My Shift with Running
Distance running is my true love. It’ s a time when my mind, body and soul connect and I’m able to feel a great joy with movement.
I’ve been running for about 15 years consistently, with minor disruptions caused only by unfortunate running injuries. When I was a young girl, I loved the feeling running brought me, so I would run when I had the opportunity after school or on the weekend. My best friend’ s mom was a marathoner, which was not popular at the time. I remember looking up to her with admiration and staring at her when she would come through the door, all sweaty in her split shorts, darting to the fridge for a Gatorade. I didn’ t know what her drive was, but I saw a tremendous amount of empowerment she exuded from her sport. I wished that one day I could be like her.
I took up running at my local gym exactly one year after I recovered from a stroke. After that debilitating year, hitting six miles was a big deal for me and felt so good after being so immobilized and sedentary for so long. I caught the “bug”and was addicted to the feeling I got from running, until one day I hit ten miles. I remember the feeling that surrounded that moment with a great sense of accomplishment, an endorphin high, like fireworks bursting through my cells. Something sparked in me – the idea to run a marathon for empowerment, to overcome the adversity I faced with my stroke. So I did. I trained with a wonderful girlfriend I met at the gym, who was a speedy miler in college. We had a blast, and the marathon was the start of a contagious journey for me. I took up running competitively. I pushed myself harder and under the guidance of a running coach, I trained with high volume to run races of all distances, from the 5k to the marathon. I trained mostly on my own. I liked the feeling of being able to push myself and the reward knowing that I accomplished my goal. It made me feel a warrior within. I placed high in my age group and even crossed tape a few times. In reflection, there was a great amount of gratification with those victories.
As I look back, I smile at that younger version of myself and I know how much that time in my life has served me. With a shift in myself, the self discovery I embarked on has led me to become a less competitive runner. I now consider myself more of a holistic runner. I define holistic running as being a conscious, spirited, soul runner. With my self discovery, I evaluated my relationship with running and my purpose for running. I realized the competition was no longer serving me and instead, it brought me anxiety. I let go of the outcome, removed my watch and ran more purely. Although I have great playlists that my DJ husband compiles for me, I prefer to run without music, without anything to distract me from the quiet. I run in the present moment. I use my senses to take in the peace around me. I listen to what my body is telling me. I love the sound of the rhythm of my feet hitting the ground. I feel most connected to myself in those moments. I am still training with high volume and slightly less intensity, however the process feels more joyful and almost effortless.
Tips for practicing conscious running:
Practice meditation. With meditating you will remove stress and run with more freedom.
Remove the watch. Run freely, without worrying about the outcome of your pace.
Be mindful, to your surroundings. Slow down. Use your senses to notice the ground you are on, the trees and buildings, or nature.
Try running without music sometimes, so you can connect with yourself without distraction.
Listen to your body. What is it telling you? Be mindful to aches or pains and use that information for self management.
Smile. Research shows that smiling decreases stress and relieves physical tension.
Enjoy the process. Try to think of all the positive reasons you run and the enjoyment in it.
Slow down and focus on form. Avoiding bad mechanics will prolong your career in running.
This extensive article by Sports Fitness Advisor lists 35 health benefits of running based on science.
Practice diaphragmatic breathing. With your warm up, take five deep inhalations and expand the belly like that of a pregnant belly for five counts and exhale, allowing the belly to deflate. This will allow for more oxygen and more ease in your running.