How Meditation Helps Runners: More Endurance, Speed
They are the big three on any runner’s wish list: speed, endurance, and a healthy body. And meditation benefits a running training plan in all three areas. Most runners’ training plans have interval training for speed days, long runs for endurance, and rest days to prevent injury. These days are necessary for improvement. But there is more to running than taking care of the body. Runners can enhance the effects of a comprehensive training plan by practicing meditation.
Meditate to Increase Your Running Speed
Speedy runners don’t just go out for jogs. They concentrate on improving their speed. Their minds block out distractions and tune into their form. On easy run days, the mind can wonder. When your legs are tired, they will naturally slow down. On speed work days the mind must be continuously tell the legs to go or they will take the simple, slow route. Running coaches can often be heard yelling, “Relax your shoulders. Relax your jaw.” When you run faster than you are accustomed, tension builds up in other parts of the body. That tension is a waste of energy. A tight jaw wears the body out faster than a loose one. Learning to relax while taking on a new speed is a difficult mind trick. Meditation trains the mind to center on what is important in the present and to leave the rest of the body at ease.
Meditate to Improve Endurance
The most important aspect of a long run is to keep moving forward. Movement becomes difficult when our minds are stuck under a lump of fears. At mile two during a twenty mile run, the mind has a lot of time to grow our pile of fears. What if you have to go to the bathroom in three miles? What if you run out of water? What if the sun gets too hot? Do you have enough sunscreen? Do your legs have enough power? Will you get home in time to wash the dog? The list is endless. You can listen to the fears and it will make sense to quit and go home.
Learning how to meditate quiets these fears. The questions may still pop up, but meditation trains the mind to gently push them aside. You will begin to hear them the same way you hear cars go by or children playing. They are there, but have no bearing on what you will do. Most endurance runners take long runs mile by mile. They never think about mile eighteen until they are running the eighteenth mile. This is a basic form of meditation. It can be taken further. Every long run is a step by step process. Meditation allows you to run it one step at a time.
Meditate to Prevent Injury
Preventing injury is a tricky process for any runner. Some are more prone to it than others. Runners dread being sidelined. Meditation decreases the chance of injury in two ways.:
First, it releases endorphins into the system. Endorphins are responsible for what is commonly known as the ‘runner’s high.’ Runners who have trouble taking proper rest days are often reliant on these endorphins. Substituting meditation for running one or two days a week, gives the body proper rest while producing endorphins.
The second way meditation helps inhibit injury is by decreasing cortisol production. Cortisol is an adrenaline filled hormone that running elevates. Not only does cortisol contribute to typical running injuries by weakening bone density, it promotes chronic stress, abdominal fat, and high blood pressure. Meditation counteracts the work running does in increasing cortisol levels.