How Mindfulness and Adaptability Now Can Help Your Running

LtW x Lululemon Feature
A Like the Wind x Lululemon Feature

 

 

“The whole future lies in uncertainty: live immediately.”

Seneca


Why do you run? Most of the time the answers to this question are as unique as fingerprints. And they often open up a window into someone’s life. That is how fundamental running is for many people.

And these reasons are the rocket fuel that powers our motivation–if you run to be with other people, then your club or crew run is often the highlight of the week. If you run for the competition, then upcoming races are what drives you out of bed for early morning runs or to the track in all weathers for speed-sessions. If you run to clear your mind, then you will always find some time to lace up your trainers.

But now we find ourselves in a situation where running is different, more difficult, or—in some cases—forbidden. The question is; what do we do now? In this article we will look at how mindfulness and the ancient philosophy of stoicism can help us lace up and get out of the door or make the best of being inside.


The pale early spring sun is hanging high in a clear blue sky, gently warming the jumble of terracotta roofs of the ancient town of Córdoba in southern Spain.

Normally on such a beautiful spring day the city would be thronged with locals and tourists, strolling along the cobbled streets, browsing in the shops or picking a restaurant for dinner later that night. In the parks, families, couples and groups of friends would relax on the grass. Along the river bank there would always be runners, many of them admiring the lines of the ancient Roman bridge or catching sight of the stunning Moorish architecture of the seventh century Mosque–Cathedral of Córdoba.

But today there is no one. The city is deserted.

Like all of Spain, Córdoba is under quarantine in order to limit the spread of the COVID-19 that has gripped the planet.

The spread of COVID-19 is unlike anything most of us have experienced before. And many people are wondering how to respond to such a fundamental change in the way we live our lives. Perhaps you are asking how running can help with anxiety; whether running for mental health is possible. Here we aim to answer some of those questions.

There are no hard and fast answers in such a rapidly changing situation. So perhaps one former resident of Córdoba can help.

Seneca was born in Córdoba around 4BC. He went on to become a statesman, playwright and, importantly for us, stoic philosopher.
The basic tenants of stoicism include being present in the moment and accepting reality. Not being controlled by fear (or indeed pleasure). Working together and treating each other fairly.

These seem like good approaches for the situation we find ourselves in and how we can incorporate running into our lives today.

Many people are wondering how running can help them with anxiety; whether running for mental health is possible. Others are looking for ways to maintain fitness when all the gyms are closed and team sports are banned. Running can be a great way to boost mental and physical fitness.

The stoic would suggest that we should be flexible and adaptable. So, if you have a running schedule that you’re following, that might need to be adapted in light of the current situation. Instead perhaps lace up your trainers for mindful running or indulge in some running meditation.

When we say mindful running or running meditation, the concept is to use a run to clear the mind. And that starts before you get going. Take a few moments before you set off, to close your eyes, breathe deeply – in through the nose and out through the mouth. Allow the mind to quieten. And if thoughts enter the consciousness, let them pass like clouds floating across the sky. Focus on your breath.

Then when you feel ready, open your eyes and take a first few steps. Run easily. Of course, some people might prefer to hit a hard session. But to calm the mind, an easy run is probably better. As you run, keep your head up and look around you. Let the things that you see fill your consciousness and keep allowing thoughts to simply pass through. In that way, if you focus on what is around you, the sensation of running and the rhythm of your breath you benefit from a form of meditation.

In some cases, running is not going to be possible at all. Some places are in a complete lock-down. People have children they can’t leave on their own at home while they go for a run. In those cases, the stoic philosophy still applies. Practising yoga is a great way to clear the mind and build strength and flexibility for when we can run again. The same goes for doing some core exercises. Everything you do now is adding to your fitness and will pay dividends in the end.

Perhaps the most important lesson that the stoics can teach us, is that alongside using logic to adapt to the changes in our world, we should use compassion – for ourselves and for others – to make the situation we find ourselves in as bearable as possible.

We’ll leave the final word to Seneca who wrote;

“Even if some obstacle comes on the scene, its appearance is only to be compared to that of clouds which drift in front of the sun without ever defeating its light.”

The Covid-19 crisis has certainly changed the way we live–including whether or how we run. But if we adapt, then we can continue to benefit from the sweatlife.

Some suggestions for getting the most from your solo runs;

• Carve out a specific time in the day for a run (or in-home exercise session) and keep that time sacred. Exercise really is a great antidote for anxiety and so it should be made a really important part of your new routine.
• Make sure you wear the right apparel and footwear for your run – being uncomfortable is a distraction and at this time you want your mind to be as clear as possible.
• Running without any audio distractions allows you to focus on your breath and take in what is around you – listen for the sounds of nature especially if you can get to a park or into the countryside. Feeling close to nature is said to be a great mood-booster and the sights, sounds and smells are all a part of feeling connected to the world.
• Try a new route – if you are used to taking the same route every time you run, use this time as an opportunity to go a different way (although make sure you don’t get lost). Seeing more of the world is a great way to lift your mood and will make the run feel like an exploration rather than a training session.
• As you are running, pay special attention to your surroundings – look out for interesting architecture or the beauty of nature to remind yourself that we live in a wonderful world.
• More than anything, be kind to yourself. Talk positively to yourself about the fact that you are out running. By exercising you are looking after your body and mind. So smile and give yourself thanks for getting out the door.


This piece was conceived and written in collaboration with Lululemon.

Find complimentary at-home workouts, online yoga classes and self-care practices from lululemon and their ambassadors here.

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