How to Start Mindful Running with Chronic Illness

  • By Jennifer Mulder
  • 9 December 2021
  • 3 minute read
Mindful Running for Chronic Illness | The Health Sessions

This article is written by Ray Alonzo. 

Living with a chronic illness can be extremely difficult. Staying physically fit and healthy with chronic health issues can be even more of a challenge. Some exercises may seem too difficult, and you may not have a good sense of how your body will react to them. 

This is where mindful running can help you. Mindful running is a great way for you to gradually increase your level of physical activity while learning more about your body and its limits. 

Benefits to mindful running

Mindful running combines the physical and mental benefits of running and practicing mindfulness, letting you clear your mind while staying physically active. 

Your cognitive functions and mental health can be improved by mindful running. Mindful running has been shown to sharpen memory, as well as improve motivation, creativity, and mood. Anyone with a chronic illness knows that the physical aspect is only half of the battle and that mental health plays a large role in overall health.

Of course, mental health benefits aren’t the only ones that you’ll find. Since you’re combining mindfulness with a physical activity like running, you’ll be improving your cardiovascular health, lightly working certain muscles, and burning calories.

Preparing for mindful running

There are a number of things you should do before going out for your run. Running without preparing will lead to a less mindful experience, and you won’t reap the full benefits from the experience. Get into the right mindset for your run with the following steps.

  1. Come up with a plan. Don’t just go out running without a plan. Come up with a reason why you’re running mindfully, whether it be to relieve stress or just to get some fresh air.
  1. Begin mindful breathing before you run. Practice mindful breathing before going out for your run. Control your inhales and exhales, feeling and focusing on every single breath you take.
  1. Don’t stick to the same route. Taking the same route every time you go out for a mindful run can become stale. You don’t want to get burned out from what is supposed to be a refreshing, relaxing experience. 
  1. Keep in tune with your senses. On your run, take in all of the sights, sounds, smells, feelings, and yes even tastes you can. Focusing on your senses will help you learn more about your body and keep you from getting too distracted.

Before going out for any run, making sure that you have a pair of appropriate running shoes will make the experience more comfortable and enjoyable.

Tips to stay mindful while running

With all of the distractions of the modern world, it can be difficult to remain mindful while out on your run. You may run into people, or be tempted to check your phone, smartwatch, or other pieces of technology you may have. The following tips will help you stay mindful and focused on your run, limiting any distractions you may encounter. 

Take it slow – It’s important to take it slow and evaluate your capabilities and body. As someone with a chronic condition, this is even more important. Don’t push yourself too hard – mindful running can be a great experience even at low speeds or short distances.

Focus on your feet – Looking at and focusing on your feet can be a great way to avoid getting distracted. It keeps you aware of how you’re moving and how your body is working.

Experience the environment – Don’t be completely focused on yourself while running. Taking in the environment and scenery around you can lower stress levels and make the experience that much better.

Don’t ignore your body – If you experience any sort of pain while running, stop. This could end up being a serious issue and pushing yourself may just make it worse.

Pay attention to your breathing – Keep your breaths steady and focus on how you’re breathing. Listening to and understanding your body and its functions is an important part of mindfulness.

Take the time to reflect – When you’ve finished your run, take the time to reflect on it. Is there anything you wish you did differently? What went well on your run?

All of these steps, tips, and more concerning mindful running and its positive health effects can be found in this animated infographic we’ve included just for you. Remember to stay mindful and listen to your body.

Author bio: Ray Alonzo is an avid writer from Phoenix. He focuses heavily on research to provide the most accurate information possible to readers.

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