Unless your running as a career or training for a serious race, learning to run unplugged can have huge benefits in learning to trust your body and to truly enjoy running again. Here are some easy ways to become more of a ‘Zen Runner’ and learn how to trust your body instead of your ego:
1. Unplug yourself from technology. Start your journey to zen running by eliminating the use of music players, gps systems, and watches. And yes that includes treadmills. The best decision I ever made was to give up treadmill running. If your anything like me, this will feel awkward at first. You’ll keep glancing at your bare wrist, or maybe even get annoyed by your own labored breath. Stick with it until you get used to the calmness you’ll finally feel. Remember that technology does not know the details of that day… how rested you feel, the weather, your mood, if you just ate a big lunch, or anything else that can affect a run. Only you can adjust for these circumstances.
2. Run unfamiliar routes. This will allow you to become engaged in your surroundings more because you aren’t running the same mundane route that you know like the back of your hand. Chances are you know the exact mileage of your normal routes down to the hundredth of the mile. So instead of signing on to mapmyrun, or checking the distance with your odometer (old school but I definitely used to do this), try a brand new route. It will also keep your mind off time and distance. Now, I’m not recommending you plop yourself down in the middle of an unknown forrest and give it a go. Stay in familiar neighborhoods, just simply switch up the exact path you are used to.
3. Test yourself for the first few runs. Head out the door and listen to what your body is asking for that day. Do you feel like running for about an hour? Start running and try and roughly remember the route you cover. When you get home, log onto a website like MapMyRun and check if the distance you covered was roughly how far you felt like you ran. After some practice you will be so in tune with your body that you will be able to gauge the distance you covered. This is useful if you are training for a certain distance, but if you are just running recreationally you might eventually find no need to even know your distance.
4. Do pickups based on markers along the road instead of time or exact distance. Pick a telephone pole or tree up ahead and pick up your pace until you reach it. Continue to alternate between hard and easy efforts for the duration of your run. It doesn’t matter your pace or how long it takes you to run a 400, what matters is that your building up lactic acid and training your muscles to clear it more efficiently.
5. Try trail running for a truly calming experience. Break away from the bustling cars, stop and go intersections, and other distractions that take you away from your own thoughts. I find it much easier to get lost in my own thoughts instead of worrying about distance and pace when I am deep in the woods. Trails can be much more difficult to navigate than roads because of uneven terrain, more challenging hills, and the sometimes confusing paths. Running with a friend and slowing down your pace are good ways to start trail running.
6. Trust your own body. Just because you are unplugged from pace and distance, doesn’t mean you will accidently run too hard or too many miles than your body can handle. When you begin to tune in to how your body feels that day, you will learn how to run according to what your body is asking for. This is the ultimate goal of becoming more of a ‘Zen Runner’ and may take a long time to achieve. Keep practicing the above tips until you can truly trust your own body.