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Meditation for running

As individual activities, running and meditation are each scientifically proven to bring about a number of benefits. Running does wonders for your cardiovascular health and makes your mind less prone to age-related cognitive decline, and it also torches calories like no one’s business. Meditation, for its part, helps guide your mind toward increased awareness and compassion for yourself and others, while reducing stress and anxiety and improving focus.

It’s no doubt that each practice can make a world of difference in your quality of life, but what happens when you bring running and meditation together? Well, that’s where the real magic happens.

Headspace running meditations on The Nike+ Run Club app

Headspace partnered with Nike to provide audio guided running meditations within the Nike Run Club app. There are currently 15 Headspace guided meditations for running that you can try out. Simply go to the ‘Guided Runs’ tab in the Nike Run Club app and scroll to the ‘Run With Headspace’ section. There, you can explore a variety of runs to help connect your mind and body.

Olympic track and field sprinter English Gardner partnered with Headspace to create the “Mindful Meters” guided mindful run, now available in the Nike Run Club app. For the hour-long run, Gardner is joined by Headspace co-founder Andy Puddicombe and global Nike coach Chris Bennett.

“Daily meditations from Headspace have given me the mental strength and mental stillness I need to get the most out of my workouts and training regimen,” says Gardner. “I started meditating in the midst of recovering from an injury, and it was the one thing that helped me stay centered and focused during a stressful time in my life.”

When we try out a guided run, Gardner advises us to let our spirits be free and have fun with it — even if the run is challenging.

5 benefits of run meditation

No wonder the phenomenon of mindful running has been on the rise. Engaging in meditation while running can improve the strength of your mind and your run. Here are some of the benefits that uniting your meditation and running practice can bring:

  • Decreased levels of depression. A study published in Translational Psychiatry combined aerobic exercise with meditation and found that the recipe decreased symptoms of depression by 40 percent in depressed patients.

  • Happier runs (and beyond). Researchers at the University of California, Davis found that meditation can help lower levels of cortisol, the stress hormone. Less stress and a general improvement in mood make for a run that’s less about running away from problems and more about savoring nature and your body’s movements.

  • Higher pain tolerance. According to a data analysis from Wake Forest School of Medicine, pain tolerance can be increased through the practice of mindfulness (the area of meditation that focuses on being present). When you relax and avoid fixating on the point of pain, you’ll be able to push through it more easily.

  • More energy. Tension and restlessness can drain your energy buckets, but by using mindful running to bring awareness to your present, your body can relax and replenish its energy resources.

  • Improved speed and endurance. An increase in running speed is the direct result of the relaxation benefits that run meditation can offer. When your body is at ease and does not carry tension, it is not unnecessarily worn down — not to mention, your mind will also be at ease, allowing you to trek further.

How to practice meditation while running

Ready to try run meditation? There are multiple ways to go about it, so start out by picking whatever practice speaks to you in the moment.

Here are a few starting points:

  • Choose a mantra. A mantra is a word or sound that is repeated in the practice of meditation in order to help concentration. The possibilities are endless, but power words and phrases such as “I am strong,” “Just keep running,” or simply “Right left, right left” are always winners.

  • Focus on your breath. As you are running, use your breathing pattern as an anchor and become aware of its natural rhythm. You can also play around with your breathing patterns and different counts, or try to match your breathing to your footstrikes.

  • Become aware. Instead of letting the mind wander, focus on becoming aware of the sights, sounds and sensations you are experiencing during your run. Is there a breeze? What does it feel like? How does your entire body feel in motion? What are the sights you are passing by in your training? Make a mental list of everything you are seeing and feeling.

  • Guided meditations. If you’re having trouble with diving into run meditation on your own, consider a guided meditation for runners. Take the guesswork out of your first mindful run by putting on a guided meditation while running. Don’t know where to start? Well, we have these three suggestions in the Headspace app called Run Easy, Run Smart, and Keep Running.

6 running tips from Olympic sprinter English Gardner

“Working on this new guided run with Nike’s Global Run Coach, Chris Bennett, and Headspace’s Andy Puddicombe is exciting for me because I am helping other runners to train their minds to be stronger and more focused during a run,” says Gardner. “The brain is like a muscle and the same way you flex and strengthen a muscle, your mind is able to build up endurance, and that allows you to tap into a ‘reserve’ you may not even be aware of.”

Here is some more advice and motivation from Gardner:

  • Have fun. Whatever activity or sport, whether a run, a hike or hoops, it is always important to have fun, even if it’s challenging.

  • Let your spirit be free. There are few things in life that let you feel free and limitless. Running does that for me. Find something that lets you feel that unlimited potential.

  • Feel and learn from disappointment. It is not always about winning. Coming up short or having a bad day or race is part of the experience. Learn from mistakes and get ready to try again.

  • Don't take yourself too seriously. Even when you feel internal or outside pressures to do better or to be perfect, remember to be yourself, try your best, and enjoy the process.

  • It’s okay to be scared. Reaching your potential can be scary, since there is often an unknown element of how you will reach a certain goal. Sometimes that can be a key driver to success.

  • Find time to train your mind. As much as sport is all about physical training, focusing on your mind can give you a certain type of perspective, focus and endurance you didn't know you were capable of.

Running meditations available in the Nike Run Club and Headspace apps

These are the Headspace guided runs currently offered in the Nike Run Club app:

  • Mindful Meters (with Olympic track and field sprinter English Gardner)
  • A Whole Run
  • Stress Free Run
  • New Morning Run With Headspace
  • Morning Run With Headspace
  • Recovery Run With Headspace
  • Running Towards Your Goal
  • Mindful Miles
  • Not Motivated Run With Headspace
  • End Of Day Run With Headspace
  • Running On Empty With Headspace
  • Breaking Through Barriers
  • Big Day Run
  • Slow Down 2 Speed Up
  • Run With Headspace

The Headspace app also offers three guided runs, which can be found in the “Working Out” singles section:

So, what are you waiting for? Lace up those shoes and get your body and mind stronger through meditation — one footstrike at a time.

Also try Headspace walking meditations

If running meditations feel intimidating, ease into them by first trying one of the walking meditations, such as Walking in Nature or Walking in the City, available in the Headspace app. If you are a runner, you can try these out on your non-run days.

If you’re looking for an introduction to different types of meditation, check out the 10-day beginner’s course on the essentials of meditation — available for free in the Headspace app. From there, once you gain more experience and confidence, you can explore the whole library of meditations and exercises, covering everything from sleep, compassion, and sports to anger, stress, focus, and more. Get started today!

Sign up for Headspace, and try these walking and running meditations now.

READ NEXT: Walking Meditations

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