MINDFUL RUNNING: HOW RUNNING COULD IMPROVE MENTAL HEALTH
Breathe in. Breathe out. We all need it from time to time, now more than ever. A moment to disconnect and catch our breath. Juggling daily pressure, whether it’s from our careers, family life, friends, social media, health, etc, requires more mental strength than ever before.
But don’t just take our word for it. According to the World Economic Forum, studies have shown that mental ill-health is the no.1 cause of serious health problems globally¹ and stress seems to be one of the main causes. In 2017, the Mental Health Foundation recorded that 3 out of 4 Brits were unable to cope with stress² and the American Psychological Association reported the same amount of Americans admitted to feeling stressed in the past month³.
So what can we do about it? While some have their own ways of coping with stress, more and more people are turning to running. And it’s not for the physical benefits, it’s for mindfulness. It’s believed that running can help you clear your mind, deal with stress and improve overall mental health. We call it Run to Reconnect. By paying attention to your breath, your thoughts and yourself while on a run, you’re able to reset and regain the mental strength you need to face the day. On top of its mindful benefits, Neuroscientist, Wendy Suziki, claims running stimulates new brain cell development that could further enhance your creativity⁴ - which in today’s society we need more than ever.
Not convinced? Read on to find out how you can Run to Reconnect.
WHAT IS MINDFUL RUNNING?
Most people seem to think mindfulness is found in a yoga studio, through mediation or calming stones. But if you’ve been running for a while now, you may have already come across the benefits running can have on your mental wellbeing.
adidas Runners global mindset coach, Christian Straka, has spent the past decade teaching the integration of mindfulness skills into sport. On mindful running, he says: “The mental benefits of running are vast and individual. They range from personal reports of people describing how running has changed their lives, whether it allows them to reconnect with their bodies, makes them happier or calms down their minds, to scientific studies which show that running decreases symptoms of depression, improves your learning abilities, sharpens your memory, protects the brain from aging and multiple other benefits.”
Mindful running is about feeling connected to yourself and the world around you without being distracted. It’s switching off from any stress or pressure and just allowing yourself to be present in the moment. Whether that’s focusing on your breath, your feet hitting the pavement or the wind on your face. It’s about training your mind to reset and recharge so that you can be the best, most creative version of yourself, not only on your run but outside of it too.
To Run to Reconnect, you need to disconnect from what happened yesterday or what’s going to happen tomorrow, and focus on the now in order to come back stronger today.
THE THREE CS
Mindful running can be defined by three skills that we call the three Cs - Concentration, Clarity and Coolness. By developing these skills you can turn that 5K, 10K or quick lap around the block into your own form of running meditation.
CONCENTRATION: Paying attention to yourself or the world around you.
CLARITY: The ability to track in real time what it is that you’re actually experiencing.
COOLNESS: Being open to any sensation, be it pleasant or unpleasant, and letting it be.
RUN TO RECONNECT STORIES
adidas Runners around the world are already using the three Cs and other mindful techniques to reconnect on their runs.
Host of the Brooklyn Nets, Peloton instructor and adidas global ambassador, Ally Love, uses mindful running as a break from her busy schedule and to boost her creativity: “I think being overwhelmed naturally occurs in everyone’s life. Running was an avenue for me. It was a place that not only did I get away but I was able to be present. I’m doing something that exhausts my body and my mind to get me to a place where I zone out so when I’m done I’m like wow I took something that exhausted me and turned it into something super creative.”
And Ally’s not the only one. After having to let go of her dream of becoming a professional athlete, Samantha D’Souza from adidas Runners Los Angeles turned to running: “When I was running, it was me feeling really connected to my environment. I can feel everything in my body. I can hear my mind so clearly. It gave me that release and time to reconnect with everything that was around me.”
HOW YOU CAN RUN TO RECONNECT
Staying focused amongst the busyness of today is easier said than done. While difficult at first, the more you practice, the more the skills will improve. Keep at it and you’ll soon turn your run into your own personal retreat. Here are a few tips on how to stay present during your runs:
1. START SLOWLY
Begin with an easy pace. Don’t rush it. Allow your body to get into a rhythm. The less you focus on your performance, the more you can focus on yourself.
2. FOCUS ON YOUR FEET
Feel the sensation of your feet striking the ground. Pay attention to it. Is it light or heavy? Try to keep light on your feet and let them guide you on your journey to reconnect.
3. TAKE IN YOUR SURROUNDINGS
Listen to the sounds around you, feel the wind blowing against your face, take in the different smells and senses. You may never have noticed them before.
4. PAY ATTENTION TO PAIN OR DISCOMFORT
Not every sensation may be a good one. But that’s ok. Pay attention to the part of your body that is causing pain or discomfort. If you’re an experienced runner you may be able to push through it. If it’s due to an injury or stressor, then take it easy.
5. LASTING EFFECT
When your run is over, reflect on everything you’re feeling. Pay attention to your body. Your shoulders, your arms, your legs. Hopefully, you’ll be feeling more relaxed. If not this time, then next time. Put the work in and you’ll get there.
Ready to give it a try? Join one of the adidas Runners global mindset coaches, Ameerah Omar or Christian Straka, on a guided mindful run, hosted exclusively on the adidas Running app. The guided runs educate you on how to Run to Reconnect using the three Cs - Concentration, Clarity and Coolness. By taking you through a series of techniques, such as breathing exercises and sensation awareness, you can begin your Run to Reconnect journey.
In an effort to facilitate your mindful runs, this collection of footwear and apparel has been specifically designed to allow you to run with no distractions. By using lightweight materials, you can run without heavy running gear distracting you and focus solely on yourself and your mindfulness. Among these products, the FOCUSBREATHEIN running shoe is built for maximum comfort, supporting your feet as they strike the ground and guiding you to running relaxation.
Mindfulness also goes beyond the run, and on busy days when the schedule doesn’t lend time to break a sweat to reconnect, a mere 10 minutes of mindful focus might help you recharge. For this simple but powerful trick, you can find quick and easy mindful meditation exercises in dedicated Mindset Corners in exclusive adidas retail stores, as well as on Spotify to help you reconnect anywhere and everywhere you go.
Everyone’s story is different, but the only way to cope with stress is to acknowledge it. Take what you have learned and try putting it into practice. Remember to keep using the technique of the three Cs to help you clear your mind and stay focused.
Sometimes the first step is also the hardest. But trust that if you get yourself out there and simply continue putting one foot in front of the other, you will be well on your way to Run to Reconnect.
¹ Jezard, Adam. “Depression is the no. 1 cause of ill health and disability worldwide.” World Economic Forum. 18 May 2018. Web.
² “Stressed nation: 74% of UK 'overwhelmed or unable to cope' at some point in the past year.” Mental Health Foundation. 14 May 2018. Web.
³ Winerman, Lea. “By the numbers: Our stressed-out nation.”, American Psychological Association, Vol 48, No. 11. December 2017. Web.
⁴ Loria, Kevin. “Exercise might be more than good for your brain — it could make you more creative as well.” Business Insider. 4 Nov 2016. Web.