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Admit it, there are times when running feels like an energy suck. When you have to find the time. When you need to do an interval workout. When you feel you should go faster or farther. The truth in each of these statements depends upon your perspective. Instead of listing all the effort you give running, consider all the things running gives you: Improved health, new friends, better fitness, inner strength, a happier vibe and a better outlook on life, just to name a few.
Harnessing the positive attributes of running can take your mood and your performance to a new level. The shift comes in realizing that running isn’t something that ends when you leave your shoes at the door. What you eat, how you sleep and your mindset are all intertwined with how you perform and feel on a run. Conversely, how you feel while logging miles spills over into the rest of your life. Becoming self-aware, appreciating your surroundings and being present in any given moment are all steps—albeit somewhat vague and ambiguous—along the journey.
“I expected nutrition and rest to be important to running,” says Leslie Cline Harper, a self-taught, 40-year-old runner from Charlotte, N.C., who attended a Mindful Running Retreat in Moab, Utah, last fall. “But it surprised me to learn that self-compassion and confidence have a place too. They need and deserve as much attention as nutrition and rest. In applying these principles, I feel a new freedom with my running practice.”
When you look at running in a new light, you are able to tap into the holistic mind and body connection and, ideally, turn your daily run into a gift instead of a chore. But, as for many new things, the experience is often better (or at least easier) when shared. Luckily for runners looking to go beyond faster splits and PRs, you’re not alone. Many professionals and age-groupers alike are on a similar quest, and new camps and programs incorporating aspects of mindfulness are cropping up to meet the need.
The approach can vary from ethereal to nuts and bolts, so understanding your desires—back to the concept of self-awareness—is essential. We checked out three programs that aim to bring new appreciation to the simple act of putting one foot in front of the other. At each one, coaches share experiential knowledge in stunning locales best explored by foot, with plenty of time for informational sessions, yoga, meditation and even hanging out by a campfire.