Cognitive Strategy during Running


I lived in India for one year.  For many spiritual persons in India, there was a large focus on having a clear mind, awakened consciousness and presence in the moment.  Westerners may be aware of a book like the “Power of Now” by Eckhart Tolle that extolls some of these concepts.  It only makes sense to me that a runner who is in the moment feeling his or her body will be the superior runner.  This is where running becomes meditation.

Today common culture encourages us to wear our headphones and watch unrelated videos as we exercise.  This seems to be a dissociative strategy (table 1).  It pulls you out of the moment, blunts your senses and just passes the time.  This seems like insanity to me. 

Table 1.

Cognitive Strategy During Running


Attention to irrelevant information such as work, relationships, unrelated thought


Direct attention towards the task at hand.  Body sensations, feeling, breathing, form, Heart rate, surroundings.


Why not do the opposite and use an associative strategy (table 1).  Be so ultimately present in that moment that your run isn’t about the ticking of seconds going by, but that it becomes the joy of that moment, the joy of your body working, and or the scenery around you.  This may seem like a far-flung concept for a person who is exercising because they have to, to meet a weight loss goal or otherwise.  Far-flung yes.  But, life changing if applied.

An article by Schücker L, Hagemann N, Strauss B, et al. supports this noting improved running economy for the associative group.  In my opinion it’s not just about running, but about life.

At Body Mechanics Physical Therapy we work with runners.  We are movement efficiency experts and would love to improve your running.  If you would like to comment or discussion please do on our Facebook page.


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