Friday, October 20, 2017

Book Review: Mindful Running

Disclaimer: I received a copy of Mindful Running in exchange for my unbiased review. This post contains affiliate links.

What do you do when you're having a bad day? You just go for a run, right?

Life can be full--good or bad, and at times, chaotic, and overwhelming. For those of us who run, lacing up our shoes and heading out the door is an escape from the buzz of every day. Many runners often refer to running as a moving meditation. We look at our time on the road as a time to work out problems in our minds. Some of us push ourselves hard to sweat out all the negativity of the day. Sometimes we push so hard that we lose that ability to unwind and enjoy our runs.

In her new book, Mindful Running, author Mackenzie L Havey set out to explore this concept of running being "spiritual" or "meditative". Before you click away, hear me out. Havey isn't talking about any new-agey type chanting or meditating. When she talks about mindful running, she means tuning into your body and paying attention to how you are feeling and what's happening around you. By definition, mindfulness means staying present in the moment.

Havey knows what she's talking about. She's a veteran of 14 marathons and an Ironman and is a USATF certified coach. She's also a sports psychologist. 

In MIndful Running, Havey asks the questions: does running mindfully positively affects running performance?  And why can't we just tune out and let our minds wander? She explores these concepts as well as discusses how to run mindfully.


One of the things I really liked about Mindful Running is that Havey's concepts are based in science. You know me--I'm a science gal. The discussion on science and neurobiology wasn't dry or all that technical, though. Havey uses data to reinforce the benefits of running for both body and mind. For example, while we all know that running makes you smarter, did you know that running, along with other aerobic exercises, increases gray matter volume throughout the brain? This results in improved memory, emotional regulation, and overall intellectual function. And that runner's high? It's real and it's spectacular, thanks to the release of feel good chemicals in the brain. Add in mindfulness and you've got a brain that is just bursting with goodness. Other studies have shown the benefits of mindfulness in reducing inflammatory markers (good-bye RA!) as well as boosting the immune system. 

With all its benefits, it's no wonder that mindfulness is on trend right now. Professional athletes are incorporating mindfulness training into their regimens to improve performance in their sports. Throughout the book, Havey shares the experiences of elite runners who have applied the principles of mindfulness to their training. Mindful running isn't just for elite runners, and Havey provides plenty of guidance to help anyone who wants to try mindful running. 

Mindful running requires the runner to shift from "thinking" mode to "sensing" mode. There are 3 components to mindful running, focus--becoming aware while you are running; fathom--making necessary changes while you are running; and flow--getting into the zone. Havey takes the reader through each step in great detail and provides plenty of inspiration from elite runners. She wraps it all up by discussing mindful racing. This chapter was of particular interest to me since I'm one of those runners who does really well training for a race but seems to fall apart on race day. 

When I first decided to read this book, I was worried that it would be really dry, but I found it to be an easy, engaging read. Havey does a nice job using examples to illustrate her points. I particularly liked learning about all the elite athletes who utilize the principles of mindful running. I don't think it will be difficult for me to incorporate her suggestions into my running regimen. This is a book I will continue to refer to as I work towards becoming a more mindful runner.

A longtime runner, I've been struggling with running for the past couple of months. I'm sure my issues are related to a couple of factors, including my health, but since I've been having such a tough time, I was really excited to read this book. Now that I'm starting to work on being more mindful and running "in the moment", I'm finding my "flow" and enjoying running again. The key will be to see if I can sustain this in the long term.

By the way, Havey does address our need to run with gadgets. While she encourages runners to run "naked", she says it's ok to run with tech and music, as long as it doesn't interfere with our ability to stay in the present moment. 

It's all a work in progress.

Have you tried running mindfully? Are you able to stay focused when you run or do you "zone out"? Could you run "naked"? 

You can read more at Mackenzie L. Havey's website

While I'm no longer hosting a linkup for the book club, if you do have a review or post you'd like me to share here, send me the link! Be sure to link back to me and use the badge in your post.


I'm really excited about next month's book! Mirna Valerio is not your "typical" runner. As she calls herself "an active larger girl in a thinner world", Valerio tells her story in her new book A Beautiful Work in Progress. You might be familiar with her blog Fat Girl Running or with her writing in Women's Running Magazine. She's an ambassador for Skirt Sports as well. I'll be reviewing her book on November 17. I hope a lot of you will read her book and join me! The Kindle version of her book is available for 4.99.




I'm linking this post with Running on Happy and Fairytales and Fitness for the Friday Five.


32 comments :

  1. I wrote a post about mindful running, perhaps last year? Interesting that I was on the right track!

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  2. This is very interesting and I love that the concepts are based in science. I rarely run naked, which I know if a bad thing. I feel like I can try to do that more that I'm not in training mode.

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    1. I rarely run naked as well and I probably won't start now. But I have been more conscious of staying focused and not letting my mind wander as much.

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  3. I know that I could benefit from being more mindful with my running (and everything else too). I find it very hard to do! I love Mirna and have gotten to know her a bit through skirt sports she really is a one of a kind

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    1. I've been really stressed lately and have been replaying stuff over and over in my mind, which she says is the worst thing to do! So this book has been really helpful for me.

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  4. I don't ever run naked willingly. The other week I had to because my GPS died.I'd like to think I zone out when I run, but I still run with my headphones in.

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    1. I'm with you on that. I like my gadgets.

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  5. I may have to check this book out. I usually use my run time to ponder things I need to work out, so I'm mindful, just with a different purpose. And I love Mirna's book. I'll have to link up for that one.

    -MCM Mama

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    1. I know I'm ruminating way more than is helpful. It isn't easy being mindful!

      Yes, please link up next time!

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  6. Interesting. With my focus on cycling this summer I have missed the mind-clearing nature of my long runs, although cycling requires much more focus for me -- and so maybe has similar benefits. This sounds like something to explore as I stop chasing PRs.

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    1. I'm looking forward to putting some of this in action tomorrow on my long run!

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  7. I think this is great info. I also have a pattern for falling apart on race day (like the past couple of marathons). Although both of those races had a lot of circumstantial factors (weather, surprise aches/pains, etc.), the frustration was overwhelming at times. I had to throw out any finish time goals and just focus on the present moments. It proved to me (again) that I am not a "racer." Having a watch dictate my fate did me no good...it wasn't until I focused on the joy and pride of just being in my running shoes that I was able to make my way towards the finish line.

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    1. I really liked how she talked about tuning in to how you are feeling, notice it, make adjustments, but don't dwell on it. I'm good at tuning in but then I'm all like, crap, I feel like crap...etc.

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  8. I swear there is nothing better than getting in that "flow state" during a run. I think we were both pretty high yesterday. :p Maybe because I've struggled for so long, but I now find it pretty easy to run sans Garmin. I know by feel if a run is good. I can't be tied to numbers or I'll drive myself crazy.

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    1. We were in sync yesterday, that's for sure! I'm still using my Garmin as I work on getting back on track.

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  9. In Slow Burn Mittleman talks about these very things.

    Sometimes I do it, but of course it can be hard, when you're thinking about pace on a tempo run or speedwork. I know they would say that being more mindful would probably surprise you as to speed, but I find I do better when I'm actually paying attention (although some days in the zone does just happen!).

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    1. I've never heard of him or his book but as I just looked it up, it's about running slow to burn fat? Was there advice about mindful running?

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  10. I have that book in my wishlist! now i'll have to order it soon!

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    1. It's a great book and I'll be going back to it again.

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  11. This is interesting. I think I need to read this book. Added to Amazon!

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    1. It was excellent! I'm hoping it's just what my running needs to get back on track.

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  12. I could have used this when I was a swimmer! I'd just zone out and swim lap after lap. :)

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    1. I think I would need this if I was a swimmer--it seems so boring!

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  13. I've never tried mindful running. Sounds interesting. I run with my phone or watch, but mainly so I can look at my stats after my run. I like keeping track of my mileage, but I'm no longer focused on speed.

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    1. I need to let it go, but I do love to run fast!

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  14. Very interesting - this sounds like a book that is right up my alley! Thanks for the recommendation.

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    1. Let me know what you think! I've been trying out some of the things I've learned while I'm running. I have trouble staying focused.

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  15. Very interesting! I definitely found myself daydreaming a lot when I ran solo long training runs back when I ran marathons. Twenty miles was a long way to stay focused! This was long before GPS watches, but I knew where certain mileage increments were on my loops. I just tried to stay at a pace so I finished in under three hours. I think those early solo runs built mental toughness.

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    1. Since reading this book, I've been working really hard at staying focused. It definitely works!

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  16. I went to college with Mackenzie! Can't wait to read it :)

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