Meditation for Running: Relax While You’re Running

Key Points

  • Meditation promotes feelings of internal contentment and calmness. 

  • Meditation for running improves health, mood, and performance. 

  • Running is more effective while meditating because your body focuses on your abilities – not pain or weaknesses. 

  • Meditation for running is tough at first, but it gets easier (and the benefits are totally worth it). 

Running isn't the most exciting exercise. The repetition is problematic for some to handle. It's easy to get bored with no stimulation. However, too much stimulation ruins the benefits of the run. Find the perfect balance by practicing meditation for running

Many runners listen to podcasts, music, or audiobooks, while others enjoy silence. Have you heard of people using meditation for running? It's a great way to loosen up the mind and the body. 

Woman running alone

What Is Meditation? 

Meditation is a time-honored practice of consciousness borne through generations. Thousands of years ago, meditation originated in India and quickly spread across the world. Neighboring countries incorporated meditation into daily living and religion because of the significant mental benefits. 

Meditation is the act of training yourself to be present and aware. Although it's not the same as mindfulness, it involves clearing your mind to focus on your thoughts without judgment. There are many different types of meditation based on what you want. Healing, strengthening, and stress-relieving meditations are just a few that provide specialized benefits.

Benefits of Meditation

Meditation uses mental and physical techniques to help you focus on yourself at the moment. It's hard to relax when your mind is full of stressful information. Meditation removes the world's noise and increases the ability to listen to your body. 

Listening to your body is critical to staying healthy. Meditation improves health by:

  • Lowering blood pressure

  • Decreasing heart rate

  • Provoking positive moods 

  • Improving mental health

  • Leveling blood sugar

  • Reducing stress

Meditation relaxes the body and prevents harmful effects of the body's fight or flight response. When you experience stress, the body responds as though you're in danger as a way to protect yourself. This response enables several physiological changes in your body. Under the right conditions, however, this change in physical state promotes exercise effectiveness. 

Fight or Flight

The fight or flight response tells the body you're in trouble, even if there's no danger. Your body takes steps to protect itself, such as tensing muscles in preparation for a fight or increasing your heart rate.

The fight or flight response wrecks havoc on the human nervous system, and staying in this state too long leads to major health complications. Meditation returns the body to normal conditions. 

You can provoke the fight or flight response by running. When you run, your body requires blood, oxygen, and nutrients to continue. Your body realizes you need resources, so it jumps into action to help.

During this response, the heart rate increases, so more blood and oxygen reach the muscles. It also dampens your feelings of pain. Triggering this response helps you continue through the exercise. 

Running in the city

Benefits of Meditation for Running

If meditation helps the body by decreasing the fight or flight response, and running helps the body by increasing the fight or flight response, how in the world is it possible to do both simultaneously and get benefits? 

Great question. 

While you don’t want to maintain it for too long, the biological system greatly benefits from a healthy dose of the fight or flight response. Meditating while running creates the optimal level of response for peak performance. Reaching this level improves effectiveness, reduces pain, and increases motivation. 

Improved Effectiveness

The more effective your run is, the more benefits you receive. Meditation holds the fight or flight response summoned by running to an acceptable level. This way, the body doesn't spend extra energy fighting the response. Instead, it focuses on improving performance and reducing pain. 

A study in the Journal of Clinical Sports Psychology found that the time to complete a mile decreased after a year of mindfulness training among endurance athletes. Meditation reduces feelings of exhaustion, so you run faster and longer. 

Reduced Pain

The body hurts for numerous reasons while running: poor terrain, soreness, fatigue, and injuries. Pain can make you want to stop exercising. Meditating while running lets your mind focus on moving instead of discomfort. Meditation also improves recovery after your run, making it easier to slip on your shoes next time. 

Increased Motivation

A good run sets you up for a good day. You're more eager to work the treadmill into your schedule because of the positive feelings you experience. The happiness felt after meditating while running motivates you to do it again. Confidence grows as knowledge of meditation expands. 

Stronger Self-Confidence

Conquering the road boosts self-efficacy. Helpful hormones flow through the brain and improve self-confidence during meditation and running. Combining the two unlocks a world of potential. Practice meditation to become more confident. 

How To Meditate

Good news: There's no right or wrong way to meditate. Meditating is more of a feeling or an experience than an action. Meditation is about reaching a place of pure comfort, satisfaction, and awareness. This feeling and achieving it is different for everyone. 

Man running on a trail

Take a Deep Breath

One huge part of meditation is breathing. To start:

  1. Take a deep breath and hold it for a few seconds.

  2. Let your lungs expand as far as possible, then blow it out.

  3. Keep filling and emptying your lungs with oxygen. 

Lower anxiety, reduced pain, increased detoxification, and better posture are just a few benefits of deep breathing. Deep breathing also brings your attention to the present. 

Focus on the Now

Being present keeps you grounded. Stop thinking about the future or the past and focus on the now. Focusing on the past invokes sadness and regret. Thinking about the future makes you anxious. 

Look around you right now. Are you in any immediate danger? Are your shoes slipping at the edge of a steep slope? You're safe. Focusing on the now reminds you that you're okay. Despite what you've done in the past or what you're going to do in the future, what you do right now is truly all that matters. 

Clear Your Mind

Remove any distractions within your control. Distractions invade the brain and take over. It's impossible to concentrate on relaxing when there's chaos around you. Focus on one topic, thought, or picture. If you notice your brain drifting away, redirect your thoughts to the present. 

The brain carries roughly seven thoughts at a time in your short-term memory. These seven thoughts fight to conquer your attention. The fight from inner thoughts is deafening. Keep attention on one subject, so your mind stays clear. A calm mind makes everything better – including running. 

Meditating While Running

Meditation might make you think of closing your eyes, sitting down, and being still. However, meditation is a state of mind. Meditating while running is possible and carries so many benefits. Experience the potential of meditating while running by:

  • Running alone

  • Running outside 

  • Keeping a slower pace 

  • Concentrating on your breathing 

  • Clearing your mind

Going for a run

Running in the cold is one way to stay focused on the now. Your environment plays a role in your brain’s ability to focus on one topic. Everyone clears their mind differently, so it's up to you to decide how to focus on your thoughts. Certain sounds make it easier, though. 

What To Listen to for Meditation While Running

Silence saves mental energy. It's easier to gather your thoughts and focus on one thing when you're not devoting power to listening. Use noise-canceling headphones or regular headphones with nothing playing. Silence makes sticking to a mantra more effective. 

Choose a Mantra

Repeating a mantra also keeps thoughts organized. Yoga teacher Sarajean Rudman says, "mantra meditation can be very easy to acclimate to and a very powerful tool to use, especially when racing." 

A mantra is a string of words or phrases repeated to yourself silently. Mantras are effective for keeping your attention and focusing on the present. Holding mantras keeps your brain from drifting away. Repeating specific phrases boosts self-confidence, performance, and mood. 

Try one of these mantras the next time you're slipping your shoes on for a run:

  • Sa Ta Na Ma (translates to “I am truth”).

  • The power is within me.

  • I am positive. I am happy. I am healthy. 

  • I have everything I need. 

  • Stronger with every step. 

Pick a phrase and repeat it throughout your run. Use the words to focus on your body at this moment. Listening to guided meditation gives you more structure if you need help with these phrases. 

Guided Meditation

Guided meditation is great for anyone starting their spiritual journey. It walks you through deep breathing and thought organization. Guided meditations are on YouTube, Apple Music, Headspace, and more. You learn techniques from guided meditation to use before, during, and after running. 

Man going for a run outside

Being guided through meditation teaches you how to meditate on your own. It also makes it easier to focus on meditating. When you jump right into it, it's harder to start, so think about meditating before your next run. 

Is It Better To Meditate Before or After a Run? 

Suppose you're going to meditate while running. In that case, a quick meditation session before you begin helps you get into the right mindset. It'll be easier to reach the core feeling of calmness because your brain has a warmup. However, meditating after a run increases recovery time. You feel more relaxed and in a better mood. No matter when you decide to meditate, it’s not always easy. 

Troubleshooting: Is It You? What You Can Do

People with certain conditions, such as ADHD, have more trouble than others when meditating. It's harder for the brain to stay focused on one topic. The great news is that it's normal for your brain to drift away. 

When you realize you're no longer meditating and just daydreaming, gently redirect your attention to your mantra. Getting out of your head improves your ability to stay on track. Focus on something you see, such as a tree or picture. Keeping your eyes fixed on one spot makes it harder to think. Some listen to their shoes' soft, rhythmic padding on the ground. 

Keep going even if you're not focusing as much as you want. Meditation is challenging at first. Your mind tries to stay alert and overthink. Meditation rewires your brain to relax and enjoy silence and peace. Start slow, just a few minutes at a time, before moving upwards of 15 – 20 minutes at a time. 

How Long Should You Meditate?

It's up to you! Meditation is a unique experience, but meditating for 15 minutes is enough to show improvements. Meditation is successful when you feel entirely calm, relaxed, and present. After meditating, you're ready to handle any trouble or turmoil that comes your way with a peaceful and open mind. Meditate for as long as you're comfortable. 

What To Wear To Meditate

Matching your clothing with exercise improves effectiveness and motivation. It's more beneficial to run in leggings than it is in jeans. Having rough or tight clothes drags your attention away from the stillness. However, if you're comfortable, that's all that matters. Just be sure to practice self-love. 

Self-Love, Meditation, and Running 

It takes patience and self-love to run and meditate. Running is mentally and physically demanding. Meditating is frustrating sometimes because of your inability to focus. Feelings of self-doubt and aggravation creep into your mind. 

Having self-love reminds you it's okay to be frustrated. Loving yourself gives you the patience needed to stay calm and keep improving. Using self-love for running meditation improves self-love afterward. 

Woman running on the street

You've Got This

Take a deep breath. Hold it. Now let it go. 

Meditation for running is a great way to clear your mind, unwind, and cope with issues. If ideas or problems take over your thoughts, turn on a guided meditation and lace up your shoes. Meditation for running elevates your life by improving health, confidence, quality of life, motivation, brain fog, moods, and anxiety. 

What are your goals? Meditating while running provides the structure, discipline, and guidance you need to reach your goals. When finished, show gratitude. Thank yourself for showing up and working out. Thank your body for carrying you through the run. Set intentions for a good day, and prepare for the next run! 

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