Running and meditation have a lot in common. Breath is a central part of both activities, as is being present in your body and noticing thoughts and sensations as they come and go. So when you need to get in the right headspace before you hit the pavement, trail, or track, a pre-running meditation can be just what you need.
“Preparing yourself for a run—or any kind of fitness—is very much making sure you’re in the right mindset,” says Lauren Zucker, the co-founder and CEO of meditation, breathwork, and wellness studio Sage + Sound, and this week’s guest on The Well+Good Podcast. “Creating an intention and taking slow breaths to calm your nervous system and get yourself prepped is a big piece.”
In addition to focusing your mind and calming your nervous system, doing a pre-run meditation can also help you make the most of your runs on the level of brain chemistry, according to running instructor Ryan McCann, the founder of Cool Fit Club, who leads meditations before group runs and swims.
“When you meditate, you light up the neurogenesis in the prefrontal cortex, which is critical for concentration,” McCann previously told Well+God about how to run without music. “And when we do aerobic exercise, we generate neurons in the hippocampus, which is critical for memory. So when you meditate before working out, you really tap into the focus zone and increase that level of concentration before you go out there and test your legs and lungs. Then muscle memory sets in the next time you do it, making everything more comfortable and more enjoyable.”
As a former music industry executive, Zucker has a special connection with sound meditation in particular. Sound healing is a practice in which meditators listen to different sounds meant to calm their minds. It’s a great option for meditators who want less instruction than a guided meditation, but more stimulation than silence. It’s also Zucker’s pre-running meditation of choice since it helps her hone in on what she wants to get out of the run.
“I listen to a sound meditation before to get me grounded and set,” Zucker says. She uses “that hour of meditation as a way to set an intention and get ready for a run.” Then, she focuses on putting the intentions and focus on mindfulness and the breath into practice during her run.
Want to try a pre-run meditation? The second half of this week’s episode of The Well+Good Podcast includes a 10-minute mindfulness meditation for mental strength and focus from Sage + Sound’s Dara Hart to get you started. You can also follow these meditation tips for beginners or consider subscribing to a meditation app that will have a fuller library and more tools.
Listen to more wellness tips from Zucker related to connecting mindfulness and movement on this week’s episode of The Well+Good Podcast. And however you choose to get moving, remember to breathe.