whiteout runner

When a recent magazine article called mindfulness an athlete’s “secret weapon,” I just about lost it.

Weaponizing mindfulness? Really?

This headline is a symptom of a larger issue in the running industry. Everywhere you look, articles, videos and books about running are focused primarily on performance: getting faster, stronger, better than the competition.

I come from a competitive running background, so I get it. Building fitness, scoring better race results and finishing ahead of those who used to always beat me was incredibly rewarding and motivating.

But in that pursuit of excellence and continuous improvement, something may be lost. And it’s not a little something; it’s a BIG something.

That something is joy.

When running becomes all about achievement, running starts to feel like work. And when you already have so much work to do in a day, who needs more?

Which is the reason why you run is so important. Running elicits feelings happiness, satisfaction, accomplishment, self-worth and confidence. But when your drive to excel athletically overshadows your in-the-moment experience of running, these feelings may be diminished.

Most books about mindfulness for athletes talk about it reducing the effects of stress and anxiety so that you can perform better in competition.

While I believe there’s merit to mindfulness applied this way (and sports science research to back it up), it keeps the conversation of mindfulness in sports specifically on the purpose of gaining an athletic advantage.

And that limited conversation does the average runner—like you and I—a great disservice.

Chances are you run a race several times a year, and yet, running is also so much more than a just good workout.

You sense that running makes you a better person in a lot of ways: you think more clearly at work, are more creative in the studio, a calmer parent at home, a more patient spouse and a happier person in general.

Running mindfully enhances those effects while also enhancing the joy of running.

When you focus on how running makes you feel while you do it, then your self-worth as a runner doesn’t depend on your continuous improvement.

Rather than measuring your progress by how many seconds you save on your next 10K, you measure how many minutes was spent savoring the power of your body, your beautiful surrounding you and your mind’s calming stillness.

Mindfulness—when applied to any kind of activity or moment–creates such a deep sense of presence and peace that calling it a “secret weapon” just seems absurd.

Regardless of whether you use mindfulness techniques to be run more competitively, get over pre-race jitters, manage life stress or improve your health and self-image, you’ll experience its efficacy.

Tapping into the mind-body connection is a powerful practice I recommend anyone try.

I just want you to know that mindfulness doesn’t have to be about making yourself better, fixing something that doesn’t work, overcoming inadequacies or gaining and edge over the competition.

You can run mindfully simply because it makes you feel good.

And isn’t that why any of us run, really?