Sometimes it’s a good idea to switch up your running routine. After all, it’s easy to get stuck in a rut. Trialling a new approach can feel wonderfully refreshing, giving you a chance to reset your mind and body. One easy, cost-free way to do this is to try mindful running.
This is a way of running that emphasises staying in the present moment as you move. Mindful running involves taking the principles of mindfulness and meditation, and applying them to your session.
Put simply: tune into your breath, your surroundings and your sensations as you run.
We’ve asked the experts at ASICS for their insights into mindful running – why it’s worth giving it a try, how to get started and how to escape distractions.
Words by Celina Hanson, ASICS FrontRunner UK.
The benefits of mindful running
Taking a mindful approach in anything allows you to be more present and develop a synchronicity within yourself and your surroundings. Adopting this approach during a run has many benefits.
Mindful running strengthens the mind-body connection, allowing your focus to shift from pace or distance to a deeper level of how you feel. By becoming more present, you’re increasing your awareness, and improving general health and well-being through stress reduction and an investment in your emotions.
A big part of the mindful approach is acceptance of the way you are feeling, and having an open mindset, without judgement or expectation. The whole practice of mindful running can change the way you move: knowing when to push hard or back off, knowing how your body responds to physical activity, allowing yourself a sense of achievement and finding your true ‘why’.
How to warm up for a mindful run
The mind needs warming up just as the body does. Try to get into a mental headspace where mindful practice feels possible. Consider starting by minimising the distractions, and thinking about how to use your run as a time to switch off. Plan a route that compliments this mindset – something familiar where you don’t need to navigate, maybe somewhere with less traffic or fewer people. And ask yourself if you really need the tech. Could ditch the watch or mute your phone on this run?
A good way of preparing yourself for a mindful run is to engage in grounding or breathing exercises, such as focusing your attention on the way your feet connect with the ground or box breathing. Really try and think about what you feel and experience.
Tuning out distractions on a mindful run
It’s key to remember that mindfulness is not about achieving a state of ‘perfection’. It’s about accepting that your mind may become distracted and gently bringing it back to the present through attending to the breath.
There’s an external approach to mindful running that involves more focus on your surroundings and environment.
You can also take an internal approach that focuses on that state of your body and mind. Notice your worries or distractions and label them – “I am feeling anxious…”, for example – and then allow space for the emotion to change without letting judgement take over.
Listening to music on a mindful run
This one is down to personal choice. Sometimes music can be helpful as it tunes out other noises while running (treadmill, traffic etc), but sometimes people find noises of nature or silence more facilitative.
For people new to mindful practice, using a guided meditation can help them to learn and engage.
Can your kit help with mindful running?
Look good, feel good! If wearing something you feel happy and comfortable and encourages you to get out to do the miles, that’s never a bad thing. Feeling equipped to do the run, and minimising the irritation or unsuitability of kit, will always improve the chances of feeling mindful when running.
Having kit that’s pleasant to run in can build an association between getting dressed to run and having a positive experience. Maybe there’s a certain pair of trainers that you feel you run best in; wear these on the days you want to engage in mindful running to give yourself the best start.
Having kit that’s fit for purpose is a key part of running in general, so it’ll absolutely support mindful running.
If mindful running isn’t for you, you can still reap mental health benefits from getting out there
Running can reduce stress, alleviate symptoms of depression and anxiety, improve sleep, foster connectedness with others and your environment, improve self-worth by investment in the self, and increase your sense of purpose.
Running is not a miracle cure for mental health difficulties but it can be a valuable tool in self-management.
Remember that not all running has to be mindful, and not all mindful runs have to last the full duration. Mindfulness is a meditation that requires practice not perfection.
It can be as simple as you make it.
Lace up, get out and just breathe.