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Meditative Running Part 3

Posted Jan 25 2011 12:00am

These are running tips that I have slowly been implementing into my routine. Many of them sound easy but in practice they’re a challenge. The mind is such a difficult thing to control. It wanders endlessly. I can focus it for a few minutes (up from a few seconds!), but after that I catch it wandering again. Alan’s tips have given me some new ideas and I feel like I’m improving. It’s a very empowering feeling – knowing that you are learning to control and focus your mind to fuel your body.

by Alan Thwaits

Before you start a meditative run, stand still and take three or four deep belly breaths. Breathe in through your nose, let your belly fill up, then breathe out through your mouth. Don’t make a really big deal of it, just breathe. You can do this standing in your driveway, at the start of a run with friends, or just before you climb on your treadmill.

When you do a meditative run, run slowly. When you run quickly, you’re in a state of stress. Good stress, usually, but stress. When you run slowly, your body and mind will be in a more settled state. You can go further, as long as you go slowly. Your mind will be calmer if you run slowly. Find a pace where you can whistle or talk out loud. If you can’t do that, you’re going too fast. Slow down, and save fast for races.

There are a number of exercises and visualizations you can do while running which will help discipline your body and free your mind for meditation. The first is to stand up straight. Hold your head high and push your chest out. Look forward, not down. It helps to imagine that there’s a string, attached to the crown of your head, from which your body is suspended. If you can visualize this, you will eventually get the sense that your body is moving lightly along the ground.

Run from your core. That’s where running happens, not in your legs. The more you can develop your core strength, the better a runner you’ll be. If your core is strong, and you’re standing up straight, so that your hips are directly over your feet, you’ll run efficiently and effectively. Lift your feet up just enough to let the earth pass beneath you. Shorten your stride length and increase your cadence.

Soften and widen the focus of your eyes. Make your view of the world soft and flowing, not hard and sharp. Don’t worry, you’ll still see well. In fact, you’ll see better.

Breathe to your belly. Imagine that your belly is the centre of a triangle formed by your hips and your belly button. Breathe into that ball, and then back out of it.

As you run, open up your hearing. Listen for two or three separate sounds nearby (for example, a bird in a tree, someone talking in the park you’re running past, an airplane flying overhead). Then expand your hearing, and add two or three more sounds that are farther away. Do it again, reaching out for sounds that are further and less obvious. Then just be aware of the world of sounds you’re in.

To ensure that your hands (and therefore your arms) stay relaxed imagine that you’re holding a potato chip in each hand. Your task is to finish the run without crushing the potato chip. Hold your palms facing each other, and swing your arms naturally and easily. Technically, this is a mudra , a yoga gesture that stimulates different parts of the body that are involved with breathing and that affects the flow of energy in the body. But it’s more fun, I think, to imagine the potato chips.

Tomorrow’s post: Final thoughts and staying on the right path

***

I tried the potato chip thing. I was shocked at how tense my hands and arms would get, especially as I started to tire. I’m a potato chip crusher.

The chip technique has been helping me stay aware of my own body as well as my tendency to dig my nails into the palms of my hands when things get rough, exerting more energy but not exactly helping me run any better.

Another thing that was difficult for me was keeping my head up. I always assumed that I naturally ran with my head up, but I don’t. As I tire, I also start to drop my gaze. I try to focus on my chin now, and keeping it level with the ground. I find that lifting my head also gives me an emotional boost. I feel stronger instead of sluggish.

This has definitely been a process for me, and one I have approached with baby steps. But I’m a better runner for it.

Meditative Running Part 1

Meditative Running Part 2

Follow Alan’s blog here.

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