Do You Leave Your Earbuds at Home?

The world is full of distractions meant to get us "out of our heads." Listening to music or audio books while running is so common that those who aren't wearing earphones have become a minority. It can be good way to relieve stress and distract your from discomfort. I'm a big music fan who listens to music all time time. Except when I'm running.

For me it's my chance to catch up on my thoughts, think about things to write, meditate, or just let my mind wander. It's also safer to be able to hear traffic and other warnings, especially in the city. My internal monologue is not always very impressive. Sometimes it might sound like this. Warmer than I thought, shouldn't have worn the jacket. Squirrel! What's for dinner? Not squirrel. Gotta pick up walnuts and dressing. Cute doggies! Three more months until the lake is warm enough to jump into it.

Buddhists call these random musings "monkey mind." For the most part it's not a bad mental state to be in. Some of my running daydreams involve replaying races or even entire competitive seasons, sometimes ones far in the past, and think of how they might have gone better if I had corrected certain mistakes in training or tactical errors. This may or may not be a healthy path, but it has motivated me through many hard workouts. But if your stress about an upcoming race, training setbacks or other problems in life start to dominate your thoughts, meditation can help tame those monkeys and focus on important matters at hand, like breathing and relaxation. Running with the Mind of Meditation: Lessons for Training Body and Mind by Sakyong Miphan, a Tibetan lama and leader of a global network of Shambhala Centers, is one of many approaches to learning about meditation. Transcendental meditation, a form of mantra meditation introduced in India in the mid-1950s by Maharishi Mahesh Yogi was actually identified in a report by the American Heart Association as effective in reducing blood pressure.

You don't have to be spiritual or a Zen master in order to make use of some basic techniques that can help your running. Try practicing clearing your mind, focusing on rhythmic breathing, and you might notice an improvement in your form and ability to focus on a more challenging pace almost immediately. Thinking happy thoughts can also help overcome dissatisfaction with problems and your physical limitations, and value all the good things about the kind of runner you are today. No matter what chaos and challenges occur in your life, running can become a positive respite.

Tony has been a runner for over three decades, competing in cross country and track in high school and college, and road races for various clubs. He's served as team captain for several Corporate Challenge teams at YMCA of the USA, and has informally coached many friends over the years.

Tags: Y, YMCA, Run, Running, Jog, fitness, training, meditation, transendental, Shambhala

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