Do you ever have those times when you’ve peeled yourself off your mat, pried open your eyes after meditation, or finished journaling and preparing yourself some delicious, organic morsels, and then you realise that what you really fancy doing is going running?
When nothing else will work other than a good, old-fashioned, mood-shifting, wake-up cardio workout?
When you spend so much effort being mindful and aware, how do you maintain that and stay conscious when you’re huffing and puffing around the roads? And what does it mean, anyway, to be a “conscious runner?”
Being a conscious runner
I know some people listen to a meditation track while they’re running—but this isn’t it. I mean, that’s a nice idea in itself, but this isn’t what I’m referring to.
Other people throw on some tunes to stay in the high heart rate zone—or perhaps in order to zone out from the hard work. But this isn’t it, either.
Arguably, being a conscious runner is about taking off your iPod, switching off your watch, and leaving them at home. And if you can cope with that idea—of going it alone, you and your breath, and not a notion of what pace you’re going—then you give yourself a beautiful opportunity to listen to your body. To listen and connect to the rhythm that it wants to move in, and to pay your fullest attention to that.
A series of springs
Our moving body is designed on a series of springs, and running is the result of winding up the springs in order to release the tissues’ inherent elastic energy—to be able to leap from foot to foot to foot, essentially. Over and over again.
It’s fabulously simple, yet it’s an all-consuming activity of our interconnected parts. And each plays its part—the motion of our arms, the position of our head, the mobility of our pelvis—oh, yes, and our legs and feet, too!
Running can, in fact, be a beautiful, poetic dance through the air—light as you like, gliding along the ground, and that ease and grace is not just exclusive to the elites. By forging a relationship with the action of our body while we’re running, we can all experience running this way.
What’s more, fostering mobility in the system allows us to better access the body’s network of spring-like mechanisms, enabling us to release our power from our very core (hello, yoga, for helping me run!).
All movement starts at the core, in fact, but when we tap into activating this action, purposefully, we can deliver powerful yet graceful running, and more significantly this power can ultimately transcend our whole world.
Releasing ourselves from the register
When we turn off our gadgets and release ourselves from the numbers register, when we’re not stuck on what pace we’re going or how far we’ve been, we can start to tune into knowing what pace we’re travelling at. Just like we start to know when we’re travelling in the car at 30 or 40 miles per hour, we intuitively know the same with running—when we repeat and practice it often and practice mindfully.
It’s a freeing activity to repeatedly leave your watch at home. Suddenly you’re not gauging yourself against an external means, you’re no longer at the grip of our obsession with the masculine tendency to reduce everything to numbers. What about how you feel? (Exhausted, perhaps! But even that’s better than being beholden to a gadget!)
Moving in our mind’s eye
When we’re aware in our running, and connected in our mind’s eye to our moving body, we create a wonderful chance to adjust ourselves appropriately. Perhaps we change the movement in our hips or our arms in a particular way so that we can access more energy when we’re starting to flag on the homestretch.
Adding more consciousness into our jogging is also about alleviating ourselves from the burden of setting an expectation from our run; “Oh, I’m going to run so many miles in such and such a time.” How about, how do you want to feel when you’re running?
Perhaps, with a conscious awareness, we can sidestep the expectation and offer up an intention instead—the intention to be light or smooth, or the intention to be just as much happy, alive, and vital as we can possibly muster throughout our entire run. We can keep coming back to our intention—just as we reconnect to our breath every time we catch our mind wandering during our meditation. This can change the quality of our runs from start to finish.
Actually, you can even watch your breath just as if you’re meditating! And pretty soon you will be, and the miles will fly by fairly miraculously. Some hate to hear their breath labouring away, but you can regulate it, easily, in fact, and in doing so you can help to make yourself less prone to injury.
Compassionate and caring, yet energised and enlivened!
Being a conscious runner is about accessing our natural capacity to move in a free and vital way, it’s about paying attention to our body in motion. In turn, we nurture a deeper relationship with our running and with our endless capacity to fly through the air.
Being a conscious runner refers to feeling a niggle—and doing something about it. It’s about being compassionate with ourselves, just like we’re practicing in all of our other activities—by changing something when something isn’t quite right. Having the tools to know how to change something is just like any other game that we play—we have to learn them.
Bringing awareness into your run is about not going on the same old route in the same old way just because we’ve got the same old time frame in which to fit it in.
Every run is an opportunity. It doesn’t have to be a new map-marking exploration, granted, but it’s an opportunity to see something differently, to feel something differently, to notice the seasons changing, or to feel how your body is moving this time compared to the last time.
Take some vivid consciousness into your running, and you’ll thoroughly enliven your system.