woman breathing with eyes closed

Three Tips For Staying Mindful While Running

Mindfulness is “paying attention on purpose, in the present moment, non-judgmentally.” (Jon Kabat Zinn) When we think of Mindfulness, we typically picture meditation and for good reason: During meditation we pay attention to our thoughts and breath. Especially right now, it might seem hard to live in the moment and appreciate your immediate surroundings. However, practicing mindfulness can lessen stress, cultivate presence, and boost overall wellbeing.


For athletes like us, it is incredibly important to find a tie between our minds and our bodies. Mindful running can help us foster the connection between mental and physical engagement. What is mindful running? This is simply being in the present. We do this using all five senses. Asking ourselves simple questions: what do we see, smell, hear, feel, taste? Playfully focus on each moment right as it is happening: each step, breath, and thought. Instead of thinking about the finish line, we can choose to enjoy what is happening in the present.

There are plenty of benefits with mindful running. By paying attention, we notice what matters. This may be physical sensations in the body, our breathing, and negative thoughts. We can build awareness and make wise choices about our training instead of guessing. Mindfulness also allows for us to cope with the entire experience. Finally, greater possibilities unfold, including self-belief. We can pay attention to negative thoughts as they pop into our minds (“I am so tired”) and replace them with thoughts that mimic sideline cheers (“I am amazing!”).

Breath Work: Before your run, breathe. Think of this as a “cooldown” for your warmup: intentional deep belly breathing lessens the “flight or fight” stress response, setting the tone for your run. The 4-7-8 method is a great example: Inhale through the nose for a count of 4, hold for 7 counts, and exhale through the mouth for 8 counts. Repeat 3-5 times. You may choose to sit, lay down, or actively stretch. Let’s practice with this video as a visual to guide us.
Gratitude Practice: When fatigue hits, say “thank you.” Gratitude sparks a chemical reaction in the brain much like the “runner’s high,” releasing dopamine, endorphins, and oxytocin. Express thanks for your strength, the weather, or the mere ability to run. This is a great way to mindfully catch a negative thought and reframe it into something positive.
Track It: Keep a training journal. Begin by writing down WHY you run. This will be what you lean on when training gets challenging, especially when your options have shifted to solo runs or at home treadmills. Then, write clearly what your goals are. We are more likely to achieve written goals than those we simply think about. Alongside your daily mileage, include your mental, physical, and emotional experience. Is there a pattern? You can learn more about how you feel – and respond accordingly. Tracking also allows for you to see progress toward your goals and stay accountable to your training.

Barbara Powell, MA, NBC-HWC

LT MindCoach, MA Integrative Health and Wellbeing Coaching, (almost) 10x marathoner and 2x Boston Marathon Qualifier