Mindfulness and mediation in motion: how “mindful running” could be good for your health

Mindful Running

Meditation. Most of us associate this concept with peace, relaxation, soft chimes, and lying down or sitting still. Hardly anyone thinks of movement, let alone jogging. Yes, you read that correctly. Jogging, or to put it better, mindful running, is a form of mediation, and a healthy one at that!

Quite consciously: breathe in, breathe out. Concentrating on our own breathing can sometimes help more than we realise, particularly nowadays, when stress is ever-present. There are a great many strategies for managing stress and running is a very popular and effective one. If you concentrate entirely on yourself when running, on your thoughts and your breathing, you can switch off from your daily routine and create new energy. Physical activity does not just boost physical fitness, but mental fitness too.

What is mindful running?

Mindful running is a way of creating a connection with your surroundings and your own body. Blocking out and forgetting everything that currently worries, stresses or puts pressure on you is central to it, as this allows you to be completely in the here and now. Whether you pay attention to the noise of your steps, the warmth of the sun on your face or your breathing plays no role here; in mindful running, you simply programme your body to switch off. This will enable you to recharge, to find yourself and to be the best, most creative version of yourself. Not just when you run, but throughout your day, every day.

“What was or will be doesn’t matter. The moment is what matters.”

“The three Cs” of mindful running

Mindful running is defined by “the three Cs”: clarity, coolness, and concentration. If you can master these, you can turn your run into a meditation, regardless of whether you run 2, 3 or 10 kilometres, or even more.

  • Concentration: concentrate on yourself or your surroundings.
  • Clarity: be present. Be consciously aware of what is happening right now.
  • Coolness: register any incipient emotions, whether negative or positive. And then let them go again.

How does mindful running work?

“Don’t get stressed!” Easy to say, but frequently difficult to do in your daily life. Mindful running will help you by combining mindfulness and body awareness exercises before, during and after your run.

It works like this:
  1. Set off on your run slowly, without putting any pressure on yourself. Give your body time to find a rhythm. Concentrate on yourself, not on your performance.
  2. Breathe consciously. Pay attention to your breathing. Consciously breathing in and out is meditative and will provide the foundation for relaxing.
  3. Be aware of your feet. Experience how they feel when they touch the ground. Focus your attention on the movement of your feet and try to bring lightness into your run as you do. Did you know that your feet have 27 joints, 26 bones, 32 muscles and 107 ligaments? Try to be aware of this.
  4. Pay attention to your surroundings. Concentrate on the noises around you. Be aware of the smells or impressions in your surroundings. Pay attention to things you didn’t know and discover new things!
  5. Be aware of signals from your body. If not everything you feel is positive, that’s okay. Pay attention to your body. Are your thigh muscles burning, or can you feel a pinch at the back of your neck? Do you feel light? Are you really in the flow? No matter what signals your body sends, take it seriously. If you feel pain, reduce your speed or stop running.
  6. Finish your run consciously. Take your time and connect with yourself. How does your body feel? Send your attention from your head over your shoulders to your arms, then back to your spine and further down until it reaches the tips of your toes. Ideally, you will feel good, and relaxed. Is that not the case? Then maybe you need a little more practice. Be patient with yourself and give yourself time. You will notice that your body feels more relaxed each time.

"Walk as if you were kissing the earth with your feet."
(Thich Nhat Hanh)

Negative thoughts have no place in mindful running. They will block your run and spoil your mood. Nevertheless, thoughts like “I don’t like running any more”, “how much further...?” and “everyone is faster than me” are frequent running companions. Accept such thoughts, then let them go. Instead, fill your head with positive, motivating thoughts. The goal of mindful running is not a new record, but positive feelings – being in the moment and a good mood both during the run and after it.

“We don’t recover as time runs by, but in the time in which we run.”

Alderman, B. L., Olson, R. L., Brush, C. J. & Shors, T. J. (2016). MAP training: combining meditation and aerobic exercise reduces depression and rumination while enhancing synchronized brain activity. Translational Psychiatry, 6, e726.
Mead, E. (2020). How to benefit from mindful running and mindful exercise on your fitness journey. Blogbeitrag. Positive Psychology.com.
Mindful Running: Wie du durch Laufen zu mehr mentaler Stärke findest

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