Running has so much to offer beyond the readout on your watch. Lower stress levels, better self-esteem, and all-around improved health are just a few of the reasons why hitting the roads or trails is worthwhile. In the video below, former professional skier, mountain bike racer, and lifelong runner Jen Hudak serves up five tips to get the most out of every step you take.
1) Find focus
Before beginning any run, take a few minutes to center yourself and focus on your intent for the day’s outing. “When I work with runners, we always take the time to determine the goal for the day,” says Mark Plaatjes, former marathon world-record holder, coach, trainer, and running-shoe store owner. “Often, this has nothing to do with speed.”
An example of an intent might be to use the run to quiet the mind, says Elinor Fish, CEO and founder of Run Wild Retreats and Wellness. “Make quieting your mind and focusing on the present the goal of your run,” she says, “and you’ll find it that much more rejuvenating.”
2) Pay attention to posture
One specific area worth dedicating your focus to is your posture, says Fish. “You want your body upright, an expansion through your upper chest, your shoulders ‘hanging,’ and your arms moving front and back, not sideways,” she explains. “This helps you run more relaxed and efficiently.” Finding this position won’t come overnight, but with practice, it can become second nature. Once you’ve mastered the posture, it brings running's de-stressing effects to the forefront.
3) Breathe rhythmically
If you can establish a rhythm to your breathing while running, your run will flow, freeing up your mind. Fish recommends finding a breathing pattern that matches the cadence of your footsteps. “A good pattern is three steps to inhale and two to exhale,” she says.
4) Let gravity do the work
Truly relaxed running allows gravity to shoulder the workload. To accomplish this, practice leaning forward at the ankles—not the waist—and “falling” into your run. “Then you don’t have to muscle your way through the run,” says Fish, “and gravity takes over.”
5) Practice makes perfect
Like any sort of practice—yoga, meditation, and the like—mindful running takes time and patience. “You don’t need to practice mindfulness for the duration of a run,” says Fish. “Try the first five minutes of a run, or focus on one item at a time, like posture. Then revisit throughout the run.”