If you’re anything like me, you probably have a regular running route as part of your routine. After a while it becomes very familiar. You know the gradients where you may need to increase your effort. You know the flats and the descents and how you like to run those.
There’s no problem with having a regular running route of course, but what can happen from a mindfulness-based perspective, is that it’s so familiar that we switch off our attention, and we run on autopilot. It’s become a habit – a well-worn route that we tread. How can we take our regular route and learn to run with a new perspective?
Goodbye autopilot, hello habit releaser
Before my run today, I reminded myself of a really simple device that we can employ to switch up our run and experience it differently. The ‘habit releaser’ is a popular mindfulness practice to help shake us out of operating on autopilot. Here we choose a routine activity and find a way to take a fresh approach to it. Every day examples might include taking a different route to a frequent destination, or choosing to sit in a different place at home rather than the regular chair in which you always sit.
Learn to run with a new perspective
So what did I do differently? I simply ran my regular route in the opposite direction. It was a wonderful and striking reminder of how we can bring a freshness to our experience. It felt so utterly different, almost as if my body was turned inside out. With every bend I leant into, I was asking the body to flex in a different direction. Everything previously experienced as a climb had to be relearnt as a descent. Most interestingly of all, I found myself thrown into the here and now. I didn’t need to consciously choose to be present. I was feeling my way from moment to moment. It was like making a new discovery; everything was fresh and alive.
There is a great joy to be had in waking up to the present moment; paying attention to the here and now. So if you find your running has become a little stale, it may be that something as simple as going in the opposite direction is all you need to learn to run with a new perspective.