Looking for an activity that will help you be present and lead to more serenity in your life? Many experts will point you to a yoga studio and call it a day, but mat-based workouts and seated breathing sessions aren’t the only pathways to a state of bliss.
Believe it or not, you can meditate on the move. In fact, the rhythm and discipline of running offers an ideal space for your mind to fully connect with your body. Lace up your sneakers and see for yourself!
Step 1. Start small If you’re new to running or to meditation, don’t expect to run a marathon or attain enlightenment your first time out. Pick an obstacle-free route with little traffic, take off at an easy pace (you should be able to hold a conversation), and plan to meditate for no more than five minutes. You can build up from there as your mental and physical endurance improves.
Step 2. Set your gaze Hold your head up in a relaxed position and allow your eyes to settle on the path about three to four paces ahead of you. You’ll be able to see what’s in front of you (no tripping!) without being distracted by all the sights.
Step 3. Focus on your breath Match your footfalls to the tempo of your breathing, aim for three steps with each inhale and two for each exhale. As you get the rhythm, notice the space between inhaling and exhaling. Train your mind to go to that space, where time seems to stand still for a moment.
Step 4. Let thoughts float by Concentrate on your breathing and empty your mind, allowing any nagging thoughts to pass through without turning your attention to them. Don’t be discouraged if your mind wanders to deadlines at work or if you find yourself noticing a cute pair of shorts on the path ahead. Like seated meditation, running mediation takes practice to master. Be gentle with yourself, refocus on your breath, and try again.
Step 5. Finish with a smile Congratulate yourself for setting the intention to improve your health and wellbeing. No matter how far you run or how long you are able to stay in a meditative space, simply trying is an accomplishment.
Have you ever tried to meditate while running? Think you’ll try it now?
I haven’t been running much, so it’s been a while since I’ve posted. (Have you missed me? I’ve missed you!) I took some time off to finally clear up that lung infection, and now I’m slooowly getting back into my old routine.
I’ve been relying heavily on cross training during my comeback tour, focusing on getting my cardio fitness level back up with spin classes and strengthening weak areas of my body.
Yesterday, I took a yoga class with Lisa Priestly at AS ONE. And today I feel like a new runner. (Albeit a little sore in the back and shoulders—all those downward dogs add up!)
AS ONE, a fitness center run by George Vafiades (Ironman athlete and USA Triathlon Level 1 certified coach) and Mark Merchant (founder of ALTA Physical Therapy and a 2011 Death Race participant), offers up a program of high-intensity training that builds strength, stamina, and flexibility over an 8-week period. It’s perfect for runners, triathletes, and others looking to get stronger and faster, and to circumvent injury and muscle imbalance.
Lisa guided the class through a series of hamstring stretches and hip opening poses that left me feeling limber. And she explained that yoga is the perfect companion to cardio and strength training, because it lengthens muscles, opens up joints, and works the kinks out of other tight spots. I’m sold—again.
I’ve talked about yoga before, but I’m certainly guilty of skimping on the stretching—I mean, who hasn’t heard me whine about my hip flexor? So it’s time to do something about it. I’m heading out now to tackle a few miles in the park (running again feels so good!), and before I go I’m rolling out my yoga mat. This way it’s ready for a quick toe-touching session when I get back!
Do you stretch regularly? How often do you incorporate yoga into your routine?
Last night I was planning to do a few mile repeats at my marathon goal pace, but my legs felt like going faster so I went with it. I crushed those miles, running over a minute faster than planned! It felt incredible to push my body hard and realize I didn’t lose any speed over the past few flu-induced easy weeks. But my legs were a little stiff this morning, so I spent some time stretching on my living room floor.
Experts still can’t agree on whether or not stretching reduces a runner’s risk of injury, and no one can give me a straight answer on when to do it—before a run or after? But it feels good and I like to incorporate it into my routine on mornings when I’m not doing cardio. I prefer active stretching, using a yoga flow technique that keeps my muscles moving—as opposed to just reaching and holding, which can lead to cramps. A couple of sun salutations and a pigeon pose or two really works out the tightness in my quads, hamstrings, calves, and hip flexors.
For those of you who read yesterday’s postand are now wondering if I wear underwear when I stretch at home: Yes, I do. But that’s all I have on. Yoga is about moving freely, and clothes just get in the way. ;)
Countdown to the Boston Marathon: 10 days!
What are your favorite stretches? Have you ever tried yoga?
Originally posted in Running With It on Shape.com.