This week in the Lifehacker Fitness Challenge, we're going to back off a little from our goal-focused topics like getting stronger and faster and tweaking our gear. Instead, we're going to use this skill we've built for a different, bonus purpose: To de-stress.
Exercise, like meditation, is helpful for getting through a rough day, or a rough week, or a rough year. Physically, it spurs your body to make more of the hormones that keep you happy and relaxed, while damping down those that make you feel agitated. And mentally, the rhythm and flow of running have a lot in common with meditation.
"I often come back from a run feeling much more positive about things," says Tina Muir, professional runner for Saucony and community manager of Runners Connect. She describes running as a way to step back from what's going on in the world and process her thoughts. The sentiment is a common one among runners: Stop by any marathon expo and you'll have your choice of "running is cheaper than therapy" T-shirts.
How is this different from a normal run? First of all, you're not going to worry about your speed, or your exact distance, or whether or not you need to take walking breaks. Go ahead and plan your run by distance or by time, but not both — for example, if you're going out for 30 minutes, turn around at the 15-minute mark but don't worry about how far you went.
Plan the run for the time in your day that you could most use a mental boost, and go to a place you enjoy: A scenic park or trail, perhaps, or a street in your favourite friendly neighbourhood.
While you're running, you can either let your thoughts run free, or take a meditative approach and just focus on your breathing or your footsteps. You can even listen to a guided meditation while you do it, if you like.
So go and enjoy your run. Just breathe, and take it one step at a time.
This post is part of the Lifehacker Fitness Challenge, a series of mini challenges to spark (or reignite) your love of running.