What Is Mindful Running? Here's Everything You Need To Know To Get Started

Forget everything you know, or assume you know, about meditation. I know influencers have visually set the scene of mindfulness as this sedentary act of sitting cross-legged with your eyes closed on a floral-pattern yoga mat, and yeah, it's a serene image: your arms grazing the tops of your legs, forefinger and thumb just barely touching, the steady rise and fall of your chest. But can I let you in on a secret? Getting zen isn't about aesthetic, or the position of your hands, and it certainly doesn't require you to sit still, which is exactly what mindful running is trying to defy. Meditation is first and foremost an opportunity to regroup, to catch your breath, and to be present in the here and now, whether that's on your bedroom floor, or your favorite trail.

Mindful running isn't exactly the new kid on the wellness block, but it's definitely one that deserves more attention. The concept behind a meditative approach to running is, yes, to get your head in the game and focus on achieving your goals, but it's more or less about enjoying the actual run, and acknowledging the strides your body might have to take in order to get to the finish line.

To bring mindful running to the forefront of health and wellness, Lululemon's director of mindful performance, Danielle Mika Nagel, sat down with Elite Daily for an exclusive interview on how runners, yogis, and fitness novices alike can benefit from throwing on a pair of sturdy sneaks, performance-enhancing gear, and hitting the ground running with a positive attitude.

"Mindfulness is a part of Lululemon’s DNA," Nagel says. "We believe in the power of practice and feel that yoga as a philosophy and practice is applicable and expressed in many ways. It was only natural that we extend mindfulness and the principles of yoga to running and everything we do."

So, where do you start? Here's everything you need to know about mindful running.

Begin With A Meditative Practice

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As is the case with any meditative practice, how you meditate and practice mindfulness, in any context, is 100 percent unique to you. But, if you're new to the concept, a good way to begin running more mindfully is to first incorporate some sort of meditation into your pre- and post-workout routine.

Nagel tells Elite Daily it's a good idea to start with a quick meditation. This could be done while sitting down before getting warmed up for your run, while you stretch, listen to music, or go through a minutes-long series of breathing exercises. The goal here is to simply "set an intention for your run," Nagel says. As for your post-workout mindfulness, take a few minutes during your cool-down to reflect on your experience and acknowledge how you're feeling in that moment.

Listen To Your Body, And Really Pay Attention To How It's Feeling

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In no way, shape, or form am I an expert runner, but from what I understand, runners tend to pay a lot of attention to their heart rate. If you're aspiring to be a more mindful runner, though, your heart rate is just one bullet point on a list of several things you should be paying attention to once your body starts moving.

According to Nagel, after your body feels warm, and you hit the ground running, you should be able to hone in on your breath (is it steady? Hard? Shallow?), and how every part of your body is feeling throughout the exercise. By recognizing how your body is responding to the physical work it's doing, you can "enhance self-regulation through attention control, emotion regulation, and self-awareness — which can help get your mind focused before, during, and after a run," Nagel tells Elite Daily.

Outdoor Runners Should Enjoy The Nature Around Them

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I know myself, and when I'm running, my train of thought is focused on one thing, and one thing only: getting to the end of my run. Mindful running, however, is going to encourage you to do the exactly opposite, because even though it's still very much a workout, the concept behind mindful running is to enjoy it.

Think of the 30 minutes you'll spend mindfully running as a half hour to catch up with yourself, like you would an old friend. You wouldn't rush through a cup of coffee with someone you hadn't seen in years, would you? No, you'd probably savor each turn of conversation, slowly sip, and maybe ask for a refill when there's nothing left in your cup. According to Nagel, this is the type of mentality you should have when you set out on a mindful run, especially if you're doing sprints outside.

"Mindful running can be practiced anywhere, whether it is on the street, a running trail, on the beach, or through the woods," she tells Elite Daily. "If you’re running in nature, you can invite the sounds of the environment into your awareness." In other words, ditch the headphones for the hum of birds; don't just feel the breeze, hear the wind whip at your skin.

Be Grateful For Your Body's Ability To Run In The First Place

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If you're not a runner, then I might have just made you literally LOL. But seriously, if you genuinely stop and think about how amazing it is that your body is even capable of running, then you might start to appreciate this type of exercise a little more.

When asked if she has any tips for new mindful runners to get motivated, Nagel says having a sense of gratefulness is absolutely key. "Cultivate an attitude of gratitude for your health and your ability to run," she tells Elite Daily. "Not everyone has this privilege."

Make Sure Every Thought Is A Positive One

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At the risk of sounding corny, I'm just going to go ahead and say that changing your mind really can change your world. Attitude is everything, and if you go into a run telling yourself it's going to be a struggle, chances are, it will be — and this philosophy can be applied to virtually every situation in life. Nagel says practicing mindful running can help you fine-tune that ability to engage in positive self-talk, even if you're someone who tends to hold on to negative thoughts when the going gets rough.

So, as important as it is to embrace the moment and be present, Nagel says your thoughts are definitely something to keep an eye on throughout your practice. "Practicing mindfulness allows you to choose which thoughts to attach to," she tells Elite Daily. "Your thoughts turn into your words, then your actions, and ultimately, your destiny. If you want to change your life, change your thoughts." See, what did I tell you?