A couple of years ago, while hiking across Rarotonga, the local guide (the cool looking dude in the picture above) told me he was meditating while we were making our way through the bush.
“Bullshit,” I thought to myself (because apparently my inner-voice has no manners). “How can you be meditating if you’re moving?”
You see, this episode happened in my past pre-running life, a few months before I discovered things like runner’s high or those special places in my head that I can only get to while running. My idea of proper meditation involved sitting down with my legs crossed, eyes closed, and a whole lot of “oooom” sounds (something I had never tried either).
Not long ago, Josh Gale wrote a review of a book that Amazon keeps on hinting I should read by adding it to every recommendation email they send me – Zen and the Art of Running. His review, more than Amazon’s tiresome targeted marketing, got me interested in finding out more about the relationship between meditation and running. This week, thanks to a nasty cold, I’ve spent a pretty outrageous amount of time reading about running (and no time actually running). I’ve found myself going through a really large number of articles about mindfulness and running.
“Zoning out”, rather than meditating, is likely to be the most helpful thing I do to cope with long-distance running, on top of things like hydration and proper fueling. You know, those runs when everything just falls into place and you find yourself running effortlessly, going through a training run without even noticing the kilometers ticking by? Yeah, those ones. Unfortunately, it’s something I don’t feel like I have much control over. Sometimes I set out on a long run and the universe is all “yeah, Vera, go you!” and my brain does what it’s supposed to do. Other times, well, it sucks and I just turn around and run back home because why the hell not. The interesting thing for me is that my runs hardly ever come to an end because my body is tired, it’s always my brain that gives up first.
Lately, I’ve been wondering about how great it would be if I could control that element of my running as much as I can control how much I eat or drink during the run. If I could train my brain to go the places it should go, every run would be a pleasure rather than a task, right? Don’t answer, I’d rather keep that hope. Since one of the things I dread the most is the possibility of running becoming so much of a chore that I stop enjoying it, this is something worth considering.
In my last trail run, I tried giving this whole mindfulness idea a go. I still don’t know much about it at all but that has never stopped me before. I went with the “repeating a word (or mantra) to yourself over and over again” idea for one of the uphills, tried counting my steps while going up another hill, and focused on my breathing (and coordinating my breathing with my steps) on a third climb. As much as cool hip Vera wants to dismiss this sort of stuff as just new-age bollocks, cool hip Vera doesn’t actually exist and the fact is that I ran the three hills that I know for sure I would otherwise have walked. So, there.
New-age stuff 1 Super Generic Girl 0
Now I find myself wondering if the secret to excellent running actually relies more on one particular muscle, rather than the muscles on your legs. (I’m hinting at the brain, get it? Get it?)
The trick might be to actually focus on the run itself, rather than trying to distract myself from the run. I mean, there has to be something right about this because that 60-something year old man in the picture climbed to the top of that hill with no effort, while meditating, while I got up there wondering where I’d left my lungs along the way. Surely this is enough of a reason to consider looking into this some more.
Either that or I’ve just been taking far too many drugs for this stupid cold. Don’t mind me.
Haha. “Don’t mind me”. So clever.
Again, I’m sorry. There’s some pretty strong over-the-counter stuff for colds these days and I’ve been taking it all.
What I really want to know is whether you’ve ever tried meditating while running, what are the best resources for me to learn more about it and, if that’s not what you do while running, what in the world do you do? Tell me everything!
Related reading, if that’s what you’re into:
The Zen of Running and 10 Ways to Make it Work for You
Running with the Mind of Meditation