Updated: Jun 30, 2021
Training for a marathon is hard work; hours spent pounding the pavements, sometimes on your own, worries about fuelling, clothing, training routes…… compounded by the little voice in your head that questions your sanity for taking on such a challenge! Being mindful means being present – connecting with what’s going on right now, rather than spending time worrying about the past or the future. Try these mindful running tips below, to help combat these doubts, to distract you from boredom, to prevent injury and to enhance your running experience.
1. Breathe… To bring your mind back to the present, try focusing on your breath. Pay attention to one aspect of your breathing – the air as it enters your nose, or your chest rising and falling. Use your breath as an anchor to bring you back to the here and now.
2. Tune in… to your body. Start at the top of your head and work down to your toes, paying close attention to how your body feels. Are you carrying any tension? Take a deep breath and as you exhale, let that tension go. Acknowledge any discomfort – is it just tiredness, or a niggle, or injury? Consider whether you need to slow down or stop. Focus on the movement of your body from top to bottom – keep your posture tall and eyes forward, keep your shoulders low and relaxed, arms swinging by your sides and not across your body line.
3. Look… really pay attention to your environment. Choose a colour at the start of your route and look for that colour as you run. Look high and low, nearby and in the distance. How many things can you see of that colour? Tuning into your environment helps us to be safer while we run, to see things we have never noticed before, and to while away the minutes and miles on a long training run.
4. Listen… tune in to your surroundings. Set yourself a challenge, perhaps once every mile, to pick out two sounds – one in the distance and one close by. Birdsong, traffic, pedestrians, or perhaps the sound of your breathing or footfall. Turn off any music and really pay attention to the sounds around you, making your run safer and providing a welcome distraction.
5. Smell… be curious as to the smells in the air – once every mile focus on what you can smell – this just helps you to connect to your environment, tuning in to the world around you and distracting you from any negative thoughts that might pop into your head.
6. Ask yourself… what am I thinking about right now? Is it a positive thought? If it is, indulge it, continue on your run while you plan, feel excited for the future, or problem solve. But often when we run, our negative self-talk starts to shout loudly, telling us we’re tired, no good, and just want to quit. Imagine what you would say to a friend if they shared these thoughts with you – undoubtedly you’d encourage them to continue, maybe suggest they slow down for a bit, but reassure them that they are an amazing, inspiring runner and achieving so much more than those people sitting on the sofa right now. Reframe those negative thoughts into something positive, and reply to yourself as you would to a friend.
7. Be curious… another way to tune into our breathing is to consider what breathing pattern you currently favour; how does your breathing synchronise with your footfall? Do you breathe in for 2 strides and out for 2 strides? Or in for 3 but out for 2? Play around with this, try and change the foot that lands as you exhale. Not only will this help a few kilometres go by, it can also help prevent injury by switching the side of your body that takes the most force when you exhale.
8. Run free… every so often, ditch the tech! When we follow a training plan it can be very hard to do this, we want to record every mile and mark off our progress (after all, if the watch didn’t record it, did it really even happen?!) But sometimes we can become a slave to the technology and the training plan and this can occasionally result in disappointment or frustration if we miss a milestone. Running for running’s sake can remind you why you started running in the first place; get outside, connect with nature and enjoy your run – the freedom of moving, exploring your surroundings and the natural high you experience afterwards.