Can you meditate while running?

From the outside looking in, I don't know that many people would necessarily associate running and meditation, but if, like me, you've been running for a little while, you think this actually is probably related. 
Can you meditate while running?

From the outside looking in, I don't know that many people would necessarily associate running and meditation, but if, like me, you've been running for a little while, you think this actually is probably related. Sometimes I feel like I'm actually meditating while I'm running, even though I'm not particularly trying to. So the question is, can you actively meditate while running, and is there any benefit from doing so?

If you haven't been with me here before. I'm Jesse Funk, the founder of and the host of this show Runner's High where we talk about everything running and endurance related. So running, triathlon. If you want to talk cycling, I can do that. But I'm probably going have to bring in my coach who's more of a cycling specialist, to answer your questions. In any case, if you love running, you love endurance sports, subscribe. Stick around for more episodes every Tuesday and Thursday.

So we want to talk about running and meditation. I know I've talked about this with a number of guests on the other show I do on this channel, the Smart Athlete Podcast. It comes out on Fridays, and I've asked about whether they feel like their sport often running or cycling or rowing, depending on the guest. We talk about a lot of different sports, whether they feel like it's a form of meditation. And I think, as I mentioned in the intro, there are times when we feel like this.

I think those times are when we're, as it's referred to in the zone, we're solely focused on our activity. I remember in high school moments of kind of really being so into running that I just became motion. Like the, all the noise in my mind began to quiet down and I just was legs turning over, heart rate breathing, arm's pumping. There wasn't anything else going on. And in some ways, I think much of my running career has been about chasing that moment.

But I think there's actually the practice of trying to meditate while running that you can do to help you get closer to that place more consistently. Because meditation isn't only about sitting in a room being quiet or lighting candles and chanting mantras. Now you can do that. And for clarification sake, there are various forms of meditation. But we're going to talk about mindfulness meditation, which is a little bit more mainstream, I guess I'll say, versus something like loving kindness meditation, which is another version.

So mindfulness meditation is a lot of the practice of just being present. There's much more and less, as I understand it, to be learned from the practice than that. And it is both simple and deep at the same time, much like running where it is just running, yet it's not just running and the whole practice is being present, being mindful.

We hear this all the time. What does that actually mean? That means in this case, as I'm sitting here talking to this camera or talking to you, I'm being present and I'm just thinking about you. I'm not going, "Okay. Well, after this, I need to take the dog to the groomer and then I need to go to the gym and then I need to..." No, I'm just focused on where I am right now in this very moment and running offers us the opportunity to do that and try to find that place where we become just motion and allow our minds to become still.

So how do you get into this? What can you actually do while you're running to be meditating? I think some of the practice really comes from prepping before you go out for the run and this can really be part of your warmup. So I've talked about warm ups before where you want to have a pre warm up to your warm up if the run is the warm up.

So you're doing like a speed day and you jog easy and then you do this fast stuff. You actually want to have a pre warm up where you are doing some plyometrics, you're maybe doing a little bit of strength work. Subscribe to the channel. Check out that video here. We'll try to post it at the end of this video for you to check out.

But it's also a mental prep before you go out and run. Are you like me? Were the days that you're so crammed to the gills of I've got to get this done, I think I get this done. I want to get my running. Your brain is just fuzz and jittery energy. It's not a great place to go out and run and find this place of calm. It's going to take a little bit more work.

Something I have to remind myself, even 20 years in here to my running career is that even if I try to rush a run or I feel like if I just run a little bit faster, I'll be done sooner and then I can go on that that crazy and still mind. I have to remind myself that even if I try to rush a run, I'm going to save like 2 minutes maybe. What difference is that going to make? Very little likely. That 2 minutes is probably not worth the rushing.

So if I remind myself to try to calm down before the run and go objectively, I'm going out for an eight mile run. If I run faster, I can save 2 minutes, but I'm probably going to be more tired. Just the practicality of it allows me to step back and prep my mind a little bit, a little bit of that jittery energy go and not worry about it so much.

So then you take a couple of deep breaths, try and get into a better headspace before you go out. Let go of that nervous energy. No, okay, we don't need to rush, because that's not going to change basically anything. That's the first step of prep. Some of it also comes in the rhythm of the run itself, which is a side note, is why we had the kind of chant before our races in college in homage to cool runnings. Feel the rhythm, feel the rhyme. Get up now it's cross country time.

It's a lot of fun with those guys, but it plays into the idea that there is a rhythm, that there is rhyme to our running. And even if you're not musically inclined, I think you can still feel this. There's still plenty of people that don't necessarily have a musical background like I do that I think can feel the rhythm of running because it's so deep within you how you're breathing, how your legs are hitting the ground.

And to focus on that, you can just focus on the feeling if that's strong enough for you, you can focus on the feeling. But to try to meditate again, to be mindful, to be present, we want to think about what we're doing in particular without being distracted by these outside dots, these thoughts that are trying to intrude on us in the way to do that can be counting deciding on a number ahead of time where, say, let's count to ten.

Each step is one, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine, ten, as the mailman comes by, and then you count back down. Ten, nine, eight, seven, six, five, four, three, two, one. You can feel your mind slowing down as it becomes calmer and calmer, as you begin to settle into the rhythm of your run, where you begin to focus on, "Oh, I'm just here," and then maybe you have a moment where you go, I'm doing it. And there's that intrusive thought again, pulling you out of the rhythm.

But all you have to do is return to it. That's the part where this meditation, this idea of mindfulness is both simple and deep at the same time, much like running, because the practice is just that, right? It is just being present. But because of our lives, because of how busy you probably are and I am, our minds go from this to this to this, to this and have that jittery energy.

But we know from people that run, from studies done on people that run that running and meditating both separately and together, have some effect on people's ability to have a better mood, to not feel as depressed, which as a side note, if you are suffering from clinical depression, running is not an antidote for that. I always like to give that PSA. It's always great to find a therapist that you trust and go that route.

But it also is worth noting that exercise, running in particular, and this mindfulness meditation is shown to have some positive correlation with these improved moods. So I think that not only will you help yourself from day to day by doing this practice, but you also help your running. And let me tell you why and that why is really the core of running the thing. I come back to just about as much as I talk about consistency and that's rate of perceived exertion. Running based on how you feel.

In the basis of running on how you feel is being present, where you are right now, and relaxing in that. It's a stepping stone where you go, I'm going out for an easy run, I'm going to be present. I'm within the rhythm, I'm not distracted by all of these things. And then working to that same kind of mindset as you go faster, being present, being aware of this is my rate of perceived exertion. This means I know I'm going this particular speed and I can hold it for as long as I need to in this particular race, for this particular distance.

It's a trait that, yes, I think it will improve your mood overall. Yes, I think it will have positive benefits on your overall calmness and demeanor from day to day. And yes, we'll bring it back to running. I think it helps you be a better runner because you're more in tune with what's going on with me right now. So do you know today maybe I need to take it a little bit easy? My body is not feeling it. I need to go back.

Or maybe you're not feeling it, but you get warmed up and you're like, "No, I really am good." Or you're good from the beginning. Whatever is the case, having this meditation practice, having this mindfulness while running both benefits every day as well as your running practice itself.

So what questions do you have for me? Please leave them in the comments below. I'd love to make a video for you, or maybe I'll just reply to your comment. Depends on what it is. In any case, if you want more content like this, subscribe to the channel or go to our website for more stuff in the future. Bo cat here is going to make me feed him here shortly so I've got to go, but I'll see you next time on the next episode of Runner's High.

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