People often ask me, “What is mindful running?”
There different ways to answer this question. First and foremost, mindful running can be an antidote for the kind of running habits that lead many of us down an all-too-common road to things like fatigue, injury, boredom or burnout.
Mindful running is the path less traveled. By veering down it, you glimpse a wonderful truth: that running shouldn’t hurt. Period.
However, I’ll be the first to admit that early in my running career, I didn’t believe that. I thought running was work. Hard work. In my teens and 20’s I took running seriously and put so much pressure on myself to perform well, that standing at a race start line overwhelmed me with anxiety.
After decades of competitive running and constantly flirting on the edge of serious injury or burnout, I walked away from the sport altogether.
“Maybe I’m just not cut out for running,” I thought.
However, it wasn’t long before running’s absence made me realize just how important it was to me. It dawned on me that running was more than a competitive outlet or way to stay fit.
So I resumed running, but this time treating it as a practice, much like the way many people think of yoga or meditation as a practice.
That meant releasing the need to follow a set training plan, which for me, often became a recipe for injury or burnout.
Running mindfully meant making each run a restorative, sustainable activity that taught me something new about myself.
As a result, I became so attuned to my body’s signs and signals, I knew instinctively whether I was running the right mileage, the right pace and getting more fit … or only more tired and at risk for getting injured.
As a result, my energy rebounded and I felt healthier than I had in a long time.
Since then, running mindfully has helped me find a deep sense of satisfaction in every run rather than stressing over my chances of achieving future goals.
It’s clear to me now how the pressure to perform to someone else’s standards—or to my own exalted expectations—really takes the fun out of running.
Now I focus instead on how running makes me feel in this moment and experience mindful running’s most valuable reward: running as an inherently joyful activity instead of just another chore on the to-do list.
This way, instead of giving in to the mistaken belief that I just wasn’t cut out for running anymore, I evolved my running to suit my body and this phase in my life.
And the evolution isn’t done. It will continue with each phase of my life yet to come. I don’t what kinds of races I’ll be doing or how much mileage I’ll run, but I do know one thing for sure: I will always be a runner.
Elinor Fish is the founder of Run Wild Retreats & Wellness, named one of the top running retreat providers in the U.S.. This summer, Elinor is leading the Iceland Trail Running + Wellness Retreat for women (August 2 – 8, 2016), during which participants learn about mindful running and natural running form, run trails and beaches, soak in geothermal hot springs, dine on fresh, local Iceland cuisine and meet Icelandic runners. Learn more about Elinor and the Iceland Trail Running + Wellness Retreat at www.ElinorFish.com