There’s truly nothing like running to work on my mindfulness practices! (By the way, I have definitely written about this topic previously… ) This morning I was able to get in a lot of exercise while spending time with God in prayer and letting my feelings ebb and flow without trying to control them. Over the last several years of running, I have accumulated tips and techniques to maintain presence so that I enjoy the act of running, not just the feeling of having accomplished a run.
Sometimes, not always, I’ll choose to leave my running watch at home. That’s what I decided today. I was headed to Miramar Lake, which is a 5 mile loop, so I can basically track my distance without the watch. Having my mile times staring me in the face often causes me to pick up the pace. It also has the effect of measuring my activity in a way that can detract from the prayerful, meditative atmosphere I so enjoy.
Along the same lines, I didn’t set out to accomplish a certain number of miles. Time and again I have gotten a particular mile goal in mind, only to become frustrated and disappointed when my body, the elements, my blood sugar, or some other factor caused me to cut the run short. Much better to start running with the mindset that I’ll run as much as I feel like running, that day.
I love how running long distances mirrors the ebb and flow of life. There will be several moments in any given run when I’d rather be doing anything else! Little aches, feeling sluggish, and obsessing about how much father I still have to go are just a few of the things that can get me down. However, there are also many moments where I feel elated, energized, happy, and free. In those moments I feel like I could run forever! The trick is, you have to push through the moments of struggle and pain in order to experiences the running highs. Just like in life. Rarely do we succeed or accomplish anything difficult without some challenging moments when we have to dig down and give more effort. Another aspect of changing feelings is the realization that whatever I’m currently experiencing is temporary. I may ache and feel like quitting right now, but give it another mile or so, and that feeling likely will have changed. This too have implications for life, in that we shouldn’t make major life altering decisions based on potentially fleeting emotional states.
Listening to music provides the background to my thoughts and feelings throughout a long run. I love setting the shuffle feature to my running playlist that includes a little bit of Justin Timberlake and Green Day plus a lot of MercyMe and Micah Tyler songs. The mix keeps it interesting and the Christian music helps maintain a prayerful heart. It’s fun experience that little moment of anticipation between songs when you wonder “Which song will play next?” Also, I love letting my pace and energy level change to match the tempo of each given song. Often a couple fact paced songs will be followed by a slower tempo that naturally provides a recovery period before I pick up the pace again.
While running, my thoughts come and go so easily. One minute I’ll be thinking about work situations, another I will remember something we need to do for the kids. Certain songs will make me reflective about my relationships. Others will touch my heart and help me surrender more deeply to God’s plan for my life. The ability to let my thoughts flow from one topic to another without getting “hooked” into rumination has been a huge part of my growth. Running is such a great activity for practicing this mindfulness technique. When I start fixating on the pain or frustration of running, I can simply change the focus of my attention to the world around me. I’ll notice the beautiful lake water, the sound of birds chirping, smile at other runners or walkers as we pass by, or simply focus on my breathing or running stride for several steps.
Today’s run was a really good one! The weather was wonderfully overcast and even a little chilly for summer in San Diego – great running conditions! I thoroughly enjoyed running, praying, and my meditative mindset this morning. Since I didn’t go too fast on the first lap, I was up for running another full lap around the lake for a total of 10 miles. Not too bad for a Wednesday morning!