Sitting motionless in a room for an extended period of time might seem like an odd way to improve your running, but meditation is a tool used by some of the world’s best runners to take them to the next level. Two-time Western States champion Timmy Olhsen uses meditation as a central tenant of his training. Two-time OCC champion Ruth Croft has gone on week-long silent meditation retreats. Here are some ways to get started: Why meditate? There are a number of benefits for runners. Firstly, it can help you concentrate or to “stay present”. This is particularly useful if you have a specific split or pace in mind. Over the course of a 5km, 10km or even a marathon it can be easy for your mind to drift and for you to unwittingly slow down. But if you are “present”, you can focus on keeping your legs spinning. Conversely, mediation can distract you. If you are battling through a low point on a 100km race, you can use meditation techniques honed at home to focus on your breathing rather than your ailing body. You can refocus to the moment and forget about what is to come and the negative thoughts circling in your head. View this post on Instagram A post shared by Timothy Olson (@timothyallenolson) on Oct 30, 2020 at 9:15am PDT Meditation lowers anxiety in general. Being less stressed will help your training in general because you will find it easier to stick to a routine and waste less mental energy so you can push yourself during the session. It will also help you relax and sleep, so your body can recover in full. Where to start? It can be hard to know where to start. Do you just sit down with crossed legs and float away in your mind’s eye to distant peaks? There are loads of meditation apps for beginners and you can plug in and listen to instructions for short five-minute bursts and build from there. Meditation is surprisingly hard. You will find your mind wandering after just a few seconds. Start small, just a few minutes a day, and do not beat yourself up if you have to constantly refocus as you get distracted over and over. Breathing Meditating is not just about the mind. There are a number of breathing techniques which supplement the practice, like single nostril breathing, focusing on your breath, long deep breaths, and short fast breaths. Sit in a comfortable position, shut your eyes and focus on each breath – in, out, in, out. After a few breaths, begin to deeply inhale. Concentrate on where the air is flowing by expanding your belly and not just lifting up your rip cage. Do this five times and then return to regular breathing. You can repeat this as many times as you like. It is an easy beginners’ routine, but it will allow you to practice refocusing on the moment and staying present when you are getting anxious. When running, if you are getting negative thoughts or experiencing a low, you will then be able to bring yourself back to the moment by focusing on your breath and continuing to push your body. Meditation while running You should practice the techniques you learn at home out on the track or trail. It will improve your running and you will be better equipped to call on what you have learned when you need it during a race. Try staying present by counting your steps. It might sound easy, but you will find your mind drifting to other things after just a few steps. Even if you are counting, you will probably be simultaneously thinking things like, “I wonder how many steps I can get to before I lose count”, but in time you will be able to fill your mind with the numbers only. Another technique is to focus on body parts, not just legs. Really concentrate on your arms, feel them swinging and brushing against your shirt or body, for example. Finished Netflix? The best TED talks for endurance athletes are worth a look Practice gratefulness. Think explicitly about how lucky you are to be able to run and go outdoors and your mood should improve, and your performance with it. Set intentions Every day does not have to be a personal best run. But energy flows, where energy knows. If you know what you want out of a day, a session or a race, it will help with mindfulness – an offshoot of meditation. Write down your training day’s intention. It can be a heart rate, a time, a feeling, a thought. It can even be “rest, today’s training is to rest and not feel guilty about not training”. And on days you do not meet your intention, think about why but do not get bogged down in it. Tomorrow is another day.