30 Jun Boost Your Trek Training: The Science-Backed Benefits of Mindful Running
Training for treks, trail running, or any outdoor adventure sport is a multidimensional endeavor requiring not only physical fortitude but mental resilience. Often, the latter element is overlooked, even though a growing body of scientific evidence supports the essential role of mental preparedness in athletic performance (Weinberg & Gould, 2014).
Today, we propose to uncover an innovative, research-backed approach to your training regime, which may initially seem a bit abstract and even woo-woo, but I promise, yields concrete benefits – mindful running.
Now you, professionals, entrepreneurs, and corporate leaders will get an especially big bang for your buck out of this. even if you do view anything meditative with “Alpha”- type scorn. But studies DO underscore the tangible impacts of mindfulness in reducing workplace stress, enhancing focus, and increasing overall job satisfaction (Klatt, Steinberg, & Duchemin, 2015). Integrating this technique into your training routine can become a game-changer, aiding not only in your athletic pursuits but in your professional endeavours as well.
But first, let’s understand mindfulness. Its essence lies in the present moment – a fully engaged, undistracted ‘now’. This principle resonates deeply when training for challenging physical activities such as trekking or trail running. Even a momentary lapse in focus can lead to tumbling arse over tit, or a misstep and a rolled ankle on rocky terrains.
So, how can we engage in mindful running? Let’s explore the specific techniques I use myself, combining mindfulness exercises with breathing exercises, whilst running or walking. Bear in mind that these are not random practices I’ve taken up on a whim, but have been validated by research for their effectiveness in enhancing mindfulness (Biegel, Brown, Shapiro, & Schubert, 2009).
First step: As you prepare for your run or walk, begin with an exercise in active listening. Focus on the farthest sounds initially, gradually expanding your awareness to include the immediate sounds in your environment, from the rustle of leaves to the chirping of birds. The exercise draws upon the technique of ‘open-monitoring meditation’, a form of mindfulness meditation that has been scientifically shown to improve cognitive flexibility (Lippelt, Hommel, & Colzato, 2014).
Step two: The next step is to tune into your body and its functions, from the rhythm of your breath to the beat of your footfalls. This concept aligns with ‘body scan meditation’, another mindfulness practice that fosters a deeper connection with one’s physical presence, leading to decreased psychological distress and improved well-being (Creswell, 2017).
Step three: Now you are moving develop a rhythmic 4-beat breathing pattern, synchronising each breath with your steps. Breathing in on each footfall for 4 footfalls ie left, right, left, right and out for four footfalls (left, right, left, right). Not only does this process cultivate mindfulness, but it also optimises your oxygen intake, contributing to enhanced physical performance (Russell, Arcuri, Wilson, & Mackenzie, 2020).
While training for your trek or run, running ‘unplugged’ becomes vital. Keep your phone silent. The aim is to immerse yourself fully in the surroundings, focusing on what you see, hear, and feel, thus embodying the principles of mindfulness. This unplugged approach to training reinforces mindfulness, promoting greater environmental connection and enhancing the overall quality of the outdoor experience (Mitten, D’Amore, & Heasley, 2018).
Incorporating mindfulness into your trail running or trek training regimen is not just an enriching personal experience; it’s a scientifically supported method to enhance your performance. Even though the concept might seem a bit offbeat initially, the evidence for its effectiveness in boosting physical and mental resilience is compelling.
Remember, training for treks or trail running is not just about building physical strength or achieving a goal. It’s about the journey, the mindful moments you experience along the way, the enhanced self-awareness, and the invaluable skills you develop that enrich other areas of your life. Whether you are out in the hills preparing for a challenging trek or big trail event, or even for when you are back at work, in the city or on endless zoom calls, mindfulness can transform your journey and lead you to new heights of success.
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Biegel, G. M., Brown, K. W., Shapiro, S. L., & Schubert, C. M. (2009). Mindfulness-based stress reduction for the treatment of adolescent psychiatric outpatients: A randomized clinical trial. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 77(5), 855.
Creswell, J. D. (2017). Mindfulness interventions. Annual review of psychology, 68, 491-516.
Klatt, M., Steinberg, B., & Duchemin, A. M. (2015). Mindfulness in motion (MIM): An onsite mindfulness-based intervention (MBI) for chronically high-stress work environments to increase resiliency and work engagement. Journal of Visualized Experiments, (101).
Lippelt, D. P., Hommel, B., & Colzato, L. S. (2014). Focused attention, open monitoring and loving-kindness meditation: effects on attention, conflict monitoring, and creativity – A review. Frontiers in psychology, 5, 1083.
Mitten, D., D’Amore, C. C., & Heasley, B. (2018). Mobile Technology, Social Media, and Outdoor Recreation. In Outdoor Adventure Education (pp. 97-108). Palgrave Macmillan, Cham.
Russell, M., Arcuri, R., Wilson, R., & Mackenzie, R. (2020). The effect of exercise mode on the acute response of salivary cortisol and IgA, anxiety and mood with elite athletes. Journal of Science and Medicine in Sport, 23(2), 161-166.
Weinberg, R., & Gould, D. (2014). Foundations of sport and exercise psychology. Human Kinetics.
Zylowska, L., Ackerman, D. L., Yang, M. H., Futrell, J. L., Horton, N. L., Hale, T. S., … & Smalley, S. L. (2008). Mindfulness meditation training in adults and adolescents with ADHD: a feasibility study. Journal of Attention Disorders, 11(6), 737-746.