Does Meditation Help in Running?
The word meditation stems from the Latin word “meditatum”, which means “to ponder”. The practice of meditation dates back to thousands of years, and many people believe that it has its roots in Buddhism. Over time, this practice spread to Japan, and more recently found its way into Western culture. In recent years, it has been used by people across all walks of life to work on their mindfulness.
At the heart of it, meditation broadly refers to a state of being where an individual is –
- In a quiet surrounding
- Seated in a comfortable place, preferably on the floor
- Hands rested comfortably, ideally on the laps
- Focused on a state of mental stillness (or letting thoughts pass by without giving them much attention)
General benefits of meditation
Multiple scientific studies have shown how meditation can be beneficial against physical as well as mental conditions. These can help athletes as well as non-athletes across multiple facets of their lives. Some of the scientifically tested and research-based benefits of meditation are:
- Reduced anxiety and insomnia
- Improvement in brain function
- Lowers risk of blood pressure
- Helps reduce stress-related inflammation
- Helps manage irritable bowel syndrome
Meditation for athletes
There are many plus points of meditation for runners. For athletes, the biggest benefit of meditation is that it can help them manage performance stress, anxiety, and pressure in a more balanced way. Further, meditation has been linked with increased focus and a reduction in mental wandering. These benefits make meditation a very useful tool in any athlete’s arsenal.
Athletes also tend to like the fact that meditation is an exercise, which can be done anywhere and at any time. As a result, some prefer to practice meditation immediately before workouts, whereas some prefer to indulge in some mindfulness right before bedtime. And since meditation does not need any equipment except a comfortable seating space, athletes can practice this virtually anywhere.
As a result, runners learn how to listen to their bodies and understand the signals that their bodies throw back at them during the run. Mindfulness is especially important on some of the tougher workouts, such as intervals, long runs and fartlek runs.
Moreover, the additional benefits of stress management can help athletic performance by allowing the athlete to block out external factors, such as pressure and the sense of the occasion, and increase focus on internal aspects. This will allow them to function in a parasympathetic state, one which reduces the “fight or flight” response and focuses on controlled effort instead, which leads to better performance. Now that you have got an idea about the role of meditation in running, read on to know how to begin this activity.
How can you start meditation?
For most beginners, a good way to start meditation is to sit with your back straight, feet on the ground, and hands in a rested position. Try keeping your eyes shut. Do not resist thoughts, simply let them come and go. Focus on the sensations around you – the touch, the sounds, the smell.
A few principles to keep in mind are:
1. Start small: Even a short five to 10 minutes of meditation is good enough for the first few times. Just like physical fitness, allow yourself some time to build up your mental stamina
2. Be consistent: Don’t wait for the perfect time or the perfect day. Ten minutes of daily practice is better than one hour of practice on a weekend. Focus on building habits first
3. Enjoy the process: It is completely normal to not have a perfect meditation session all the time. Try to make the most of your time at hand, and don’t stress the details.
4. Don’t compare: Your meditation journey will never be the same as another person’s. Try to focus inward, but be gentle. There is no rush. Just like running, everyone has their own meditative journeys.
5. Try an app: If you are looking to get started, try out the Fitpage meditation module to increase your mindfulness.
Also watch: Meditation for Stress Relief: Introduction
6. Choose a time that works for you: While most people prefer to meditate in the mornings, pick a time when you are likely to be at ease and can afford to be synced out of external commitments for 20-30 minutes. Beginners should start with three sessions per week and then gradually aim to make it a part of their daily lifestyles.
Meditation is a personal journey, but a highly enriching one. Athletes should remember to start easy, not compare themselves to others, and focus on the internal aspect of thoughts. Over time, the benefits of mindful running will spill on to your journey and help you improve your mindset, too!
1. Meditation: In Depth. NIH. https://www.nccih.nih.gov/health/meditation-in-depth (accessed June 11, 2021).
2. Yoga, meditation improve brain function and energy levels, study shows. Science Daily. https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2017/09/170906103416.htm (accessed June 11, 2021).
3. This is your brain on meditation: Brain processes more thoughts, feelings during meditation, study shows. Science Daily. https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/05/140515095545.htm (accessed June 11, 2021).
4.When science meets mindfulness. The Harvard Gazette. https://news.harvard.edu/gazette/story/2018/04/harvard-researchers-study-how-mindfulness-may-change-the-brain-in-depressed-patients/ (accessed June 11, 2021).
5. Harvard Study: Clearing Your Mind Affects Your Genes And Can Lower Your Blood Pressure. WBUR. https://www.wbur.org/commonhealth/2018/04/06/harvard-study-relax-genes (accessed June 11, 2021).