Running solo: Practice mindfulness
“Mindfulness” has become quite the buzzword lately. But what does it mean? I think of it as, being fully and intensely present in the moment. You can practice mindfulness through seated meditation, but you can also work on your “mindfulness muscle” during physical activity. So here is my recipe for a mindfulness run, a great solo running experiment.
First, this might seem to completely counter the Midnight Runner mentality, but I encourage you to do this run without music. That’s right, no headphones or speakers! Also, I recommend trying this on an easier run day, as working on mindfulness during an interval or tempo workout is not ideal. An easy, steady-pace run is the best plan. Finally, I would suggest choosing a route that is familiar to you, as it’s hard to stay present in the moment if you’re constantly wondering where you are!
Go through your usual warm-up, and start running. First, notice your breath. Don’t try to change it, just notice it. Is it slow? Fast? Shallow? Deep? Again, don’t judge it or alter it, just observe your breathing.
Then, take your focus down to your feet. Feel them making contact with the ground. What part of your foot hits the ground first? What does it feel like on all parts of your sole? Can you feel each toe? What does it feel like to pick your foot up off the ground? Then how does it feel when it makes contact again? Once more, don’t change anything, just observe.
Move up to noticing any sensations in your ankles. What do you notice there? Heat, coolness, tingling, pressure, rubbing from the edge of your sock or shoe? What do you notice in your calves, knees, thighs? Keep moving up through each body part as you run, just noticing sensations, without trying to change them. In some body parts, you might not notice anything. That’s ok too. Keep moving your attention, all the way to the top of your head.
Then, start again with your breath. What do you notice now? Has it changed from the first go-round? How is it the same, and how is it different? Then, go back down to your feet, and repeat the same pattern, for the duration of your run.
That’s it! Simple, right? Well, you’ll probably notice your mind wanders often, the first time you try it! Just be patient, and bring your focus back to the sensations.
Emotions could come up, or memories, or to-do lists, or any and all kinds of thoughts and feelings. Again a reminder: don’t judge yourself for spacing out or daydreaming instead of staying focused on your body. It’s normal and takes practice, just like learning any new skill. Notice your mind is distracted, don’t make any judgments, and gently guide your focus back to your body.
Of course you can also try this practice sitting, or walking. It’s a tool you can use any time, not just while running. When I finish any mindfulness practice, I feel calm, refreshed, and re-energized. And the more I practice mindfulness, the more I see those effects seeping into all areas of my life. Who doesn’t love that? I hope you enjoy your next mindfulness run!