Running is a beautifully simple form of exercise, which is one of the reasons so many of us love it. As a species, we were designed to run. Some of our paleo ancestors, were runners. After all, it was their primary form of transportation, and while most of them did more sprinting when on the hunt (or running from being hunted), some of the tribes would jog distances as well. In fact there are still bush tribes today that run distances as part of a way of life, which we touch on in this article, with a video link as well.
Today, running seems such a natural activity. More than that, you can actually meditate while running as your body slides into an exercise induced state of euphoria, also known as being in the zone.1)http://www.nytimes.com/2009/10/27/health/27well.html
Walking and running used to be the only means of transportation.
Running is beneficial for weight loss, as well as for hitting your mental reset button and decluttering your busy, stressed-out, modern mind with its meditative effect. Running is not only rhythmic and meditative, but seduces you with the runner’s high, that particular combination of the meditative effect of running infused with the positive endorphins that are triggered by exercise.
Running… the healthy high.
There is such a thing as a runner’s high, and it may be more akin to the kind of high associated with hippies and Grateful Dead shows than first seems apparent.
The difference is that rather than self medication and intoxication, running is actually a healthy high! Running for meditation can give you a healthy outlet for life’s trials and tribulations—one which is natural and soothing, and which provides the impetus for a relaxed and focused mind, all while losing weight and getting healthier.
Let’s see… meditation, health, happiness, weight loss, fitness, medication-free stress reduction, mental clarity, peace of mind… all that, AND… running is FREE! Sounds like a win-win option, doesn’t it?!
What is the Runner’s High?
So, what is this runner’s high? What is it, and how does it help improve your mental outlook?
First, despite the common misconception that a runner’s high is caused solely by a flood of pain-damping endorphins, there is more to it than that. Yes, endorphins do play a role, just not as large as many of us may have thought.
You see, endorphins are produced in the pituitary gland at the base of the brain, however they only circulate from the neck down. This is due to a brain-blood barrier which prevents large molecules from entering the brain, and since endorphins are large-molecule hormones, they are blocked by this barrier. This means that even though they may help damp muscular and other physical pain, they don’t contribute to the mental aspects of a runner’s high.2)http://www.medicaldaily.com/evolution-runners-high-how-endurance-exercise-changes-your-brain-323734
It’s not the endorphins that trip the brain into a meditative state, it’s the ECs.
However, endocannabinoids (ECs) are also released during exercise, which are small fat molecules that can pass easily into the brain. These are very similar to the EC’s found in marijuana, and are also part of an entire communication system in the brain which helps coordinate nearly all of our mental functions, including feelings and actions.3)http://headsup.scholastic.com/students/endocannabinoid
So what does this all mean? Heh heh—you guessed it: A runner’s high isn’t too different from a cannabis high—just healthier for your lungs and brain, and without worry of getting you busted! No red eyes or cottonmouth either! 😉
Running is an inspiring way to manage your weight and stress levels.
Meditation for Weight Loss
Running and weight loss go naturally hand-in-hand, although you still need to supply the discipline not to use a good run as an excuse to overeat. By this, we mean that even if you burn 1000 calories during a run, refueling with 1200 calories completely defeats the purpose of running for weight management. Plus, not all calories are alike, and some foods convert to stored fat more easily than others, so weight loss discipline needs to include a lifestyle alteration toward healthy eating choices, which include natural, whole and unprocessed foods.4)https://healthyliving.azcentral.com/what-foods-store-fat-12500929.html
Running meditations can help do what really needs to be done for you to lose weight and keep it off: Change your behavior.
This is critical, since merely going on a diet and losing weight usually has the dieter chomping at the bit to “get back to normal,” with “normal” being the bad habits which put the weight on in the first place.
Meditation helps you build healthier habits.
There are many guided meditations for runners and other types, that can help you easily slip into the habit of meditation on your own whether running or sitting. Exercise helps you alter your lifestyle and habits.
Meditation increases the likelihood of positive changes that alter your long-term behavior, which keep the pounds off for good. Since running is not only an excellent activity for burning calories, but also rhythmic and conducive to a meditative state, it can be the perfect exercise for inducing behavioral change and long-term weight management.
If you do choose to go with an app, be sure it fits your overall goals and means. You may also want to explore meditation without an app, which can further free you from extra gear and gadgetry during your running sessions.
For instance, using mental imagery and chanting a mantra which blocks out all other thoughts can take the place of an app (or music). Running is a great time to practice visualization exercises and invocations toward subconsciously driving a point into your mind to help you make healthy changes, and stick to them!
Editor’s Note: we like to “chant” affirmations during exercise, to help etch in our goals and mindset. E.g., “I am fit and strong”. Mantras used in meditation are designed to invoke a deeper, more peaceful state of mind through invocation and breath. The rhythmic breathing of running ties in beautifully with invocations using positive affirmations.
Something else which should be noted is that trail running over technical terrain can free you from outside distractions, since the act of staying upright and navigating the trail usually requires complete focus, which occupies your conscious mind. Plus, it is done in nature, which adds a highly soothing element to the activity, along with fresh air for your respiratory and circulatory system, as well as vitamins D & K from sunshine.
Meditation and Exercise
Despite running being a simple and natural activity which humans are built for, there are other types of exercise that are conducive to meditation. Swimming, for instance, can take you into a world so euphoric that it seems as though air and water come together to form a whole new element, and walking can work well for those in need of a low intensity activity.
Even weight lifting has its mental benefits, although weight room environments are usually too full of noise and distractions to be conducive to a meditative state. It’s also in longer duration exercises that the meditative benefits kick in.
However, cycling, rowing, swimming, walking or yoga are all great ways to free your mind of everyday strife, and all can be used in much the same manner as running when achieving a meditative state of mind. The thing to do is, pick a type of exercise you love doing, and incorporate a means of focusing away from all distractions other than your chosen meditative point while doing it. That’s all you need to do to start enjoying a more meditative state!
Meditation, Running and Mindset
While distance running is an excellent way to maintain cardiovascular and circulatory health, it can also be a highly beneficial tool for achieving a healthy mental outlook.
In fact, whether you need to lose weight and keep it off, reduce stress in your life, or you just need a convenient and healthy way to recharge and refocus, running meditation may be just what you need.
And, even if you prefer a form of exercise other than running, the same concept of meditation can be applied no matter the activity, so long as its peaceful and steady-state.
However… we are big on the importance of non-steady state exercise as well, for optimal fitness. So the ideal fitness scenario is a combination of steady state, meditative cardio balanced with several days a week of high intensity interval training, and resistance training.
If you love the idea of meditation but find it difficult to sit and settle down for 20 minutes, then running meditations may be for you. All you have to lose are your worries… and extra fat!
Contributing writer, Scot Mills is a professional writer with a passion for natural products, and health and wellness—especially running—for over 40 years now. In addition to living and writing about a fit lifestyle, Scot’s education included graduating at the top of his class as a business major, and Phi Beta Kappa honors Society member. You can visit Scot’s blog here.
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