Mindfulness has moved into the mainstream and studies are showing it can have positive benefits ranging from reduced anxiety to improving the body’s immune response.
But what exactly is mindfulness and can it help you become a better runner? The short answer is ‘yes.’
According to Jon Kabat-Zinn, author and medical professor, “mindfulness is awareness that arises through paying attention, on purpose, in the present moment, non-judgementally.”
Here’s a few suggestions for how to run mindfully:
- Life is busy and full of distractions. Take a few minutes while you warm-up to centre yourself and concentrate on taking long, slow breaths. This will activate your parasympathetic nervous system and ease you into a sense of calm.
- Once you start running, try to stay in the moment by paying attention to what you are seeing and how you are feeling. Do a body scan to check how you are moving – are you stiff? Tired? Stressed? Feeling great? Is your mind wandering or are you paying attention to the path in front of you, the smell of the evergreen trees beside the trail or the sound of your shoes hitting the ground?
- When you find your mind wandering, acknowledge your thoughts and let them go. Bring your attention back to the moment you are in.
- When you cool down, pay attention to your breathing again. Slow it down to maintain that sense of calm.
“By applying mindfulness to your training, you tap into a powerful mind-body connection that not only optimizes sporting performance, but more importantly, boosts happiness both on and off the running trails,” says Mackenzie Havey author of the book Mindful Running.
So the next time you tie up your running shoes, try practicing mindfulness and begin paying attention to your surroundings and your body. It could be the start of a whole new and improved running experience.