Facing anxiety when running

What can mindfulness offer when we find worry and negativity taking over our run?
(This article was first pubished in the August 2019 issue of Women’s Running magazine)

The 10k race is underway. You’re in the zone and feeling optimistic that you will break the elusive 60-minute barrier! That soon fades at the 6K mark when fatigue sets in and people start to pass you. Your watch doesn’t lie – you’re slowing down and your body is screaming with effort. And then up pops the critical voice: This is too hard … I’m not good enough … She’s running the perfect race. I wish I was like her…

Sound familiar? This doubt and self-judgement may also crop up when we’re training or even just thinking about running. Fortunately, with mindfulness, help is at hand.

With mindfulness we learn to see clearly what is going on, without filtering or judging our experience. We begin to notice that when certain thoughts arise, in this case self-critical thoughts, they can produce an emotional response often creating tension in the body, which can reinforce negative thinking. And we get caught in a loop.

To enjoy the full benefits of mindful running, we should see mindfulness as a skill that needs to be developed before we pull on our trainers. If we invest our time in regular mindfulness-based meditation practices, we may begin to notice that “I’m not good enough” is a story we are telling ourselves throughout the day, and so our whole life becomes the training ground of mindfulness practice.

Adopting a mindful approach is not about fixing a problem – instead, we are creating a wiser relationship with whatever arises in our experience. As we develop our ‘muscle of mindfulness’, so it becomes more readily available to us once we hit the streets or trails.