Meditation is experiencing a bit of a renaissance at the moment. It seems everyone from corporate America to Wall Street brokers to kindergartners is practicing mindfulness. And there are plenty of reason why this age-old tradition (around since ancient times) is currently trendy and #trending.
Studies show meditation may mitigate depression, improve cognitive function, and lower post-workout lactic concentration in runners – just to name an iota of its benefits.
And while on the surface, meditation and running might seem like polar opposites, total activity vs. utter inactivity, the two complement each well beyond the physical benefits.
Both practices are rewarding, restorative, and – to experience their full benefits – require patience, dedication, and repetition. Improving in one of these practice carries over to the other.
Here are some of the ways meditation enhances running …
- Meditation gets you in touch with your body. Runners are often told to listen to their bodies, take breaks when needed, and so on – but let’s be honest: once the endorphins kick in, it’s easy to ignore a nagging pain or strained breathing. Meditation trains you to take stock of your body and notice how you feel – physically and mentally – at any given moment, which is crucial for injury-prevention.
- Meditation increases patience. Do you get bored on longer runs? Meditation can help. The practice teaches you nothing in itself is inherently boring. There is so much to notice in every moment, if you know how to tune into that awareness.
- Meditation can help you run without music. If you wish you weren’t so reliant on your playlist that a broken pair of headphones sends you walking home, then meditation can give you myriad of other things to pay attention to. You’ll learn how to tune into sounds, smells, physical feelings, and emotions. In addition, it gives your mind more space – increasing the chance you’ll think of a brilliant solution to a problem or simply find some much-needed peace and relaxation on the run.
… and now, how running enhances meditation:
- Running helps you get in touch with your body. (Yes, it works the other way around, too.) If, during seated meditation, you have trouble staying in touch with your breath or the sensations in your body, focusing on these things while running is excellent practice – and slightly easier. They are much more exaggerated when you’re running than when you are sitting still.
- Running helps clear your head before meditation. If you spend the majority of your meditation time trying to calm the thoughts in your brain so you can focus on your breath – welcome to the club! Running before meditating can help. The sheer physicality of the sport and rush of endorphins almost force your mind to be in the present – and most of us return from a run feeling much less stressed than before. To capitalize on that feeling, try meditating within 15 minutes of arriving home after your run.
- Running is more fun than sitting still. If you find seated meditation boring or have trouble motivating yourself to do it, think about giving running meditation a try. Just by moving through the world instead of sitting in one place you will have many more things to notice.
- Running gives you a rhythm to focus on. Have you ever heard running called moving meditation? While runners often want to tune out the repetitive nature of putting one foot in front of the other, paying close attention to it instead can help to free your mind from problems, concerns, and general noise. This further kicks up the mind-clearing effect of running.
Ready to get started? Check out our Guide to Meditation for Runners, which includes tips on both seated and moving meditations.
Written by Varia Makagonova.