One thing most moms crave above all else is stillness. From organizing household meal plans to juggling work demands and listening to continual streams of questions and complaints from your kiddos, you’re likely very hard pressed to find even a moment of calm in your days. After the kids are finally in bed each night, your bedtime is probably close behind if you don’t fall asleep on the couch first. And, while the thought of getting up earlier than the kids to meditate sounds nice, every moment of sleep you can get probably sounds better.
So, while you may want to create more space for stillness and reflection in your days, you’re likely wondering how the heck you can possibly achieve such a lofty goal. Running meditation may just be the answer. If running is the main solitary time in your weekly schedule, capitalize on that time by using it for more than physical fitness. Turn it into a time for also improving your mental fitness.
The following tips are designed to help you experiment with running meditation and to use running as a time to gain mental clarity. A few of the tips may push you outside of your comfort zone or current running habits. Try to view this as a good thing. Meditating while running may just bring the stillness and focus you’ve been desperately seeking.
Ditch the Music
If you’re an avid fan of listening to music while running, you may be balking at the thought of turning off the tunes and running without your earbuds. But don’t leave just yet. Seriously, give the following advice a chance.
While running with music can amp you up and keep you going, it can also keep you distanced from your thoughts and the mental stillness that you seek. Turning off the music and tuning into yourself is a foundational element of running meditation.
If running without music is new to you, start with turning off the tunes during one run each week and progress to going tuneless with more runs over time. Without the music, let your mind settle on the rhythm of your running pace. It will likely take some time to adjust to running in silence but don’t let the discomfort dissuade you. You’ll likely soon be amazed by the ideas and insights that crop up when your mind’s voice is no longer silenced by your music.
Learn to Breathe
Breathing. It’s the essence of our life, yet it’s something that we rarely think about. Honestly, when was the last time you fully analyzed your breathing habits both at rest and while running?
In her book, Breathe, Belisa Vranich offers an effective strategy for analyzing your current breathing habits as well as a step-by-step approach for teaching yourself to breathe properly. Take a few moments, tune into your breath without trying to influence it, and see if any of the following abnormal breathing patterns that are outlined in Vranich’s book resonate with you:
- Paradoxical Breather: This pattern uses your muscles in the opposite manner of how they should be used, by drawing in your belly during an inhale and relaxing it out during an exhale.
- Breath-Holder: You hold your breath for no apparent reason throughout the day. This often happens when staring at a computer or phone screen.
- Over-Breather: Either your exhale is strong, and your inhale is constricted or vice versa.
- No-Haler: No inhale. No exhale. You just sip in air throughout the day without really taking a full breath.
If you can identify with any of the above abnormal breathing patterns, consider diving into Vranich’s book, Breathe, to follow her effective step-by-step program for training your body how to breathe properly. Her companion book, Breathing for Warriors, is also a great resource that’s designed specifically to help athletes master their breath.
Learning to breathe properly is a skill that will help enhance your running practice and guide you toward mental clarity while running. After you learn to breathe properly, you can then begin to use your breath for running meditation. It’s also a skill that can benefit you immensely in every day to relieve stress, clear your mind and bring moments of stillness when you need them most.
Maintain focus on your running practice by adopting running mantras. Using running mantras is a great way to push through difficult training runs and to train your brain to stay focused rather than wandering aimlessly between thought streams. If you’re prone to negative self-talk, mantras offer immense power to help train your brain to focus on positivity.
One of the most impactful quotes on the power of self-talk comes from Dr. James Pitzer Gill II. As the only human in the history of the world to complete the Double Ironman Triathlon six times, he said the following about his accomplishments:
I’ve learned to talk to myself rather than listen to myself. When I listen to myself, all I hear is fear, doubt, lies, and failure. But when I talk to myself, I can tell myself anything I want to. I can feed myself good thoughts of hope, confidence, truth, and victory. I can tell myself I can do it. When I learned to talk to myself rather than listen to myself, I realized that there was nothing I couldn’t do.
Check out our article, “Running Tips: Achieve Your Goals with Running Mantras” to learn more about the power of mantras and also to explore several useful mantras that you can use while running.
Analyze your Thoughts
In a recent Runner Moms podcast interview as well as in her book, Still Running, Zuisei Goddard uses the metaphor of the mind as a lake and thoughts as paper.
“A thought is a single piece of paper. If you throw it onto the surface of the lake, it’s not a big deal. There’s just a little piece of wet paper. But if you keep doing that with bit after bit after bit, after a while, you’ll just end up with a pulpy mess. You won’t be able to see anything. Same with a rock. One rock is hardly going to disturb the surface of the water. But if you keep pelting it with rock after rock after rock, then all you will see will be the disturbance. That is what most of us are experiencing throughout our days. So, you could say that following your breath is stopping just before you throw in that rock or before you throw in that piece of paper. It’s looking at it and asking yourself: Do I want to follow this stream of thought? Do I really need to do that right now? Maybe I don’t. So, you just put it back in your pocket and you do that enough times, the water remains clear and still.”
Analyzing your thoughts is a key aspect of running meditation. Moms are often so frequently inundated with thoughts, ideas and complaints of everyone else in their lives that their minds feel clouded and overwhelmed. Regain mental clarity and pinpoint your personal feelings rather than those of everyone else by tuning into your thoughts while running.
As you tune into your thought patterns, you may notice recurring themes. Perhaps most thoughts that crop up are self-judging or negative. As Zuisei recommends, when a thought comes up while running, pause and consider whether it’s a thought you want to allow in your mind. If not, mentally set it aside, return to your breath, and let your mind rest.
Create Stillness in Small Increments
Don’t feel like you have to go all in with every bit of advice in this article right away. Rather, experiment in small increments. As B.J. Fogg describes in his ground-breaking book, Tiny Habits, starting small is the quickest and most effective way to create a new habit. If increasing your mental clarity through running meditation is the outcome you seek, insert small new behaviors into your running practice that will guide you toward that outcome.
For example, start by running once a week without music or your smart watch. Tune into your breath for two minutes of your next run instead of the entire duration. Take one minute at the end of each run to sit in stillness before re-entering the household chaos. After you’ve established these small behaviors into your running practices, you can build upon that foundation when you’re ready.
Running meditation is a new concept for many runners, but it offers immense opportunity to help you gain stillness and mental clarity. As busy moms, we must make the most of the little solitary time that’s available in our daily schedules. Whether you begin tuning into your breath or try running a few days each week without music, experiment with the tips for meditating while running and discover the profound benefits that it can bring to your life.
Want to learn more about meditation in motion? Listen to episode 11 of the Runner Moms Podcast featuring Zuisei Goddard. In the episode, Zuisei discusses the concepts for running meditation from her book, Still Running. You can find the episode on our website, or through your favorite podcast player.
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