I remember when I was meditating while running the London Marathon. It was a painfully hot day, and I am absolutely terrible in the heat. Even if I’m just sitting outside on a warm day, I tend to get a headache. Running a marathon in the heat would surely be hell.
I knew I needed to do something to help my body stay cool and to improve oxygen consumption. That’s why at mile three I started to meditate.
Meditation is the practice of focusing the mind on the present moment. It was traditionally a Hindu and Buddhist practice and it has become massively popular over recent years. It is all about cultivating a non-judgmental awareness of the present moment. And yes, this can help with running.
Most people are aware of the effect that meditation has on the mind. For instance, that it can help with stress, anxiety, and other conditions. And of course, it strengthens the brain. But there are specific benefits of meditation for runners too. For instance, that it helps with oxygen consumption, improves stamina, improves coordination, and can even reduce sweating so you’re running shoes don’t get soaked.
Indeed, studies have shown that there are significant benefits of meditation for athletes.
What’s even better is that you can actually meditate while running. You don’t have to meditate sitting down in lotus position with your legs crossed. You can do it while you are moving. Indeed, Zen Walking Meditation has long been one of the most popular forms of meditation in the world.
You might have noticed that you already naturally start meditating when running. The rhythms of your feet on the concrete (or treadmill) might lead you to meditating on it. And when you do, it helps you to relax. This is one reason why many people find running therapeutic, because it helps reduce negative thoughts and calm the mind. Indeed, in Haruki Murakami’s What I Talk About When I Talk About Running to Jen A. Miller’s Running: A Love Story, he talks about using running as a barometer for self growth.
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The good news is that it is actually quite easy to meditate while running, especially if you are running somewhere peaceful. The countryside, or park, for instance, helps to quieten your mind, and the rhythmic tap of your feet gives your mind something to focus on.
Here’s an excellent way how to meditate while running.
- Choose a relaxing running path. I recommend running outside instead of on the treadmill, because the outdoors is more conducive to inner peace. Make it somewhere safe and somewhere you will not be distracted.
- Before you start running, do some mindful stretching. Naturally, you should stretch first before you run. Hopefully you do this already. All you need to do now is be mindful while stretching. Stretch slowly and gently, and focus your mind on the sensations in your body as you stretch. This will heighten your mind-body connection and help you to focus.
- Start running on your path. Run a little slower than you usually do. This will help your mind to stay calm so that you can focus and be mindful.
- Get into a comfortable pace. Now notice the rhythmic tapping of your feet on the ground. Listen to that sound. Count to one-hundred as you focus your mind on the tapping of your feet.
- Now begin to focus on the movement of your legs. What you want to do is to become aware of the directly link between mind and legs. Observe how your mind is creating the movement in your legs. Continue for another one-hundred steps.
- Now focus on the movement of your entire body. Aim to make your mind one with your body. Feel your mind creating the movement in your body. Meditate on this for one hundred steps.
- For the remainder of your run, be aware of both the movement of your body and of your peaceful surroundings (if you are running outside somewhere relaxing; otherwise, continue to meditate on your body).
- When you are ready to finish your run, gradually slow down and observe the changes in your energy. Notice how your body feels warn and energised. Also observe how your run-meditation has made you more mindful and calm.
Combining running and meditation can do wonders for both your mind and your body. According to a study published in 2016 in Translational Psychiatry, combining running and meditation leads to a 40% decrease in the symptoms of depression. It also strengthens your mind and boosts your happiness.
- Less depression: Leads to a 40% decrease in the symptoms of depression.
- Happiness: Both running (and other physical exercise) and meditation have been linked to increased levels of happiness.
- Less sweating: If you don’t like sweating profusely while you are running, you might like to know that meditation actually reduces sweating.
- You’ll run faster: There are numerous ways in which meditation makes you a better runner. For instance, it helps with oxygen consumption, improves coordination, and increases pain tolerance (which can be crucial for long-distance runners as I learned from my first marathon).
- You’ll enjoy your run even more: Hopefully you already enjoy running. But you’ll like it even more if you start meditating while running. Meditation makes you more mindfully aware, so you are more aware of your surroundings and more appreciative of your body. It also stop ruminating thoughts, so you’re not constantly thinking about work when you’re out for your run.
If you would like to learn more about meditation, book an online meditation lesson with me today. I’ve been a runner for fifteen years and a meditator for twenty, and am passionate about both. I would love to help you improve your running, and your mind, in an online meditation lesson.
Paul Harrison BSc is a qualified meditation teacher who believes in genuine, authentic meditation. He has more than 15 years experience in teaching meditation and mindfulness both to individuals and to corporations and is the author of four books on meditation. He has been featured in Psychology Today, Breathe Magazine, Healthline, Psych Central and Lion’s Roar.
Paul studied meditation in beautiful Oxford, UK, and Hamilton Ontario Canada, and earned his degree at Staffordshire University.
Paul’s biggest inspirations include Thich Nhat Hanh, Jon Kabat Zinn, and Jack Kornfield.
“My goal is to provide the most authentic meditation sessions so you can harness the power of your own mind for personal transformation” – Paul Harrison