Stress and running has been the theme of my summer so far, as you know from my recent blog posts. I thought I was finished with that series, but then in one of those delightful coincidences life is so full of, last week I finally got around to listening to some of the tracks on a new album of guided meditations for runners called Running Deep.
The producer, Jack Thompson, sent it to me a few months ago to try out, but I was on an unintentional hiatus from running at the time as I worked on settling my family in to Germany.
So as I’ve returned to running (and Jack has patiently and persistently followed up with me about the album) I decided it was finally time to give it a try. [Note: Jack sent me the album for free but I don’t benefit in any other way for reviewing it or recommending it. Just in case you’re wondering.]
To my delight, the album includes a guided meditation by Danny Dreyer, the creator of ChiRunning, entitled “3-D Run” in which he brings your attention to what and how you see while you run as a way of becoming more mindful and present. Awesome synchronicity, since my whole series on stress and running has circled around what you can see.
I’d actually been thinking of creating an audio lesson to explore what you see and how you’re looking when you run, but Dreyer’s lesson covers everything I’d want to include, so instead of making my own I’m recommending his if this is something you want to explore further.
This is not the first time I’ve discovered with pleasure that Danny Dreyer is advocating something I also advocate. In my early days of working with runners, I remember discovering that he also specifically talked about the movement of the pelvis and taught it as key to healthy running. He’s helped a lot of runners with that recommendation.
And even though there are elements of ChiRunning I disagree with, I really respect the powerful model he provides of a way to run entirely based on respecting and listening to your body. There is too much masochism in running, and Dreyer has done a fantastic job of showing us there’s another way.
“Running Deep” includes a few other gems as well: a second track by Dreyer exploring all your senses as you run, plus two by Linda Hall that beautifully brought me into the connection between my movement and the environment. Awareness of this connection intrinsically improves your running technique, since in fact your technique is formed by your interaction with the environment, it’s not something you do all by yourself.
The album raises the question, “What is running meditation?” Is it a visualization of things you want to feel when you run? Is it bringing your attention to how your running is? Or is it techniques you use at other times to improve your running?
In short, is it to make you a better runner or is it to make you a better person?
So far I’ve highlighted the tracks on this album that bring you into your body, your movement, and your senses rather than the ones that tell you what to feel so you’ll run better or feel more motivated.
The benefit of meditations that tell you what to feel while running are likely short-term and may have a high price, as you run harder than you normally would or through physical discomfort that normally would stop you. That’s how you burn out and get hurt. If you have to do visualizations just to get through a run, you have problems with your technique and training plan that need solving. Do that instead.
That said, this album also has visualizations you do when you’re not running to improve your performance or recovery. I haven’t tried those yet, but they interest me a lot. I’ll let you know if I find something interesting to talk about when I’ve given them a go.
Why combine running and meditation? Because connecting with your body and the earth in movement and rhythm is profound. It gets to the heart of what running is. It also gets to the heart of our humanity–in fact people often tell me one of the most important reasons they run is because it’s already a form of meditation for them. They also say that running makes them a better person.
The more you come into your body, your senses, and the present moment, the more you become both a better runner and a better person. By attending to what you feel rather than pushing it aside you improve the process your nervous system uses to regulate your movement, and in a million ways you could never pinpoint your running improves and so does everything else.
So the tracks on this album that help you do that are powerful, and if running and meditation is something you’re interested in exploring, I think Running Deep would be a great resource for you.
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Jae Gruenke, GCFP, is a running technique expert and Feldenkrais Practitioner. Known as a “running form guru,” she is the Founder and CEO of The Balanced Runner™ in New York City and The Balanced Runner UK. She has helped runners from beginner to Olympian improve their form to become pain-free, economical, and fast.