Mindfulness in Running

The quality or state of being conscious or aware of something.

Gilbert Ayoub May 15, 2018
I just read this interesting article on mindfulness called How Practicing Mindfulness Can Change Your Life which brought back memories of what my sensei would often tell me. My wife Arlene and I trained at the local Aikido dojo and practicing martial arts was not a place you wanted to let your mind switch to screensaver mode. Mindfulness was extremely important to avoid injuring yourself as well as your partner. We trained to be mindful of our own bodies, breathing, relaxing body parts while engaging others, and being aware of our movements. I had been a serious runner for over 10 years before this. Running for me was as natural as breathing. I had never stopped to think about how I was running or been mindful of my body, it’s movement, muscles contracting while others released, my breathing, or my environment. This all changed with the practice of mindfulness during aikido.
Twenty years later I was coaching runners
Were my feet relaxed, was I following through and recycling my energy? My posture, what muscles were being used? All of this was part of being mindful. As I learned to master the technique I could run faster with less effort. I could also run longer with less fatigue. A few years later I met Danny Dreyer, founder of Chi Running. Danny had combined midfoot running technique with the mindfulness of martial arts. This struck me as a powerful way to coach the runners I worked with. As the years passed and I had the chance to work with hundreds of runners, both beginners and veterans. This experience helped me refine my coaching. The language I used, key phrases, visualisation, demonstrations all continually evolved. Then technology added new tools that were affordable and practical to use. Motion capture software allowed me to film and playback frame by frame how athletes were moving. This insight helped me analyse and correct technique. It also provided visual aids that accelerated the learning curve of the runners I worked with.


by: Gilbert Ayoub
Of course, this applies to everything we do but let’s talk about running. I started running in the early 70’s back when it was called jogging. This was before Nike had invented “running shoes” Twenty years later I was coaching runners and trying to make them mindful of how they ran. Many of these, running style, was a slow cadence, overstriding, heel striking, and this lead to many injuries. I myself had experienced shin splints, IT band, and stress fracture injuries over the first 15 years of running. I knew how frustrating it was to have to stop training and lose fitness because of injuries. In 2002 I signed up for my first Ironman triathlon. I decided to hire a coach to help me prepare for this challenge. Heather Johnson spoke to me about midfoot running and being mindful of avoiding over striding which caused added impact and deceleration. It was a game changer for me. This had my attention, so it made it easier to be mindful about how I was running.