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Mindful Running: from a beginner’s perspective

I am trying to incorporate mindfulness into my daily life and whilst researching on mindful practice, I stumbled upon 'mindful running'. In its simplest terms, mindful running is about being mentally present in the act of running, being aware of your body’s movement, your breaths and not being distracted whilst running.

For me, a typical run usually involves:

  • Making sure I have my running playlist and I am armed with my headphones

  • Utilising a running app so I can track my distance and speed whilst on the run

  • I also sometimes use running to blow off steam, be it after a stressful day or negative event.

Mindful running views the above as being distractions, which take you away from being present whilst you are running i.e. the mind to body connection and being at your peak performance:

a. Music – can distract you from being mentally connected to the act of running and not focusing on how you are breathing, your foot strike or your surroundings

b. Running app– by being overfly focused on distance and speed you are distracted from your movement and form whilst running

c. Mulling over stressful or negative events whilst running can make your muscles tense and make a run feel tougher

Mindful running suggests you:

  • Do some pre-run deep breathing.

  • Run outdoors and be aware of your surroundings when running - the sights and sounds etc.

  • Pay attention to how your body moves and focus on your foot strike/form.

  • Don’t use headphones

  • Pay attention to pain or discomfort – what is your body telling you, do you need to slow down?

I will describe how trying to incorporate mindful running played out for me in practice, in my one or two attempts thus far:

1. No music - for someone who cannot forgo music whilst they run, running without music for me is torture - so I will admit, I still use my headphones.

2. Running app - Running apps are supposed to give you motivation to run faster and increase your speed. However, I am the first to admit that when using the app I am constantly focused on how many kilometers/the distance I did. My running app is voice activated, so it tells me every time I have done a kilometre and I can feel deflated when the app confirms I have done less than I thought I had done. So not using a running app whilst being on a run was a positive change - I was less focused on how far I had ran and enjoyed it more because I wasn’t scrutinising myself for the distance whilst I ran. If you use running as a competitive sport then you probably won’t agree with my outlook on this. However Chevy Rough, a mindfulness and performance coach states, “The more connected to your running, the longer you’ll be able to keep running,” states (article:

3. Running outdoors - not a problem for me as I am used to that now given the gyms have been closed for a while because of lockdown. I add by deleting the running app and not being focused on my distance, my mind is drawn to other things, such as taking in where I am actually running and appreciating the view. I also add now that I have taken myself back to a pre-Instagram world i.e. banned myself from taking Instagram videos whilst on my run, I care less about the perfect shot and the view and the run is to be enjoyed just for me.

4. Focusing on your breath – I admit this is harder to do when you are still listening to music and often my mind would wander, so I can say I didn’t focus as much on my breathing.

I have only done a handful of runs since this year started and just one or two ‘mindful’ runs, so I am very much a beginner/novice at mindful running (I still also have to attempt the no music rule and I am not sure I will accomplish that). However, at this stage, I will say a few simple ‘mindful’ changes into your running routine such as deleting a running app can make you feel better mentally whilst running and be more present. I believe you don’t need to follow each principle of mindful running religiously and you can incorporate what feels good for you.

If you have tried mindful running, please share your experiences/comments.

Links to some useful articles, so you can read more about mindfulness running:

There are also plenty of resources online and mobile apps which cover mindful running.

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