In this video and article, you’re going to learn how to practice running meditation. You’ll also learn how to build stamina for running.
Most people don’t think of running as meditation. One’s active and strenuous, and the other’s often thought of as a passive activity.
Runner’s high, stamina, mental toughness and your mental and physical resilience can all be enhanced by combining running and meditation. The same goes for inner peace and many of the other benefits of meditation. The extra advantage is that you get some exercise time in as well.
You’re going to learn not only some variations on running meditation, but also a great evidence-based breathing method that will build running stamina and send more oxygen to your muscles.
Running Meditation, Stamina & Mental Toughness
Mentally tough runners typically have intense focus, high stamina and both physical and mental resilience. How does meditation enhance these things?
It’s widely known that meditation enhances focus, because you are usually focusing on something. It goes without saying that this laser focus that practitioners develop will manifest in the running experience as well.
The mindfulness element of meditation will increase your stamina during running because mindfulness gives you the ability to “hang” with and gracefully accept whatever’s happening in the present moment. This includes thoughts, anxiety, physical pain and whatever else is happening in the now.
That ability to gracefully experience the here and now increases your stamina and your mental resilience. The ego grasps at comfort and pushes away discomfort. Mindfulness breaks down the knee-jerk attraction and repulsion and gives us more choices other than needlessly reacting to our own experiences.
Paying attention to the feelings in the body will also give us opportunities to relax into the run without wasting needless energy. We then have the opportunity to develop physical resilience.
You may have heard of runner’s high, and you may also have experienced it for yourself. Runner’s high occurs when the act of running releases some of the happy chemicals in the brain known as endorphins.
This is just one component of runner’s high. The other is a state of flow which occurs when everything falls away except you and the road, floor or treadmill.
This state of flow is a major part of meditation. If you’ve experienced runner’s high, there’s also a good chance that you have experienced meditation at the same time.
The simple act of long term running has been shown to reduce anxiety and depression. The same can be said about meditation. They have a lot in common. It can be a great combo.
How to Practice Running Meditation
There are at least a couple of different ways to do running meditation. One involves synchronizing your running with your breath, and the other method you’ll learn here does not.
Most meditation techniques have an object of focus. It may be a mantra, the breath, a candle flame, a visualized image and many other things.
Typically, you become deeply absorbed in that object. If you’ve experienced a good lover, you have probably found that some situations make it very easy to concentrate with full attention. In fact, love and concentration are the same thing in the advanced stages.
In running meditation, you are anchored in the consciousness of the sensation of running. The high physical stress certainly makes it easier to pay attention to what is happening in the body.
The way to combine meditation and running is to pay full attention to what’s going on in the body. The pain, the breath, the feeling of your feet hitting the ground, the rhythm of the running, your own thoughts.
Let go of thoughts of dinner, the work you have to do tomorrow and the work you were supposed to do yesterday.
Add-On 1: Add Mindfulness for Running Stamina
Sometimes when I run or ride a bike up a steep hill, anxious thought occurs. Other thoughts about some time other than now also occur.
There may be times when you’re physically comfortable during the run, and your mind has the privilege to wander aimlessly.
Whatever your mind is doing, be fully present with whatever is going on. It could be that you’re not concentrating well on the experience of running, but that shouldn’t take you out of the present moment.
All this thinking is happening WITHIN the present moment. They are processes occurring within you.
Be present with that. You are an impartial observer who is calmly witnessing these thinking events happening in the here and now. Acknowledge this thinking as if it’s a good friend.
When you pay attention to a thought instead of following it, it loses its grip on you. You may find that the thought starts to fade when you shine the light of loving attention on it.
After acknowledging the inner processes, go back to the rhythm of the run, the feet hitting the ground, the body sensations and the breath. If thoughts happen again, repeat the mindfulness process and then go back to the rhythm and sensations of the run.
This mindfulness process accumulates equanimity, and this leads to peace and what some refer to as mental toughness. Mindfulness builds up running stamina.
Add-On 2: Synchronize the Breath with the Running Meditation
Try adding some rhythm to the breath and see if that helps. It gives you something to concentrate on.
Running usually involves breathing through the mouth, so stick with that unless you want experiment with the nose as well. I can’t vouch for the nose method.
However you do it, try the following.
Your right foot and then left foot hit the ground. Count this as one cycle. Take a deep inhale for four cycles, and let out a deep exhale for four cycles. Both the inhale and the exhale are of equal intensity.
If you want to increase stamina and send more oxygen to your muscles, let your abdomen inflate like a balloon while your chest remains relatively still. This will tone up your lungs and diaphragm.
Most runners are chest breathers, but this method may help you with both meditation and stamina building. Strengthen your respiratory system and strengthen your running stamina. Conversely, the more respiratory stress, the more your leg muscles will suffer.
Synchronizing the breath does help to strengthen the diaphragm. Even if you don’t wish to synchronize your breath with the rhythm of your running, try this belly breathing method anyway.
Let yourself become increasingly absorbed in the breath. You are “becoming one” with the breath, just like you “become one” with a love partner.
The belly breathing method may also help you to let go of tension and conserve your energy for running. This brings us to the next section.
Add-On 3: Relax the Body During the Run
Here’s another variation of running meditation. During the run, try “checking in” with one body part at a time and notice where you are especially tense. Let go of as much tension as you can with each body part.
Some parts of your body, including your face, ankles, forehead and hands, may be more rigid than you need them to be. Let go of all that and relax into the run. You need only be as tense as necessary during running meditation, but I repeat myself.
It probably goes without saying that conserving energy is another great way to build stamina.
Remember to apply mindfulness when anything distracts you from this tension clearing process.
No matter how you choose to do running meditation, your mind is going to relax. Relax into the immediate physical reality. As you relax, you may find that it’s easier to attune yourself with the surrounding environment. Relax into that as well.
Share Your Insights or Questions
Share your running meditation experiences in the comment form below. How has it helped you to build running stamina and mental toughness? Have you experienced runner’s high? Let’s hear about it.
Is anything unclear/wrong/etc? Ask a question or chime in with some input below.
Tom Von Deck is a meditation trainer, speaker, and speaker. Tom specializes in making meditation much much easier for busy and non-busy people from all backgrounds and paths. He is the Mackdaddy of The Deeper Meditation Video Zone and DeeperMeditation.net.