A Guide To Mindful Running From DISTRICT VISION
Film by Ms Emily Maye
There’s something deeply meditative about running. Anyone who has experienced the feeling of being “in the zone” while on a run will attest to the profound stillness and clarity of mind that can be achieved through the simple act of putting one foot in front of the other and repeating, ad infinitum. As with any form of meditation, though, that desired state can prove elusive, and the process of getting there is not automatic. It’s not enough to just run. You need to practise mindful running.
But what does mindful running actually mean, and what does it take to achieve it?
In our exclusive short film, which you can watch here, Mr Max Vallot, the co-founder of athletic brand DISTRICT VISION, shares his own five-point mindful running programme, the goal of which, he says, is to help make you “smarter, more informed, and ultimately happier in your running practice”. Developed over the course of six years and rooted in the teachings of Buddhism and Vipassanā (insight) meditation, it’s a simple and accessible way of taking your daily jog to another level of spiritual fulfilment and it works especially well when combined with a more formal, seated meditation practice.
The film coincides with the arrival of an exclusive 11-piece capsule collection by DISTRICT VISION, key pieces from which are modelled in the film by runners and friends Messrs Jack Levitt and Blaine Benitez. Profits from sales of the collection on MR PORTER will be donated to the MR PORTER Health In Mind Fund, our charitable initiative, powered by Movember, which you can read more about and donate to here.
For a full transcript of Vallot’s approach to mindful running, read on.
“Before you even start moving, take a few moments to just stand in stillness and feel the breath in the body. Feel the inhalations as they enter the body. Feel the exhalations and they leave the body. At this point we’re not trying to change anything about the way the body is breathing. All we’re doing is paying close attention to what’s already going on.
“And then, with this awareness, slowly put one foot in front of the other.
“As the body starts to move it can become more difficult to keep track of the breathing. The best way to go about it is to be patient. It’s natural for the mind to start wandering as we begin moving, and that’s totally OK. It’ll take practice to cultivate this kind of awareness.”
“As you make your way through the warm-up phase, start paying more attention to the rest of your body as it moves through the environment. Ask yourself: how do my feet feel as they strike down on the ground? What do my hands and arms feel like as they move in space? What do my eyes and the muscles around my eyes feel like? Can I soften up any of the tension in my face?
“As you do this, you can bring your awareness of breathing along with you. That’s totally fine. We’re just broadening the awareness, opening it up to the entire body.”
“As you get more into the groove after 10, 15 or 20 minutes of running, allow yourself to notice the sounds around you.
“As in the previous step when focusing on how your body feels, here you can also home in on certain individual sounds. The sound of your feet striking down on the ground is a great place to start, or the sound of your breathing. But ultimately, I find it most useful to open yourself up to the symphony of sounds all around you – the birds, the traffic, the wind in the trees. Really immerse yourself in this broad soundscape.”
“Mindfulness is essentially training for the mind. But what I’ve found can be missing is that heart. Something I’m experimenting with is bringing more warmth and compassion in my practice.
“Running with a friend or training partner can be an incredibly effective way of building strength. It fuels our competitive desires and helps us to achieve our own physical goals. But rather than getting lost in this egocentric perspective, try using this shared experience as a way of cultivating a loving kindness towards one another. Take time to appreciate how the presence of another person keeps you going. Be aware of how that person makes you feel, and really make this a central part of your mindfulness exercise.”
“The best way to end any form of physical practice, whether running or surfing or yoga, is to live down on the ground. Feel the body as it rests on the ground, feel the points of contact, and simply surrender. Let yourself be drawn into the Earth, almost as if you’re sinking into it. Feel your heart racing, feel the sweat running down your forehead, feel the impact this intense training has had on your body and your mind.
“In Buddhism, we talk about the balance between ‘doing’ and ‘being’. At this point, all we are interested in is: how can I give up all aspects of doing? How can I simply be? So, many of these teachings can be brought back to three words: Let it be.”