What do you think about when you run?

photo credit: Hvnly

I don’t know about you, but sometimes when I’m doing a long run, I’m not sure what to do with my mind.  It just kind of sits there, a useless, untrained organ.

Sometimes I try and get lost in my thoughts by thinking about the usual things runners say they think about… what to wear today, what to cook for tea, where to go on holiday, what to write for my next blog post.  But I find that, especially when I get tired, my thoughts seem impossible to grasp.  Like a DVD that alternates between freezing and skipping ahead.

This is something I want to work on.  All that time spent running could be used so much more wisely if I could train myself to think properly.  Some of the things I’ve been trying to focus on are as follows:

– Listing categories.  I think of films, animals, countries etc beginning with every letter of the alphabet.  This always starts so well.  ‘Argentina’, ‘Brazil’ and ‘Chile’ spring to mind in an instant, as do ‘Atonement’, ‘Bridesmaids’, and ‘Cars’.  But just try and find a film beginning with ‘X’.  Yeah, it took me a while to get ‘X-Men’ too.

Incidentally, I know listing categories is a waste of time, which is exactly what I’m trying not to do.  But it’s a good way to practise mental distraction and focusing.

– Focusing on form.  This is a form of running meditation I have read about.  Ignore everything else and focus on your body: how your legs move, how your feet strike the ground, how you breathe in and out.  If thoughts creep in, gently push them away and return your focus to your body.

I’ve had mixed success with this.  Meditating is notoriously difficult anyway; but especially so when your body and mind have been through the ringer.  Still, I’m going to stick with it.  The benefits of meditating are well-documented, not just for mental health but for strong running.  Proponents claim to be able to ignore pain because they transport their minds elsewhere.  Hmm.  We’ll see.

– Mindfulness.  Yesterday I was on the treadmill, staring at the wall, and I started trying to notice things.  The pattern on the wall; the gap in the display on the treadmill monitor; the sound of people grunting as they lifted weights; the feel of the (frankly pathetic) fan on my face.    It can be very refreshing to centre your mind on the moment and simply observe what’s going on.

– Positive thinking.  This is a good one to do during a run, while those endorphins are flowing.  Sometimes I think about things to look forward to, or good things that have happened; things I’m gateful for (‘counting my blessings’); or things that I’m proud of.  Sometimes I just think of things that makes me happy.  This includes sunny days, candles, coffee, my other half… it’s hard not to feel great after doing this.

All this is really difficult for me.  At the moment my mind is like a badly trained dog, constantly running off the lead and refusing to obey my commands.  But I truly believe if I could just nail this, it could totally transform my running from dead time into a time of lucrative, productive thoughts.

What do you think about running? Do you have any ideas for me?


7 thoughts on “What do you think about when you run?

  1. I don’t think of much at all when running. Nothing switches your brain off quite as effectively as loud, rousing music blasted directly into each ear. What thoughts I do have are usually about form (near the beginning) or inane giggling at random things (near the end, when the endorphins kick in). If I get to the stage where I have long runs and no idea what to do with them, I’ll start looking for some podcasts!

    • haha I love the idea of randomly giggling at things – gotta love those endorphins! Unfortunately I am usually grimacing/weeping near the end of my runs 🙂 Music is a great distractor though, I agree! Thanks for commenting 🙂

  2. Good topic. I was able to meditate while running a couple years ago. I was running hills and to get through it I imagined myself as completely made up of air. It helped me feel lighter and get through it with no struggle. Some of the later Radiohead helps get to that point as well.

    • that’s a great idea – I might try that next time I’m running hills. To be honest I am still struggling with the meditation thing – but your comment has inspired me to give it another go! Thank you!

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