Road to Philly Half – Chapter 2, How I turned running into a mindful practice

Like many people, I used to hate running. It wasn’t something I looked forward to and many times, something I wasn’t even fit enough to do. I took a chance on running without the statistics – without paying attention to pace, mileage, getting faster…

This process took me a long time. At Bryn Mawr, we are passionate about being excellent – excellent students, excellent peers, excellent members of the world. I had to un-do my understanding of excellency and craft my own definition of what running meant to me. Simply, I had to understand I was going to be bad, in order to be good; and that ‘good’ was a definition unique to my circumstances. I had to stop comparing myself to others.

Once I started running knowing I had no numbers to hit, I felt free. This feeling grew and grew, and suddenly, running was a habit I looked forward to. Sophie, Liva and I created BMC Laid Back Runners so others could feel the same way – running is not something we have to do, it’s something we¬†get to do.

What did I do to create and sustain this mindful-running habit?

  1. I started following guided runs, using the Nike Run Club free app on my iPhone. NRC runs are guided and have different training plans, with no level of expertise or pace necessary. They do not mention pace numbers, just levels of effort; taking the pressure off trying to be excellent all the time.
  2. I switched between running with and without music. For shorter runs – days I couldn’t run for more than 10/15 minutes, I chose to do the run with just my thoughts. It is a good way to unplug and connect with how I felt, listen to my thoughts and do so as a ‘running meditation’
  3. When I didn’t feel like running, I didn’t run.
  4. When I could only run for 5 minutes, I ran for 5 minutes (if I wanted to run).
  5. I gave myself permission to stop and restart as many times as needed.
  6. I used HeadSpace guided runs (meditation app on iTunes)
  7. I became my biggest fan. There is no one that can believe more in you than yourself. Once you get rid of competitive and unreasonable standards, you can start to root for your progress in a way that is less about the numbers and more about how far you’ve come.
  8. I picked routes that sparked joy, i.e., the nature trail at Haverford during sunset, always beautiful.
  9. I ran with friends and laughed, talked, had fun.
  10. I signed up for achievable goals I knew were going to motivate me without putting pressure on myself.

Most importantly, I gave myself the time to grow and the space to heal from all previous ideas I had about running. I allowed myself to enjoy it, and to only continue do it for the joy of running – not the pain or the suffering. It is important to note that there will be rough patches in becoming fitter running-wise, it will be painful some times – but that is different from the pain and pressure we put on ourselves from societal or self-expectations. Discomfort, healthy discomfort allows for growth.

Remember, running is – at the end – just putting one foot in front of the other.

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