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The Important Lessons I Learned At A Mindful Running Retreat

One runner headed to Utah for a four-day running retreat and it brought her back to why she loves running—and how to keep it that way.

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We females have a tendency to load our plates full. We stack them with family obligations, careers, volunteering and—if we’re lucky—a hobby we’re passionate about, such as running. Sometimes though, those plates overflow, leaving us stretched thin and struggling to fit it all in.

Elinor Fish, a 42-year old writer, trail running and cross-country talent, knows this narrative well, which is why she created Run Wild Retreats + Wellness events. She holds six multi-day retreats around the world with the intent of helping women find the perfect portion size for each of the many items on their plates. The ultimate goal of her teachings: helping women create a healthy, sustainable running practice.

The Mindful Running Retreat

I recently checked in at one of these retreats, this one taking place in the stunning, red-rock beauty that is Moab, Utah. Others operate out of Spain, Iceland and Switzerland, each locale more inviting than the next.

My time was shared by 13 other ladies on our four-day escape. Each day offered us the opportunity to run mountain trails ranging in distance from five to nine miles, all with elevation and plenty of technical challenges along the way. We ranged in ability from newbie trail runners to accomplished ultra finishers, but we all shared the commonality of struggling to find balance in our lives.

I met Tina, a mother, gym owner and runner who often sacrifices her runs in favor of meeting the needs of others. There was Amy, a retail executive who spends long hours in the office and on her commute, squeezing her available time for running. And Patricia, a psychologist who has recently returned to running after a decades long break.

Fish bills the Moab getaway as a mindful running retreat, and each day she shared a variety of lessons with us in workshops geared toward making running a non-negotiable, sustainable practice in our lives:

Set intentions for your runs that go beyond pace

We learned improved posture and breathing techniques so that the runs themselves would be easier and more efficient. We practiced quick feet and proper arm movement so that running up the hills would be less of a challenge. We took restorative yoga classes at the end of each day to bring our bodies and minds back to center.

Make rest the foundation of your overall health and fitness approach

Most importantly, perhaps, we discussed the fact that when building a running practice, we need to establish a foundation of overall health. The focus on speed, specific mileage and pacing, should all wait in favor of this.

Fish explained that rest, nutrition, and setting intentions for our runs make up the basis for healthy running. She armed us with tools for accomplishing these facets within our running practices, setting us up for improved daily living and health. With those in place, we all stand a better chance of enjoying our runs, rather than treating them as one more item to cross off our increasingly longer lists.

The retreat served as a flipped switch for me. I recognized that I’ve been unhappy with my running for a while now and identified some of the reasons behind that. I’m setting off on a different path now, armed with the skills for scaling back in some areas, and ramping up in others. All in the name of a more mindful, sustainable running practice.