“It’s about being in the present moment on a run, connecting with your breath and your senses and enjoying movement not based on results, times or feelings. I focus on my breath and the rising and falling of my body and let thoughts, feelings and emotions arise, but I don’t try to get rid of them. I stay curious and practice being at ease with them. It’s as simple as that.”
Timothy Olson, ultra-runner, and winner of the 2012&2013 Western States 100 race
Mindfulness can be described as a psychological process, developed with meditation and mental training, aimed to focus the attention in the experiences of the present moment. The attitude is one of acceptance, without judgment.
The first use of mindfulness in sports goes back to the 1980s, but its increasing popularity led to two different approaches, consisting of a number of training sessions over several weeks:
- MAC Mindfulness-Acceptance and Commitment: combination of mindfulness exercises and acceptance techniques, with a focus on values and commitment.
- MSPE Mindfulness Sport Enhancement Program: similarly to the MAC it tries to develop mindfulness skills, and through them a degree of acceptance, but without focus on commitment levels.
Some studies showed positive effects of mindfulness interventions on performance, with varied physical and psychological benefits in various sport disciplines, especially in those requiring a focused concentration.
Considering that some of the mindfulness exercises can be done on your own, there is no reason not to try and see if you can obtain any of the reported benefit. Focusing on your body and environment will let you direct your attention purely to your performance.
Although you can find many exercises online, the following could be a good starting point:
- Respiration. Keep control of your breath. As with relaxation and yoga, controlling your respiration will allow you to control your run.
- Awareness. Control your body position, sense and listen to your body messages.
- Observation. Notice your surroundings, enjoy them and anticipate any obstacle.
- Newness. Try new goals, different paths and change your training. Forget routines and introduce unpredictability in your life.
As with any other skill, to get good in mindfulness may take some practice, so don´t desperate and keep trying. There are books, workshops and even apps that will help you to know your own self. Not only they can help you improve your running, but also to break down the barriers that stop you to become a more aware person.
Effects of Mindfulness Practice on Performance-Relevant Parameters and Performance Outcomes in Sports: A Meta-Analytical Review.
Bühlmayer L, Birrer D, Röthlin P, Faude O, Donath L.
Sports Med. 2017 Nov; 47(11):2309-2321.
Evaluation of Mindful Sport Performance Enhancement (MSPE): A New Approach to Promote Flow in Athletes
Kaufman KA, Glass CR, Arnkoff DB
Journal of Clinical Sports Psychology, 2009, 4, 334-35