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Here’s Proof That Meditation Can Make You A Better Runner

meditation (noun)
the act or process of spending time in quiet thought

That definition sounds like a solo run, doesn’t it? Think about how you feel on a “perfect” run—perhaps it’s effortless, your mind is calm and you are energized by the world around you. Those are the runs we all dream of, the ones that keep us going even when something (or everything!) hurts.

The good news is that you can train to have more of those blissful workouts. Not by speeding through more intervals or slogging out longer miles, but by sitting still and training your mind through meditation.

There are quite a few similarities between running and meditation— for starters, both are repetitive, technique-oriented and the effects are cumulative. Those parallels are exactly what encouraged nurse and meditation practitioner Blessie Selvig to begin running. But it works in both direction—runners can benefit from trying meditation as well.

“When people are driven to exercise, like me, adding a meditation practice helps to be present and be in your body,” says Selvig, who lives in Evanston, Ill., and has finished races from 5Ks to marathons. “Meditation and running work together, the two go hand-in-hand.”

Among a long list of scientifically studied benefits, meditation has been shown to alleviate depression, reduce stress, improve focus, relieve pain, lower blood pressure and improve sleep quality. Many of the same things can be said for running.

“Doing both enables us to enjoy our life on a deeper level and promotes health,” says Selvig, who occasionally offers runner-specific meditation seminars at Fleet Feet and other stores in Chicago. She teaches “mindfulness meditation,” which focuses on heightened awareness through breathing, thinking and  connecting with your body.

It can be practiced while seated, walking or running. For newcomers, Selvig suggests beginning with a guided-meditation class, but you can also practice with the help of an app like Headspace (the first 10 sessions are free).

Selvig sees meditation as a commitment to yourself. “You have to want it to be part of your path.”

Allison Pattillo

Allison Pattillo

Allison played field hockey and golf while growing up, but always ran “just for the fun of it.” She completed and won her age group in her very first race, a 5K, when she was 26 so that she would at least know how to pin on her number before running her first marathon a month later. Those two races turned into dozens, from mile long sprints to ultras, running to triathlon with some ski and snowshoe racing mixed in as well. After earning a Boston qualifier and completing her first IRONMAN 140.6, this mother of two is now focused on seeing how much she can better her 3:48 PB marathon time, running the World Marathon Majors (Boston and Tokyo are in the books!) and tackling a 50-miler.