Monday, September 21, 2015

Mindless vs. Mindful Running

I've been reading Meb for Mortals in small sips over the past couple weeks. Meb, like most professional runners, is a big believer in being mindful during a run

Being mindful means keeping track of your body. Does anything hurt? Are you on pace? Is your form good? What needs fixing?
This kind of running is beneficial when you're training and looking to improve. But is there ever a time for mindless runs?

I think so. 

Constantly being mindful can be exhausting, and sometimes we run to energize ourselves. 

We run for the pure joy of it, for the freedom it gives us. We run to remember how strong we are and how far we've come. 

Especially when training, running can become a chore. I think a nice, mindless run once in awhile can be cathartic. It helps to reset and recharge our bodies after days of over-analyzing every step.

I think it's hard to find balance between being mindful and mindless when in the midst of training, and I think leaning too far toward either end of the spectrum means possibly losing sight of your ultimate goal - to enjoy running and to make progress.

I've been having a really hard time running lately; it was honestly the last thing I wanted to do this week. It felt like too much time to think, because I've been running mindlessly. But after a more mindful run Saturday night, I remembered that when I engage my mind and push myself, running can be a good distraction.

And with that, I think I finally turned a corner.

Do you enjoy running mindfully?
How often do you run mindlessly?



  1. I would love to check this book out. I'm not sure if this counts but last weekend when I paced the half I was being very mindful of my pace and not veering too far from target pace. I was actually quite exhausted in the end because to be frank, it was a little stressful. I was so worried I'd take people too fast or too slowly to the finish.

  2. I try to be mindful, but at some point - usually after 4 miles or so - it transitions silently to mindless. And then back to mindful near the end of my run. As much as I think I would like it to be mindful all the way through, the mindless portions are some of the most satisfying. I'm amazed when I get to 10 or 12 miles and can't remember experiencing the landmarks on the way. The mindless portion is such a mind-freeing and exhilarating experience.

  3. I totally agree that we need to be mindful and careful... but also we are not professional runners doing 80+ miles a week so there is room in our life for some mindless running! I try to be mindful when planning my runs. What is this run for? Do I need rest? Why am I running this particular mileage? Etc.... Of course sometimes I run because I just feel like runningggggg (said in Forest Gump voice!)

  4. I think long runs give us an opportunity to have both a mindful and mindless run. I try to be mindful during my first couple of miles, making sure nothing hurts or feels tight and making sure I go out easy. I'm also mindful in the last couple of miles, checking in with myself to see how I feel and if I can push the pace. During the middle miles I give myself the freedom to zone out and be mindless.

  5. This is interesting, because I would argue that what you consider "mindless" is actually, by definition, mindful. Running "for the pure joy of it, for the freedom it gives remember how strong we are and how far we've come" is all about being present in the moment, relinquishing the need for control, stepping outside of your own head, and just being, which is the definition of mindfulness, at least as I understand it.

    Like everything else, it's all about balance. Of course your shouldn't overthink things and obsess over minute details, but listening to your body is important, even if it's not always "fun". Anyone who has an interest in improving needs to pay attention to these things, but it can be come all too easy to take them a little too seriously.

  6. That's an interesting take on it. I want to check out this book now! Maybe I'll take something away from it and improve my training.

    I'm more of the "mindless" runner in the sense that I don't think too much about my form, how I feel, etc unless I absolutely have to (like here recently - I've had some aches and pains that I have paid careful mind to while running).

    I prefer "stream of consciousness" running... the kind of running that I think about things as they come to me and work through problems as they flit through my mind.

  7. I understand why Meb is promoting mindfulness and I'm sure it is part of his success, but the rest of us aren't always running to win. In fact, most of us are never running to win but running for other, more personal, reasons. One of the reasons I run is so that I can have some quiet time alone with my thoughts. By definition that means I'm not thinking about my running, but instead I'm working through something I'm trying to write about. Those runs probably don't go a long way towards making me a better runner, but I think they do make me a better writer, and running ain't paying the bills! I guess what I'm trying to say is that for us "mortals" I think there's a time and a place for both, and I don't think we need to be concerned that mindless running is wasted time, because it might hep with other goals that we have.

  8. I really like what others have written about the benefits of mindless running. I think the purpose (for us non-elites) of practicing mindful running is to make the mindless running possible. Like practicing scales, yes?

    I find both really useful. Most of my running this season has been mindless ('cause I've just done so damn much of it) and I've missed the mindful running - my body has missed it too! If I do another marathon (which I probably will) I'll need to have a better balance of it.

  9. I am mindful on days where I have a specific workout, but on recovery or general aerobic days, I am mindless! I think us "mortals" need a healthy mix of both!