You’d be hard-pressed to find a runner who doesn’t at least occasionally employ creative methods of procrastination to put off a run. You might hunker down in your living room chair half-dressed in your running clothes scrolling through your social media feeds. Maybe you just happen to remember that load of laundry that needs to be put in right when you should be leaving for your run. Or perhaps you’re one to keep changing your mind about which shorts to wear or whether you need a jacket or not.
If you recognize yourself in any of these scenarios, you aren’t alone. Procrastination, hesitation and overthinking all serve as roadblocks to getting out the door for a run. We worry we will be too hot, too cold, too slow, too tired or that we just don’t have the time. All the while we are avoiding actually beginning a run.
Enter mindfulness. When you invoke the power of mindfulness, which is characterized by an awareness and acceptance of the present moment, you tap into your modus operandi and notice the distracting thoughts that are zapping your motivation and preventing you from accomplishing your goals. Mindfulness can help you pull back the reins on unproductive patterns and redirect to focusing on what you should be doing in the present moment—putting on your shoes and getting out the door.
Indeed, French researchers have even demonstrated a link between the motivation to exercise and actually getting off your butt to train. The thought is that mindfulness not only takes you out of autopilot mode and helps you act with more intention, but it also buffers against self-defeating and negative thinking at the outset of exercise.
I use what I like to call the “START Method” on those days I find myself stalling.
Stop what you’re doing
Take stock of your thoughts and actions
Accept those things without judgment
Refocus on what you need to do in the present moment
Take the first step
So how exactly do you take that first step? Training your brain to be more present-centered can help you focus on micro-progress, which allows you to take the tiny actions that eventually get you out the door and pounding the pavement. This can be as simple as intentionally engaging with the process of putting on your running clothes and lacing up your shoes. Instead of constantly getting pulled off-course by your busy brain, treat this like a meditation in and of itself, really paying attention to each tiny action that inches you closer to actually getting out the door.
To become a more mindful runner, try the following exercises:
Five-Minute Pre-Run Diaphragmatic Breathing Sequence
- Sit upright, close your eyes and try to relax.
- Place one hand on your diaphragm, just below your rib cage, and the other hand on your chest.
- Inhale through your nose to the count of five. Feel your breath enter your nose and flow down into your lungs and then your belly.
- Be sure to fully inflate your lungs, feeling your rib cage and abdomen expand and your spine lengthen.
- After taking in that breath, pause for a second or two.
- Purse your lips and exhale through your mouth to the count of eight. Feel your breath leave your belly first and then your lungs.
- Focus your mind on being totally present with each breath.
- If it wanders, just bring it back to the breath without judgment or worry.
- Continue to focus on the in and out of your breath for at least 1 minute, or feel free to sit for several.
- Remain in the moment as you put on your shoes and head out the door.