Culture

Running in Harmony: How to Look Inward for Motivation

With no races or practice sessions to motivate us, try this method to strengthen your mind-body connection and keep running fresh.

At one point during my pro running career, I was in between coaches and training locations. The uncertainty left me wondering what was next. How could I stay motivated and moving in the direction of my dreams? I needed guidance.

Gold medalist Billy Mills’ book Wokini (the new edition is titled Lessons of a Lakota) inspired me. Mills, who won the 10,000 meters at the 1964 Olympics in Tokyo, invited readers to use their imaginations to create “wokini,” which in the Lakota language means “new beginning.” I did just that by focusing on happiness, as Mills recommends. 

Three times a day for ten months, I meditated on happiness by recalling a memory that made me feel, well, happy! This practice taught me how to line up the energy for what I wanted, before journeying down the road to find it; it strengthened my intuition. It helped me make a move that changed the course of my life in positive and healing ways. 

Right now, most of us are at uncertain crossroads. Without races, meets, practice, or even group runs on the calendar, it’s hard to get motivated to train—let alone keep dreaming about our goals. We could use some guidance and motivation. 

Why not try using our imaginations, as Mills suggested? Tapping into the reserves our imagination provides us, supplements our emotional tank, which is usually topped off every time we meet our group to run.

Using your imagination positively—which is a practice, just like running—fortifies your mental will. It teaches us that our thoughts are powerful and we must choose them wisely. It motivates us to point our nose in the direction we want to go, no matter where we find (or have lost) ourselves.

Meditating on happiness is just one way to harness the strength of your creative mind. It’s one example of “guided imagery,” which can set runners up for success, says Terry Chiplin, owner of Active at Altitude in Colorado, who created the Runner’s Mindset 21-day program for runners to work on strengthening their mind-body connections.

“Guided imagery is a very powerful and highly effective technique that is used by sports psychologists, elite athletes, as well as a wide range of health and therapeutic interventions,” he says. “It uses all five senses and creates internal images that, to your body and nervous system, are indistinguishable from actual physical reality.” 

Running Happiness Meditation

Photo: Milan Popovic / Unsplash

Time: 10 minutes

When: Every day

Steps:

  • Sit down. 
  • Set a timer for 10 minutes. 
  • Close your eyes. (Well, read this through first!) 
  • Recall running memories that make you smile. (For example: A satisfying workout or race when you felt how your fitness had reached a new level—and the cheers and high fives that came with it. Laughing uncontrollably with your teammates or running buddies after a meet or race.  Midway through a long run when you catch a nice breeze or a beautiful view. Any happy, fulfilling memory works, but relive your favorite running moments at this time).
  • When your attention wanders, and it will, bring it back to another memory, or the same fulfilling memory over and over. Keeping pulling it back until the timer goes off. (It’s like training a puppy to stay.)
  • Let any criticism or negativity go. 
  • Notice how this exercise affects your mindset throughout your day. 

Melody Fairchild is a running coach, director of Boulder Mountain Warriors Youth Run Club, founder of The Melody Fairchild Girls Running Camp, and master’s athlete in Boulder, Colorado. Her first book, GIRLS RUNNING (VeloPress), co-authored with Elizabeth Carey, is forthcoming. Elizabeth Carey is a freelance writer and running coach based in Seattle, Washington.