keep yourself distracted during runs. However, if you stick with it, you’ll enjoy the rewards of mindfulness in your running as well as other parts of your life. Here are few suggestions for staying present when running.
Warm Up With Belly Breathing
To get the most out of the conscious running, you can de-stress before starting a workout to avoid going from one stress level (e.g., from work) to a higher level of stress (i.e., during the run).
Before you start running, spend a few moments staying in contact with your breath to help you stay focused. To warm up with belly breathing, follow these steps:
- Inhale deeply through your nose and exhale deeply through your teeth.
- To ensure that your diaphragm (not your lung) inflates with air, place one hand on your chest and the other on your abdomen.
- Until you begin your run, take five or six deep breaths. You should do them right after some gentle stretching and other pre-run warm-up exercises.
Practice Nasal Breathing
Although deep belly breathing is beneficial while sitting, breathing out of your mouth while running can be troublesome. According to some studies, mouth breathing during exercise can potentially up-regulate the nervous system, inducing discomfort and hyperventilation in some situations. During strenuous workouts such as hiking, experts prescribe nasal ventilation. Here’s how it’s done:
- Concentrate on taking slow inhales and exhales from the nose when exercising.
- If breathing deeply through your nose is painful for you, you can exhale through your mouth on occasion. However, if you keep a steady running rhythm, you should be able to practice nasal breathing for the entirety of your race.
- Simply concentrate on and breathe in and out to help you get into the zone. As you go, note how the breathing rhythm begins to change.
Feel Sensation In Your Body
When you’re noticing sensations in your body, you should probably notice if you’re in pain and understand the distinction between actual pain and distress. If you’re experiencing discomfort, you should either slow down or stop running and walk it off. A core part of mindful running is knowing when to let go and drive yourself a little further. Here are some pointers to get you started:
- When you begin to move, your body will begin to warm up. Pay attention to how the thighs, glutes, core, and arms feel.
- Some strain or tightness in the shoulders or legs should be noted. It’s enough to notice it and be mindful of it; there’s no reason or need to get rid of it.
- It’s possible that actually being mindful of the tension will help you relieve it spontaneously.
- Check to see if you’re tensing up any areas of your body that aren’t necessary.
Experienced runners develop the ability to race in pain. If you’re new to running, you can stop when you feel uncomfortable and gradually increase your stamina, especially in pain.
Observe Your Surroundings
When you exercise outside, you’ll have more chances to stimulate the senses, making mindfulness easier to do. When you take in the majesty of the natural world around you, let the breeze caress your cheek.
Trails are perfect for practicing mindful running because staying focused on the terrain and not slipping or dropping requires being conscious of what you’re doing. When you run on trails, you can also take in a variety of nature.
- Don’t attempt to take in anything around you; instead, concentrate on a few basic details, such as the bright color of leaves or flowers, or the architectural detail of a structure.
- If you can’t get outside for a run, take note of what’s going on in your home or at the gym if you’re using a treadmill.
- No matter how familiar your surroundings are, look for something that catches your eye or something you might not have seen before.
Listen to the Sounds Around You
Take note of the sights and sounds that surround you. Although listening to music can be helpful for certain workouts, you’ll actually want to skip the noise of music if you want to reap the full benefits of mindful training.
When you can devote your full attention to your breath, body, and surroundings, concentrating and remaining connected to them would be much easier.
Notice Your Thoughts
Concentrate on your emotions and opinions. Are you happy that you have a break and more time to yourself? Can you consider yourself fortunate to be able to run? Whether you’re ruminating over a long to-do list or replaying a previous conversation with a client or colleague in your mind, pay attention to what you’re saying.
Know that making feelings and noticing them is just part of the mindfulness process. When an idea comes into your head, remember it and then let it go. Since the mind’s nature is to dream, it’s impossible that you’ll go a whole run without thinking a single thing.
Focus On Your Stride
What’s the state of your running form? Keep an eye on how your feet land, whether you’re toe striking or falling off your heel. It can be very calming to feel and even hear the sound of your feet striking the ground.
Running softly with short moves is a good idea. Instead of plodding, concentrate on gliding over the track. To avoid overstriding, make sure your feet land under your hips rather than in front of you.
Find Your Flow State
It’s now time to bring everything together so you can achieve complete immersion. Note how much focus you have on the current moment and how it makes you feel until your breath and body are aligned in movement, and you’re soaking in your surroundings and being consistent with your stride. There’s no reason to discuss it right now; remember it.
Use your breath, senses, sound, and mental attention to getting yourself back to the present moment if you have feelings regarding the past or future or are distracted.
Reflect On Your Experience
Take a few minutes after your workout to reflect on how your emotions and thoughts have improved. Examine the body for any deviations.
Is it satisfying to have worked up a sweat? Are your limbs aching? Do you want hydration? Are you famished? Do you feel more at ease now? Is it possible that some of the stress you felt before your run has dissipated? Consider these suggestions as you draw on your past.
- Stretch after your workout and pay attention to the sensations of your muscles.
- Check-in with yourself during the day to see if the benefits of your mindful run are still apparent.
- You should still stop what you’re doing for a fleeting moment of mindful breathing if the pressures of the day threaten to pull you out of the feeling.
Some runners find that meditating after a run is an excellent way to carry their comfortable and calm state of mind into the remainder of their day.