Why Running is the Perfect Mindfulness Practice for Me

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I love running. I love everything about it.

I love the feeling of the movement and the energy that courses through me as my body awakens with each step I take. I love the feeling of freedom that overcomes me when I’m out there, surrounded by nothing but fresh air and nature. I love my path and the sense of accomplishment that comes from completing my miles while the rest of the world around me sleeps.

I love running.

But I don’t always love it.

Sometimes I do not like it at all. Sometimes I think I even hate it.

It took me a while to come to terms with my wavering feelings on running—to accept that maybe I could be a runner who just doesn't do it every single day. More often than not, my mind wants to run, but sometimes, my body simply does not.

When I realized I’d fallen in love with running almost seven years ago, I developed an internal need to do it every day. I ran when I felt like it and I ran when I didn’t feel like it. The way my body felt was irrelevant. The only thing that mattered was that I logged my miles.

Then, about three years ago, I decided that I had to start listening to my body. I needed to stop pushing so hard in everything all of the time. I had to allow myself to exercise in a way that was more in tune with what my body genuinely needed—even if that meant softer, slower movement at times.

I want to run when I feel like it, but I want to gracefully be able to walk in the moments when I yearn for something gentler instead.

As with all of the habits and tendencies I’ve worked on shifting, easing into this has been a process. Sometimes I surrender effortlessly, and other times I feel the expectations of my mind battling the sensations in my body.

That’s why running is one of my best mindfulness practices—because it starkly forces me to feel into the present moment. I have no choice but to face how I feel.

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When I can sense that I don’t want to run, my practice becomes whether I can yield to what my body is telling me. Can I be okay with not wanting to run even though it had been what I’d originally planned? Can I let go of my attachment to my morning run and the enlivening energy that accompanies it?

Can I accept how I feel? Can I balance the thoughts of what I should do, or what I have decided I must do, with how I really feel?

Because I have spent so many years working on this, I do find that most of the time I am able to listen to what my body is saying. As time passes, I find it easier to slow down—to submit to that call for an easeful walk.

But it’s not always easy. In fact, sometimes it takes a lot of work.

And, it takes work for me, because I have a bent toward rigidity. I like feeling in control. I love structure and routines and the predictable nature of the expected.

I want to be fluid, but it takes effort for me to flow with life.

I think many of us have certain areas of our lives in which we grip and grasp—where we cling to some semblance of feeling like we have it all totally together. We like feeling like we can determine the outcome of whatever aspects we’ve deemed controllable, because so much of everything else feels so unpredictable.

But, I think in order to live with ease in life, we have to find a way to welcome whatever shows up; we at least need to be able to accommodate it.

Mindfulness is about moving into the present moment. It’s about accepting what is—noticing, observing, and watching it. It’s about witnessing the life we are living as we are living it. It’s about practicing ways of just being with whatever comes into our experience—allowing space for it to exist exactly as it is, without judgment, criticism, or expectation.

Yesterday, not long into my run I realized that I was totally uninterested in running my full loop. My body felt good, but my mind was not feeling it at all.

At about the halfway point I decided to walk.

For the next 100 meters or so, I felt the battle waging in my mind—to run, or not to run. I’d run for a few steps and then stop, because I really did not feel like doing it, and then run again, and then stop again.

At some point, I relented. I relaxed. I eased all pressure.

I walked the rest of the way home.

It felt good.

When I got home, I was smiling.

I had listened to what my body needed and I’d reveled in the ease of the movement.

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1.       Do you run? What is your favorite form of exercise?

2.      How do you practice mindfulness?

3.     What areas of your life do you find you continuously need practice in surrendering?

Leave a comment and share your thoughts, tips, or any questions you may have!