Many people think meditation is about thinking no thoughts in a silent room. Both of which, for most of us, would be virtually impossible. Luckily, meditation is more straightforward than that. It’s actually about learning to detach from thoughts about the past and the future and learning to be ‘in the moment’.
This (yippee!) is relatively easy with practice, which is great news for runners, as meditation fits perfectly with the reflection and adjustment we all do, often subconsciously, when we run.
I first started meditating when running without even realising that’s what I was doing. After a series of minor injuries, I read Chi Running by Danny Dreyer. This recommends ‘body sensing’ your run by scanning your attention through the body to find areas of tension or ache, and using that feedback to make small adjustments.
This puts you in your body, in the moment, rather than in the ‘I need to do x pace or I am rubbish’ space. He puts it like this: 'If I listen carefully enough, my body will tell me everything I need to know to create optimal results'.
For example, if you notice your right calf feels a bit tight, you let it loosen off and see how that affects different parts of your body and note these changes too. This is really about connecting the mind and body, something we often – bizarrely – forget when running.
Noticing how you run can also have a positive impact on how much you enjoy it and also, perhaps counter-intuitively, your speed. Meditation has actually helped me run faster, despite feeling like I’m running slower. Go figure.
Meditation also helps us to recognise our passing thoughts as just
that - passing. Have you ever ran and thought ‘I’m not fit enough’ or ‘I can’t do this? Everyone has thoughts like this – running can be tough! – but a meditative approach can take you out of that dark place in your head.
When the demon ‘I’ll never manage this’ voice pops up, meditation helps you to pay attention to what is happening, rather than what you think ought to be happening. This stops a bad mile from turning into a bad run, and a bad run turning into ‘I hate running’.
I use guided meditation apps at home (and at my desk and on the train). These have helped me to reduce stress and just be ‘in the moment’. You don’t even have to enjoy the moment, really, just recognise that you’re in it and that it won’t last forever. I’ve found this particularly useful at mile 20 of a lonely marathon training run, when I was starting to feel like it would never end!
Runners can be our own worst enemies with negative thoughts when we’re out running or fretting about our PBs. Meditation can help get rid of all that. Has to be worth a go, doesn’t it?
Jayne's top meditation apps