benefits of making running a mindfulness practice

Founder of Run Wild Retreats + Wellness, Elinor Fish, uses mindful running to manage her stress-related chronic illnesses while living a full and active lifestyle.

Mindfulness is typically presented as a seated meditation practice done while seated on the floor.

However, as runner, you’re probably turned off by the prospect of sitting still, seemingly doing “nothing.”  The good news is that mindful running allows you to achieve the same health benefits as a seated meditation while on the road or trails.  And that doesn’t mean zoning out and disassociating from the running experience; rather, it’s just the opposite.

Mindful running lets you experience the full richness of running and really notice how it elevates your mood, refreshes your mind, invigorates your body and simply makes you feel awesome. Of course, running doesn’t always feel awesome or hard, but that’s how mindful running can help: mindful running frees you from judging yourself on how you look, how fast you’re going or how you’re “performing” and simply enjoy running.

Mindful running frees you to experience more playfulness and adventurousness while running that you may have lost in the pursuit of PRs, weight loss or weekly mileage targets. While those things are all fine, they’re not what keep you running year after year, decade after decade.

Mindful running is the practice of fully immersing yourself in the present moment experience of running, its immediate effects on your body and mind, free from judgement, self-consciousness or self-doubt.  

In this state, you notice tap into your highest executive-level brain functions, reduce stress hormones, raise your confidence, sense of personal power, bottomless motivation, flood your brain with happy hormones, strengthen bones, muscles and ligaments.

Here’s how mindful running does this:

Transform Negative Thoughts

Mindful running can cultivate feelings of peace, contentment and gratitude, which can do wonders for elevating self-confidence. But what interferes with these positive emotions are the automatic or unconscious thoughts that dominate our minds, just below our level of awareness.

These unconscious thoughts become the stories you tell yourself over and over until they become so ingrained that they are part of your identity. Without you even being aware of it, you may be limiting yourself with such unconscious thoughts as:

“Oh I have bad knees and can’t run a marathon,”

“I’m not good enough to do that race,” or

“I would be a real runner if only I had more time for it.”

Mindfulness allows you to notice these automatic thoughts (usually negative) and replace them with more positive ones. This way, you re-write your story using thoughts that support a story in which you’re already a capable, confident and strong runner.

This is much more than a positive affirmation; you’re also supporting the relaxation response, which is critical for recovery and healing.is observing your thoughts without identifying with them. Rather than the goal being to stop your thoughts (impossible, not to mention frustrating!), you simply observe the thoughts and let them pass.

Recover Faster

You can only build fitness as well as you can recover. Why?

Because it’s only after exercise that your body begins the essential biological process that creates fitness. This is when muscles are rebuilt, tissues strengthen, bones get stronger and your cardiovascular system adapts to more stress.

Remember, running is a form of stress that breaks things down, so having a plan for recovering better must precede any changes to your running routine, like adding speed work, increasing mileage or strength work.

However, if you don’t provide the right circumstances for adequate recovery, these repair processes can’t take place. Being mindful of your energy, aches pains and other signals your body is sending you helps you give your body what it really needs. That may include more nourishing food (instead of empty calories), more sleep, more time to play and goof off, or more stretching. What would feel good to your body right now?

Getting Started with Mindful Running 

Grab your copy of the Mindful Running Quickstart Guide below for my three easy steps for getting started with mindful running today.

Start Running Mindfully Today

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Enter your name and email here to receive Elinor's free 3-Step Quick Start Guide to Mindful Running.

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