Mindfulness, Meditation and Running – A Perfect Combination
It’s probably not surprising that mindfulness, meditation and running often go hand in hand. People choose to lace up their running shoes for many reasons. Some want to shed some extra pounds and improve their physical fitness. Others enjoy the stress relief it brings at the end of the day. And still others use running as a way to quiet their mind. By combining mindfulness, meditation and running, runners receive a number of important health benefits in the process.
The benefits of meditation and mindfulness while running are several. But it’s important to appreciate that meditation and mindfulness are not exactly the same thing. Both offer wellness advantages, and both can be performed while running. But nuances exist that distinguish one from the other. Depending on your goals, you may prefer one over the other. Regardless, mindfulness, meditation and running are important complementary activities that can serve you well.
Meditation and Running
Meditation is often described as the awareness of “nothing” while mindfulness is the awareness of “something.” Beginning with this definition, you can envision meditation as a process of turning your attention inward. Typically, this involves focusing on your breathing, your posture, or the sensations of various body areas. It may also include the use of mantras to help clear your mind and enhance awareness within. In the process, you gain a sense of stillness and peace that provides many benefits.
While most people perform meditation in a seated position, you can also meditate while running. In doing so, you incorporate many of the same techniques. For example, you may repeat a mantra throughout your run, like “I am strong.” At the same time, you can use your breathing pattern, your posture, and your stride as a focal point for concentrating. And you can sequentially take an inventory of different body parts and how they feel while you run. All of these meditation and running practices allow you to achieve greater concentration and awareness of self.
Mindfulness and Running
Where meditation while running seeks to turn inward, mindfulness embraces what’s going on around you. Think of mindfulness as a heightened sense of being in the moment. Rather than dwelling on past events or worrying about the future, mindfulness exists in the present only. As a result, it enhances the experience of running tremendously. And it offers a number of advantages not only related to your health but to your running performance as well.
Unlike meditation, mindfulness shifts your attention to your surroundings. Therefore, instead of taking an inventory of your breathing or body, you explore the sights, smells and sounds around you. A great way of practicing mindfulness while running is to keep an ongoing mental list of your sensory experiences. A red bicycle, a gentle breeze, the smell of jasmine, and other sensations might be mentally acknowledged as you run. This forces you into the moment while preventing distracting thoughts from intruding. In doing so, you’ll reap the benefits that mindfulness can provide.
The Benefits of Meditation and Mindfulness
Despite being slightly different practices, the benefits of meditation and mindfulness are quite similar. Mindfulness and meditation have been found to reduce stress and anxiety while enhancing mental wellness. These practices are also linked to improved sleep and a slowing of the natural aging process. And while these do not eliminate pain, the benefits of meditation and mindfulness do improve tolerance and acceptance of discomfort. As a result, these practices allow you to get much more out of your runs.
One of the additional benefits of meditation and mindfulness while running relates to an increased awareness of your body. This heightened awareness can help you anticipate overuse before injuries occur. At the same time, you will realize the opportunity that running offers you beyond its physical benefits. These practices promote holistic wellness of mind, body, and spirit, which will further enhance your running performance. If you’ve never intentionally pursued mindfulness and meditation while running, it’s certainly worth a try. Most likely, you’ll soon appreciate the advantages both bring not only to your running but to your life as well.