18 Sep The Mental Benefits of Running
Over the last couple of years I have really come to appreciate the mental benefits of running.
The physical benefits are often what people concentrate on, as I did until the last year or so. I ran because I had to, to keep fit for Hockey when I was younger, or Boxing/ Kickboxing in the last few years. I didn’t enjoy it, and it felt like a chore. The last few years I got a lot of mental benefit from Boxing and Kickboxing, there is something cathartic about combat in a mental sense, so I carried on. However, I had the good fortune to discover a fantastic book, “Running with the mind of meditation” by Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche, a Tibetan Lama, and international leader of a community of meditation centers.
He advocates the concentration on breathing, a meditative technique, can also be used by runners, to reach a relaxed mental state, where they are more focused on the moment. Since reading the book, I have tried to do this, and have found it to be an incredibly useful technique. At first, the mind wanders (as it does when people first practice meditation) as it is not “trained.” Gradually the mind can focus for longer however, the more practice it gets.
This is very similar to when someone begins running. At first, your body is not used to it, and can only do it for a short time. This is why it is important to run for only short periods at first, so not to put the body (and mind) off the activity. Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche advises people to walk, with short bursts of only a couple of minutes running, to start to get the body used to it. This is exactly the same way that someone begins with meditation, a couple of minutes at a time, until longer is possible.
I won’t focus on the scientific side of activity, with the release of endorphins and all that, which everybody knows happens as a result of any physical training. I will just concentrate on the effects I have seen.
I have found that a slow run in the morning, or after work, takes my mind away from stress of the work environment, and the noise of the world around me, and allows my mind to be clear. I can think about things in a stress free state, meaning I can approach things more positively, and without the prejudice that an angry, tired or emotional mind thinks about things.
I have had some great moments of clarity whilst running, about things in all areas of life, and it has quickly become the most important part of my day. I appreciate that I am lucky to be fit enough to run each day and be active, when for some it is an impossibility, and being thankful is a great mental place to be. Hopefully I can continue to do it as many days as possible.
For anyone who finds life stressful, I would wholeheartedly recommend “Running with the mind of meditation” by Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche. Have a read, and then get out there for a couple of minutes of slow running to start things off. The mental benefits of running are well worth the effort.