When I’m healthy and running well, I can clearly see myself as a life-long runner, enjoying my favorite sport well into old age, even if it means hobbling down the road on wrinkled, spindly legs. But when I get injured, burned out or simply too exhausted to run, I believe there’s no way I’ll be able to run to the end of this year, let alone the end of my days.

These times when running isn’t easy teaches me the importance of prioritizing health over fitness. It didn’t matter how fit I am if I’m not healthy enough to do the sport I love. Once I found an antidote for the kind of running habits that lead many of us down the all-too-common road to things like fatigue, injury, boredom or burnout, everything changed. I began to run mindfully.

Mindful running is the path less traveled. By veering down it, you glimpse a wonderful truth: that running shouldn’t hurt. Period. But it’s more than that, too.

Mindful running is a practice, the way many people think of yoga or meditation as a practice. It is a restorative, sustainable activity that teaches you something new about yourself every day.

Instead of wondering if you’re training right, you become so in tuned with your body that you always know if you’re running the right mileage, the right pace to get fitter and getting enough rest to stay healthy. Rather than stressing over your chances of achieving future goals, you find a deep sense of satisfaction in every run. Because feeling pressure to perform to someone else’s standards—or to your own exalted expectations—takes the fun out of running.

But when you focus instead on how running makes you feel in this moment, you discover mindful running’s most valuable reward. That’s when running becomes truly joyful instead of just another thing on the to-do list.For many runners, following a traditional training plan can become a recipe for injury or burnout.

By contrast, mindful running means listening to your body and trusting its feedback to guide your training. When you’re tuned into the present moment, you notice the subtle sensations that tell you whether you’re doing too much, too little or just the right amount. Discover what that “right amount” is for you right now, and you can be a life-long runner.