I was once a very active person. Entering my 20s and early 30s, this activeness slowly gave way to other interests and obligations. Through all my life however, I’ve always had a love/hate relationship with running. I’ll try to run about 3-4 times a week, but due to laziness and busyness, I usually only get around to it about 2 times per week. I imagine this is a common thread for many. My love of running came from the sense of accomplishment and greater fitness at the days end. The hate aspect, came from the running itself. Those first 5 minutes of running are generally the most painful for me. Soreness, malaise and self-pity are usually at their peak, dwindling off at around 10 minutes, these feelings return at around 20 minutes into the run – I may realize how difficult it is to run up a hill. I find I am breathing hard and may decide to turn back, due to self-pity and my minor sense of accomplishment. My internal monologue usually proceeds as such, “Why don’t I just walk right now? Its much easier! Go ahead, catch your breath…You’ve done enough for today…Hey! Poor baby!…Common push! But my legs! So tired! Aaaaandddd….I’m done.”.
As I’ve been trying to incorporate mindfulness into my everyday life, one day I thought to incorporate this mind-state into my run. What success! I found all my self-pity, malaise, soreness and sense of accomplishment faded out completely, leaving me only with my sense of breathing, and my feet on the ground. Even the sense of accomplishment is gone, not giving me the chance to think that I had completed enough for the day. My breath volume also decreases dramatically when I’m at my most mindful and thus diminishes my need for self-pity. A positive feed-back loop for running! How fantastic! Avoiding obstacles or people usually bring me back into a thought-filled state, but quick attention back to my breath usually dispels any negative thoughts. I often feel like I literally run all day.
Well I’m not the first to try this idea out. It turns out the running world has known how great mindfulness is for a while now. Here’s a more recent post in Runner’s World, that may be helpful to some. I also found some guided running meditation exercises that some may enjoy at Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche’s site, runningmind.org.
You may also enjoy this video, where Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche, describes his interpretation of body/mind as it relates to running. I hope this post ends up motivating a few of you to get off the internet and put your shoes on…