My mind loves to race as much as my feet.
Thoughts fly in and out, sometimes so quickly that they don’t even finish forming before getting replaced by another one. When I first began running long distances, I used to joke that disappearing on jaunts that lasted hours at a time was my meditation -- at the time not even really knowing what meditation even was.
But I did know what it felt like when my mind started to slow down, to calm, and to focus on just one singular thing as the kilometres increased: just keep moving.
Years later I was finally drawn to try meditation as another way to tame my ping-pong mind. I loved running but that love often led to overtraining and injury as I relentlessly chased that runner’s high and the inner stillness it brought me.
Happily, I found another love in meditation. Not only for its ability to help me take a step back, slow down, and respond from a place of stillness rather than frenzy. But because it also taught me how to connect with my body, with my surroundings, and with others -- to be present, aware and intentional. It also made me realize how often I ran on autopilot, both in my life and on my runs.
Earlier this year I took my meditation practice to a deeper level by becoming a certified meditation teacher and have started incorporating mindfulness meditation practices into my running. Combining these two passions has brought so much joy and presence to the experience. And it’s helped me to reconnect with the things I love most about running: the feeling of the air on my skin and in my hair, the freedom of my feet flying over ground, and the beautiful sights, sounds, and smells of just being out in nature.
Running and meditation together have helped get me out of my head by bringing me home to myself -- so that I can run with my mind, rather than letting my mind run me.
Here is a simple mindfulness meditation and running practice that I invite you to try.
Getting present and grounded before your run
● Sit or lie comfortably on the ground (I love to do this on the grass!).
● Take three deep breaths in through the nose and out through the mouth, exhaling with a sigh if that feels right for you (it might sound weird, but that sigh can really help you just let stuff go).
● In your line of sight, notice five things you can see. And just sit with that for a moment.
● Take a slow, deep breath in, closing your eyes as you do so, and then slowly release that breath and those five things.
● Keeping your eyes closed, now notice four things you can hear. And just sit with that for a moment.
● Take a slow, deep breath in, then slowly release that breath and those four things.
● Now, notice three things you can feel. And just sit with that for a moment.
● Take a slow, deep breath in, then slowly release that breath and those three things.
● Now, notice two things you can smell. And just sit with that for a moment.
● Take a slow, deep breath in, then slowly release that breath and those two things.
● Now, notice one thing you can taste. And just sit with that for a moment.
● Take a slow deep breath in, then slowly release that breath and that one thing.
● Take three deep breaths in through the nose and out from the mouth, gently and slowly opening your eyes on the last exhale.
Being present during your run
Continue this practice of noticing and experiencing with the five senses while you’re moving.
Maybe noticing the colours of the flowers in your neighbours’ gardens, maybe noticing the textures of the bark on the trees as you pass, maybe noticing the feathers of the birds that flutter across your path, maybe noticing and smiling at every dog you see.
Maybe noticing the sound of the soles of your shoes making contact with the ground, maybe noticing the sound of your breath as it flows in and out of your body, maybe noticing the sound of your heart beating in your chest, maybe noticing the sound of the breeze rustling the leaves in the trees.
Maybe noticing the feeling of your clothes against your skin, maybe noticing the feeling of the air move your hair, maybe noticing the feeling of the bead of sweat trickling down your skin, maybe noticing the feeling of the ground beneath each step (hard concrete, soft earth), maybe noticing the feeling your heart beating in your chest.
Maybe noticing the smell of freshly cut grass, maybe noticing the smell of the forest trails after the rain, maybe noticing the watery scent of a trailside river or ocean.
Maybe noticing in your mouth the taste of the last swig of water from your bottle. Maybe noticing it’s time for another sip.
After your run
● Sit or lie comfortably on the ground, eyes closed.
● Place one hand on your belly and the other on your chest.
● Take a slow, deep breath in for a count of four beats, noticing with your hands your belly round and then your ribs and chest rise on the inhale.
● Hold the breath at the top for four beats.
● Exhale slowly for four beats, noticing with your hands your chest and ribs lower and your belly flatten as you let that breath go.
● Hold the breath at the bottom for four beats.
● Repeat seven more times, continuing to notice the movement and flow of the body with the breath.
● Finally, silently to yourself, tell your body, thank you.
Written by: Connie Smart - RLAG Ambassador