Mindfulness can create many benefits in life such as: better focus and concentration, reduced stress, improved health and an increased sense of peace and contentment. It is a practice everyone can benefit from especially runners as we can specifically use it to improve how we run and to prevent running injuries.
What is mindfulness? Essentially, it is the practice of being totally present with what we are experiencing while maintaining a non-judgmental attitude. This practice has been so well researched that it is now widely used in the medical field to reduce stress and to improve general health, particularly the immune system.
To practice being mindful while running, it helps if we first focus on our breath. Notice how it moves in and out of our body and notice if we are breathing rapidly or slowly. Become totally aware of your breathing and how your body feels while not making any judgments about your experience. The idea is to move away from getting lost in your thoughts.
As you continue to focus on your experience, you may notice tension somewhere in the body. As you notice this tension, you can let it be released. In this state of mind, there is no fear—only awareness of the experience including all sensations. When we are not attached to these sensations, they are free to easily move in and out of the body.
You may also focus on your senses: the sights, sounds, air temperature on your skin, your feet as they touch the ground. As you notice everything that you are experiencing with your body, you may find it helpful to view it as an observer. This approach helps us to experience running without judging ourselves or the experience.
Being mindful can help us notice our thoughts while running and our mental habits or thought patterns that we are unaware of. Are our thoughts harsh or kind to ourselves? Do we spend most of our time lost in our thoughts or are we aware of our surroundings and our movements?
A running injury usually starts with a minor discomfort in our body. Mindfulness can help us prevent an injury from developing from this discomfort. Fear plays a big part in an injury as it tenses the body and creates more pain. When you look at pain as an observer, there is no fear present so the discomfort can be released from the body.
Observing discomfort in the body can actually become a mindful running practice in itself. When you feel discomfort (pain, tiredness, coldness, heat, etc.), allow the experience. Do not let fear thoughts take over or don't try to push away the sensation. Do not wish that it were not there. Do not resist it in any way. Allow your mind to be with the discomfort with an accepting and non-judgmental attitude. Become one with the pain.
If we can learn to experience our pain and discomfort fully and without resistance, surprisingly the pain is very often released as a result.
Other mindful approaches to dealing with pain while running is to again observe the pain without attachment and then to mentally send loving energy to the center of where the pain is being felt. Also, you can mentally create space around the discomfort as it is being observed. These two approaches are both very good methods for preventing running injuries.
When we don't practice being mindful while running and we experience discomfort, our fear thoughts take over and then we believe that there is something wrong with us because of the discomfort we are feeling. This creates more tension and pain in our body often resulting in an injury. Being mindful while running will help you notice these discomforts and how your mind reacts to them.
As we practice being mindful, we learn to accept these sensations and just notice them without giving judgement. As we learn to accept our experience, we can observe that these unpleasant sensations will come and go and we will not be affected by them.
Again, mindfulness has many benefits. Its continued practice may not only result in preventing running injuries, but over time you may also experience a deep sense of peace that often arises from a quiet mind that has learned how to rest.
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The following articles can also help develop mindfulness while running.
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