Mindful Running: 6 Reasons To Try Intuitive Running
It’s very easy to get sucked into technology and forget about the simple joy of running. Athletes often feel compelled to track data every second of every run.
But if you think back to being a kid, you ran around the yard for hours without a care in the world. Part of that is, of course, the ignorance of youth. The other part of that is also that you were not plugged into everything like people are today. Especially today’s youth.
So, let’s take a moment to relearn the joy of “running naked“. Sans technology for the uninitiated.
First, a quick definition of mindful running.
What Is Mindful Running?
Mindful running, also known as intuitive running, is the process of mentally connecting with your body while on a run. It is as simple as shutting down all of the noise in your head and just following where your body leads you. Whether the noise inside your head is led by pace, a distance you feel you need to run, or the constant buzzing of your phone or smartwatch, when you run intuitively you are just going by feel.
It is important to note that choosing to try intuitive running does not necessarily mean you are running slowly or that it is a short run. Just because you are unplugged and/or listening to your body, that does not have to mean it is a slacker workout.
Maybe you have a favorite 5-mile route you often go on. You can still run that same route. You may even find yourself running quickly. The point is you are not honed in on pace or checking heart rate on your watch. Any check-ins you take are either mentally or physically in the aspect that you are asking yourself, “how do I feel right now?”
Why Try Mindful Running?
In the hustle and bustle of everyday life, taking some time to just enjoy the moment can be a gloriously liberating experience. Too often we do not make room for margin within our own lives. When that includes the workout and the run or strength session starts to feel like a job or a chore, you might need to shake things up.
There can be many benefits to intuitive running:
- Slowing down
- Reducing injury
- Improve performance
- Less stress
- Social aspects
- Identification of weaknesses
- Stay present
Let’s break those down.
1. Mindfulness and Being Present
These two things can go hand in hand. If you are running mindfully, you are present in the moment. For years I only ran if I had my music device fully charged and my running headphones readily available. Always completely relying on my music to keep my brain busy, I used it as a crutch in many situations.
I have recently begun to enjoy the art of just existing on a run. Fully present and aware of what my body was doing, I find that running completely unplugged is something I have come to enjoy. There is not much more beautiful than a pre-dawn run where you can hear the birds and squirrels while running down a quiet rural road.
Listening to the sound of my breathing and my footfalls to regulate pace is remarkably effective. I don’t worry about numbers, I just run.
2. Slowing Down & Reducing Injury
Two other aspects that can end up working together are slowing down and injury reduction. If an athlete gets way too dialed into speed and pace with every single workout, that can be a recipe for disaster. Along with mindfulness, taking some time to go on some easy runs where you do not focus on pace or tempo can help you in many ways.
This can first build margin in your life as you are not worried about performance. It can be a very relaxing run, which is an excellent stress reliever. Lastly, these can help even the most injury-prone athlete avoid getting hurt.
3. Performance Boost!
The complete opposite end of the spectrum is that intuitive running could help you improve performance. Hear me out before you shake your head in disagreement. There are two main ways this is true. First, many runners do their long runs at way too fast of a pace. Not focusing at all on pace and just trying to keep your breathing and heart rate low based on feel can help you to slow down which in the long run, can help you get faster.
Also, I find that if I am running with someone quicker than I am but not looking at my watch, I often surprise myself at the pace I can keep and hold without even realizing it. Some of my fastest runs happen in cold weather when I am running with the girls. I always wondered what the difference was and I finally figured it out.
Do you know those awesome shirts with the thumb holes? When my thumbs are in the holes, I can’t see my watch. I just run and chat and when the run is down and I peek, my pace is awesome!
4. Weakness Identification
Running nice and easy without music or external factors weighing in is a great way to hone in on your form. This is an excellent time to think specifically about your arms or stride length or other things. Sure, that does not sound like you are just relaxing and running, but it is a very different kind of intention.
My favorite thing to work on when running “naked” is my breathing. Focusing on steady and easy breathing is something I can do in order to keep myself grounded and at an easy pace.
Maybe you will notice that your form breaks down at a certain point, and determine you need more core work to build strength. The point is that you are mindful and aware of how you are running.
5. Social Aspects
I have two favorite times to run with intention and to be mindful: when I am alone in the woods and when I am running with my running group. When on an easy run with the girls, I force myself to relax and not worry about pace. The same is true for when I am alone in a rural area.
Running while focusing on just being in tune with the things and people around me helps me to bring joy to my running.
6. Less Stress
Everything about unplugging helps me to have less stress. In a world where people crave and sometimes expect constant and immediate feedback and responses, it is nice to just leave it all at home.
Honestly, more people should set aside some time each day to not check the smartphone, watch or computer. If you don’t give your brain and time to unplug and just exist, it can be hard to remember what that feels like.
How To Try…
If you have never tried running like this, my advice is to leave all technology at home (or silence the phone and carry it stowed away, if you feel you need it for safety) and just run. Listen to your body and the sounds around you.
You can either choose a route your body knows well or try running someplace new. Just lace up, head out the door, and see where the open road takes you.
I promise you won’t regret it.
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