It may seem like two different activities, but running and meditation can be intertwined. Meditation doesn’t just happen when you’re sitting cross-legged on the floor. You can bring meditation into your marathon training, too. All it takes is a few simple steps.
You’ve likely heard of runners who swear by the practice of meditation before big competitions. Some people call it “pre-gaming” for the mind because competitive athletes are using something that’s usually thought to be part of spiritual growth as a way to physically improve their performance.
While there has been quite a bit of research on whether meditating before an athletic event improves performance, there’s also evidence that shows that regular meditation does help you maintain focus and cope better with stress over time.
It’s also possible to meditate as you run. In fact, there are a few different ways you can go about this. You could think of it as meditation or mindfulness training if that helps you feel more comfortable practicing while you’re out running errands or on your lunch break.
One of the most popular forms of meditation is focused breathing. This means simply focusing on your breath and counting breaths in and out. If thoughts come into your head while you’re meditating, just acknowledge them and then let them go so that you can return to focusing on your breathing.
It may sound simple, but it can be hard for runners to focus when they’ve got miles ahead of them! But meditating before a run is beneficial because it puts you in the habit of monitoring both thought patterns and physical sensations.
You can try a breathing exercise while you run by making it part of your warm-up. Do a minute or two of deep breathing to get yourself in the right mindset for running, and then continue your normal warm-up routine. You can also do a focused breathing session during one of your runs just by slowing things down and counting breaths in and out until you’re done. It may take some time before this becomes easy, but it’s worth sticking with because it will improve your overall performance when you add meditation to your sports routine.
Another type of focusing that many runners practice is visualization. Visualization means imagining yourself completing your goal — whether that’s winning an upcoming marathon or simply finishing the run you’re on now — and then bringing that image into your mind’s eye to see it through.
When you meditate, try visualizing yourself completing a typical run. Even if you’re not feeling like running today, imagine what it would feel like to do so. Imagine yourself putting on your shoes, changing into your gear, and heading out the door for this imagined run. Picture everything about running — from being warm enough outside for shorts but also not sweating too much, to finding the perfect pace where you can easily maintain it without getting tired.
Visualization is an excellent way to work through any concerns you have about whether you’ll be able to complete something big. It helps build up motivation by showing you what success will look like when it comes to running and meditation together.
The more you practice visualization, the better you’ll get at it, and the easier it will be to visualize yourself completing a run while you’re actually out on one.
You can also try visualizing your favorite place to run or meditate. If there’s somewhere quiet and beautiful that makes you feel relaxed when you go there, picture yourself in that place every time you meditate before heading out for a run. It may not always be easy to find someplace like this — especially if it’s outdoors — but even visualizing an empty room is better than nothing!
Loving Kindness Meditation
Another type of meditation is loving-kindness meditation. This means thinking good thoughts about someone else while focusing on your breath. The next time you meditate, try visualizing someone you care about — either a loved one or someone who really inspires you to run — and thinking loving thoughts toward them.
It might sound a little silly at first, but here’s the idea behind it: when you think positive thoughts while focusing on your breath, you’ll feel truly happy and connected to that person in a way that leads to more positivity. You may even find yourself smiling without realizing it! Plus, the benefits of meditation still come through because you’re checking in with your physical sensations and your thought patterns.
Remember to wear the right clothing when you run. You need supportive sports bras, a breathable shirt and pants, and comfortable shoes to prevent discomfort and pain whenever you exercise. This will help you achieve your zen when you run.