Rather than tuning out during your run, try to tune in on another level. Incorporating the practice of meditation and mindfulness when running is a powerful way to train the mind. It’s also a great way of easing anxiety and stress, along with transforming negative thoughts.
Mindful running can help you tap into experiencing and appreciating your run by bringing attention to how it makes you feel. It's practising the act of fully immersing yourself in the present moment and acknowledging how your mind and body are responding. This can be feeling the way your feet hit the ground, focusing on how you breathe, listening to the sounds around you, and paying attention to the thoughts and emotions that arise during a run.
Instead of focusing on how many kilometres you have left or replaying the day’s events, try concentrating on where the body is. Ways of doing this include focusing on taking deep breaths or turning your attention to your posture and form along with how your arms and legs are moving in unison.
8 Tips for Mindful Running
Follow along with our tips for how to practise mindfulness and meditation during a run to tap into a sound mind.
1. Forget the Headphones
Practising mindfulness requires hearing your own thoughts and becoming connected mentally within your movement. Avoid the distraction of music to connect with your consciousness and listen to the surroundings. Being present in the moment will be much easier without being tempted by a singalong.
2. Do Some Deep-Breathing
Before you set out practice a mindfulness exercise with deep belly breathing to relax and get into a prepared mindset before your run. Start by checking in with your posture and shoulders - your upper body should be straight and not hunched forward. Then try breathing in deeply through the nose and out through the mouth. With the inhale focus your breath into the belly, letting it expand rather than your chest. Then release your breath slowly from the mouth. Take five to six of these deep breaths before heading out on your run.
3. Focus on Your Feet
Try bringing your attention to your feet, noticing how different surfaces feel and your reflexes are reacting to them. On trails you may find you naturally focus on and anticipate how to react to the more varied terrain. Concentrate on the sensation of each foot hitting the ground and the pattern of your steps. Remind yourself to stay light on your feet. How’s your stride? Be sure each foot is landing under your hips rather than overstriding in front of you.
4. Find Your Best Running Form
Mindful running is great for improving form because it helps you have more self-awareness of how you run. Check-in with your core and posture. Are you holding yourself straight? Are your arms moving forward and back rather than swinging across your body? Are your shoulders relaxed? Try directing your attention to your form by working your way from your head down to your toes.
5. Mind on Your Breath
Turn your attention to the natural rhythm of your breathing. Practice an intention to consciously focus on the breath, taking note of how your in-breath feels different from an out-breath. Try breathing primarily from your nose to be in a more relaxed state as mouth breathing is related to stress responses. You can even try syncing your breath with your movement by counting your footsteps and timing your breath with them. You may take four steps with every inhale and four with your exhale. Can you increase that number by extending your breath? Doing so will help you be more efficient with air, lowering your heart rate along with helping to relax your body and mind.
6. Dial-in Your Senses
An essential part of mindfulness is noticing when thoughts have drifted off into the past or future and bringing yourself back to the present moment. Try doing this by reconnecting with your senses. Listening in to the sounds around you - the rhythm of footsteps hitting the ground, birds and nature or cars passing by. Or check in with the sensations running creates. How is your body feeling in motion? Feel the wind on your face. Take in the details of your surroundings. Acknowledge any areas of your body that may be hurting or tired and consider slowing down or taking a short break.
7. Release Your Thoughts
Where is your mind wandering? Are you being critical of yourself? Replaying recent interactions or events? Reframe your mindset to instead find gratitude for having the ability to physically run. Acknowledge thoughts and feelings without dwelling on them, then guide your attention back to your breath and check in with your senses again. If you can clear your mind to be present in the moment you’ll discover a greater benefit from your runs in the form of reduced tension, lowered stress and anxiety levels, better focus and overall relaxation. Mastering clearing your mind will put you into a meditative state while running.
8. Take Time to Reflect
Give yourself time to cool down and reflect on your run. It’s important to give your body the opportunity to gradually recover from being in a state of physical exertion. You can use the same pre-run deep breathing exercise. This is beneficial by helping the parasympathetic nervous system kick-in, aiding in rest and recovery. The better you become at practising breathing as part of your run routine, the better you’ll be at these techniques anytime you need them. Also, take the time to do some stretching and assess how you feel. Lastly, take a moment for a quick gratitude practice for an added healthy habit.
Use these newfound techniques to embrace a calm mind, relaxed body, and effortless breath - taking your running to a whole new level.
Read more about mindfulness and how it’s directly improved the lives of a NZ field hockey player and the athletes she teaches in the Sound Mind Sound Body interview with Rachel McCann.
Find more resources on running topics for every level of runner at our Knowledge Base. Or shop the ASICS range of men’s running shoes and women’s running shoes.