How Running and Meditating Have Similar Effects

Many of us would like to experience the deeper sense of inner peace that is a hallmark of an established meditation practice, but find it all too elusive because we can’t seem to sit still long enough to get past the first stage of watching the breath before the old friend ‘monkey mind’ pays us a visit.

The good news is, meditation comes in many forms. If sitting for long periods isn’t your vibe, you can practice moving mediation to build the tenacity of inner and outer awareness. Taking up running or shifting the internal focus of a regular running practice can teach us a lot about seated mediation. In truth, one method feeds the other, and with some time and practice we can become adept at both.

While running and meditating seem like complete and total opposites, there are a surprising number of commonalities between the two. So, what do they have in common?

  1. Combined mental and physical focus.
  2. Discipline, patience, consistency and willingness.
  3. The ability to move beyond random thinking into the place we refer to as the Flow or the Gap, the Zone, the Present, or the Now.
  4. The ability to train the mind/body to approach stress and discomfort with greater equanimity.
  5. Both release brain chemicals/hormones that make us happier.
  6. Both improve neuroplasticity (changes in brain structure in response to environmental stimuli) and neurogenesis (the birth of new brain cells).

Starting any new endeavor can be challenging at first. There is restlessness and often discomfort or a greater awareness of pain or resistance in the mind and body. This is true in both the seated practice of mediation and in running. Patience, awareness and consistency are key ingredients here.

But the meditative elements of breath, body-awareness and active attention are also present in running. The more we practice being in the moment while running, the more this enhances our ability to be more present while in seated meditation- and life in general. Who doesn’t want that?