Photo by Larry Gloth
Whether you already meditate or want to get started, meditating while running is a different way to meditate and a different way to run. While running itself can be a meditative experience, when you combine it with a guided meditation it changes the experience. “Mindful running is the ability to run with a clear intention, fully connected in body and mind, free from distraction, and with an equal balance of focus and relaxation”, says Andy Puddicombe, co-founder of the popular meditation app Headspace.
At the core of meditation is the focus on staying present in the moment. The goal is to leave thoughts of the past behind and not get caught up in the future that has yet to happen. The breath is the tool that keeps you present by focusing on the rhythm of inhales and exhales — hard to ignore when running. Running can help you meditate and meditation can help you run. The two together can help make you better at both.
If you’re like most recreational runners, myself included, you run with music. Music gives you rhythm, energy, and motivation, but it’s also a distraction. It blocks out many sensations your body is feeling. There’s nothing wrong with that, but when you turn the music off, running becomes a different experience. You take in the sights and sounds. You become aware of your inhales and exhales. You hear the sound of your breath. I discovered how loud that can be when I tried the Mindful Running with Lynne Goldberg on the Breethe meditation app, which on that particular run was more labored than I realized.
Lynne is my favorite teacher on Breethe. As it turns out, she is a long distance runner too. The first thing she asks as you start running is how are you feeling? Are you sore, energetic, tired? Is your breathing easy or is it labored? You’re not judging good or bad, you are just noticing. The meditation then takes you on body scan from head to toe, observing how each body part is feeling stride by stride. This exercise keeps you present.
“Mindfulness is cultivation of meta-attention which is the ability to track your own intention to enhance awareness. It’s dependent on 3 skills: curiosity, acceptance, and non-judgement. The practice helps us return to the observer stance so don’t get carried away by reactions so easily. From this mindful observer point of view we can more quickly return to calm, refine our perception, or find clarity in thinking.”
-From Mindful Body Map by Laurie Shiers on Breethe
Says Laurie Shiers, another running and meditation coach on the Breethe app, and co- founder Meditation On The Run, that by consciously observing how you are feeling, you are able to observe your reactions to those feelings, objectively and without judgement. This is another goal and benefit of medtiation on a run and in everyday life.
Many of the meditation and training apps offer guided runs that integrate mindfulness into the workout with a similar theme. In addition to Breethe, other apps like Headspace feature meditations created for running. The Nike Run Club (NRC) app also features run meditations with Nike running global head coach, Chris Bennett, and a selection guided with Headspace co-founder Andy Puddicombe.
Both NRC and Headspace offer run meditations that focus on topics like stress and gratitude that are geared towards running but also metaphors for everyday life. The “Struggle Run” I tried today on NRC may have been tailored for hills and pace, but it also applied to relationships, work, and other life situations.
For those who still want to listen to music while you run, NRC syncs with Apple Music which plays in the background and during breaks in the meditation. I found the combo to be the perfect balance for that focus and relaxation, but like any fitness or meditation class, it’s about finding the instructor or coach that inspires YOU.
And if you’re not a runner, there a similar guided meditations for walking too. Here are a few running and walking meditations you might want to try that I personally enjoyed:
~ Mindful Body Map by Laurie Shiers
~ Mindful Beathing in Motion by Laurie Shiers
~ Mindful Walking by Lynne Goldberg
~ Mindful Walking by Lynne Goldberg
~ Gentle Run With Kevin Hart
~ Run Smart with Nike running coach Chris Bennett and Andy Puddicombe
~ Mindful Cardio with Olympian Leon Taylor: Motivation Jog, Intention Walk, Appreciation Run, and more
NIKE RUN CLUB (NRC)
~ Mindful Running Pack: Stress Free Run, Grateful 5K Run, A New Run, and more
~ New Morning Run with Headspace
~ Mindful Walking with Tara Levitt
~ Walk Away Stress (Dog Walking) with Dr. Eric Lopez