Running Mindfully

Running Mindfully

In June, in the northern hemisphere, we are blessed with days of longest light, shortest nights, milder temperatures and nature is blooming all around! It is the perfect time to embrace an energetic, outdoor, organic, exercise form like running.  Being mindful of lockdown and social distancing, running offers a way to exercise solo, simply needing resources of time and a pair of running shoes. That is why the lovely Moonchild ambassador is sharing the ultimate running guide for you.

Alice is a Moonchild Yoga Wear Ambassador, yoga teacher (RYT 500), accredited remedial & sports massage therapist, a distance runner of 30 years, and lover of plant-based nutrition. She is currently available for private online sessions in Movement Therapy & Yoga. Post lock down, Alice will be offering a Yoga for Runners class and Sports Massage clinic at SPACE clinic, Edinburgh (Scotland). Find more on Alice and here upcoming classes here

Why run?
So many benefits to health and well-being can be experienced from running such as:

  • cardiovascular fitness, strengthening the heart muscle and lungs
  • burning calories and boosting metabolism, a tool for weight management, preventing medical conditions including overweight and obesity, type 2 diabetes, heart disease, hypertension, and some cancers
  • enhanced energy levels
  • stronger immunity
  • reduced anxiety
  • refreshed mindset
  • higher confidence
  • good mood
  • ‘time out’ from work tasks, digital detox and time outdoors
  • new friends and social times! When running in a community such as a park run (a free 5km community-run, on Saturday mornings 09:00 – post lockdown) where you can run/jog/walk with children, dogs, babies in strollers, even volunteer.

After 30 years of running, including 35 park runs and 4 marathons, I must also share that running poses some risks including:
  •  injury - overuse, repetitive strain, musculoskeletal injuries, for example, some common running injuries include: Plantar Fasciitis (heel pain), Achilles Tendinopathy, Lower Back Pain, Piriformis Syndrome, ITB Syndrome, Shin Splints
  • symptoms and side-effects of injury include pain, fatigue, and low mood
  • dehydration headaches
  • blisters, injured/black/missing toenails! 

How can we reap the rewards of running and minimize the risks?
I interpret any ‘mindful’ practice as one with awareness, consciousness, and intention. Running Mindfully is just this! Tune into the subtle powers, signs, and signals of your body, mind, and environment. Align your energies and nourish your body with a mindful approach to running that is empowering without exhausting or injuring your body. Whether you are a new runner or an experienced runner, Running Mindfully will be of value to you!
Are you:

  • keen to start running but feel unsure how to start? 
  • curious about interweaving aspects of yoga practice to complement running? 
  •  interested in avoiding injuries and niggles? 
  • returning to running after pregnancy, surgery, illness? 

1. Start by connecting to your 5 senses and the environment
Step outside, FEEL today’s elements on your skin – raindrops, breeze, sunrays, wild winds? FEEL the ground beneath your feet and take small steps building into longer strides. Even in a big city, can you connect to an open park to run on a softer trail and among trees that purify the air we breathe? INHALE fresh air into your lungs and EXHALE let go of any tension or worries to feel light and free. Find space in your body and mind. LISTEN to sounds around you - dawn chorus, birdsong, bumblebees, lawnmowers, children playing, people at work? SMELL any aromas – freshly cut grass, flowers and herbs, blossoming June roses, barbecues?! SEE the vibrancy of colors, plant, bird, animal, insect life, and TOUCH something you encounter like fresh lavender :) Allow the energy of this summer season to nourish you and re-charge your batteries.

I recommend running solo, in silence, without music, and without a phone to be fully present in your body and mind but these are all options, choose the best one for you.

2. Mindful Running Posture
Foundation and alignment first. Think of Tadasana! Take a few #MoonchildMoments to feel the earth under your feet, beneath all 10 toes, outside edges of feet and heels, lift arches, activate legs, drop tailbone under to decompress the lumbar spine (lower back), tone the abdominal muscles (belly), ‘zip-up’ from the pubic bone to naval, roll shoulders back and down the back body, gently squeeze shoulder blades together to engage upper back muscles, relax shoulders away from the ears, lift the gaze, skull rests lightly on the neck, relax the face, soften the eyes, un-grip jawbones, and back teeth, un-wrinkle forehead and smile :) Keep this foundation in mind throughout your run.

3. Mindful Breathing
Being human, our thoughts can go in hundreds and thousands of directions per day, even subconsciously while we sleep. In refreshing contrast, our breath can only ever go in 2 directions, INHALE and EXHALE! Slow down to the speed of wisdom and focus on the passage of your breath to quieten the mind. Breathe in deeply, receive the breath into your lungs and breathe out, emptying the breath. Inhale, feel your lungs expand, belly rise, ribs expand and chest rise, exhale, feel your lungs condense. Inhale create space and openness in the body and exhale let go of tension. Use the full depth of your lungs while running and avoid shallow breaths from the chest only.

4. Yoga Asana to Prevent Injury!
A simple warm-up of Cat-Cow Pose (Majaryasana Bitilasana) is a super way to awaken and mobilize the spine, spinal cord, spinal fluid, and nourish the intervertebral discs.
A few rounds of Surya Namaskar is excellent to warm up your heart, open your lungs, activate your muscles, and deepen the breath.

Key cool down asana I recommend are:
Lizard Pose (Utthan Pristhasana) for a deep release of hamstrings and Pigeon Pose (Eka Pada Rajakapotasana) to release the psoas (hip flexors), gluteals (bottom), piriformis and create space for the sciatic nerve which runs through this space. Any counterposes of your choice such as Fish Pose, Happy Baby Pose, Side-Lying Twist will feel nice. Always breathe into the heart of the stretch, for 5 deep cycles of breath.

In-Between Runs
Tree Pose (Vrksasana) and any single leg balances will strengthen ankle stability and minimize the risk of sustaining a ‘twisting ankle’.

Triangle Pose (Trikonasana) or any asana involving a twist will help to decompress spinal muscles, especially good for anyone working at a desk.

Maintaining strength and condition in the core (abdominal and lower back) and gluteal muscles is fundamental to strengthen running posture and offset the impact on weight-bearing joints such as the knees. Try Navasana, Plank Pose, Purvotannasana holding each for 5 deep cycles of breath, being mindful of alignment, and using the power of the breath to dig deep!

5. Hydration
As the human body is comprised of ~70% fluid, it is imperative to hydrate well! Your choice of water and teas are the best options. Drink before and after your run, even taking a water bottle with you if you wish. Try infusing freshwater with any combination of alkalizing and anti-inflammatory lemons slices, cucumber slices, fresh herbs such as mint or rosemary. In winter cardamom pods, cloves, cinnamon sticks, and orange slices are delicious. If you enjoy a morning coffee and/or evening aperitivo, enjoy it! and remember to drink water with it to re-balance and avoid any dehydrating effects.

6. Mindset
Use the time running to reflect, purify, and clear your mind and energy channels.

Set an intention on your run, for example, just one word, such as a quality you wish to cultivate, a goal, someone you wish to remember.

7. Mantra
Option to silently chant or listen to a mantra of your choice! For example, So hum (I AM THAT…) light, strength, vitality… add any words or qualities you feel empowered by.

8. Pacing
Remember quality of movement is the focus, not the number of kms or beating a time. Re-connect to the ‘8 Limbs of Yoga’ by Patanjali and practice the Yama of AHIMSA (non-harm) to avoid overusing the body.

9. Essential Oils
I LOVE doTERRA Air essential oil blend and used this last winter while training for Firenze Marathon, (November 2019). I believed it helped to keep my airways fresh, clean, clear, and germ-free! It contains Laurel Leaf, Peppermint Plant, Eucalyptus Leaf, Melaleuca Leaf, Lemon Peel, Ravensara Leaf, Cardamom Seed essential oils.

Before your run, try 2-3 drops in the palm of your hands, rub hands together and place in front of your nose, take 3 deep cycles of breath and rub hands on the back of your neck, chest, tops of shoulders. I also recommend adding some drops to a warm bath or foot bath.

10. SFF
Be mindful of the sun. Even on cloudy days, the sun's rays will reach your skin. Wear SPF 30+ on your face and shoulders. A visor can be helpful too

11. Kit
Check your running shoes are supportive. Sweat-wicking fabrics are optimal to keep you feeling fresh. 

Movement is Medicine, try Running mindfully this month of June and share your stories!

Love Alice x

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