Nathan Pennington Running in The Distance

How To Achieve Zen Running For Effective Results

Zen Running

Zen running is what every runner should strive for.  I have been fascinated with anyone who specializes in any discipline and does it extraordinarily well. I began my interest in the study of mental zen training when I was a teenager.

The first sport I participated heavily in was Tae Kwon Do, not running, so learned the value of dicisipline and focus from the martial artists that trained me. I took a lot away from learning about mindset, discipline and thinking ‘big’.

Bruce Lee and Steve Prefontaine have been my biggest role models as a professional athlete. There are endless examples of disciplined people, but Bruce and Steve influenced me the most and continue to motivate me on a daily basis. Watch the videos below and you’ll have an understanding of why.

There are no limits. There are plateaus, but you must not stay there, you must go beyond them. If it kills you, it kills you. A man must constantly exceed his level – Bruce Lee

What made them stand out to me? Their extreme dedication to their craft. Their utter belief in their gift. I work with people who have multiple gifts. I know of only a few I have. 1) To be kind to people, friendly and love family 2) running, lived and breathed it since I was 15, and lastly, I love to motivate people and see them do things they thought they could’t do.

I had a 51 year old senior non-commissioned officer who is on my team, tell me this morning, Sir, I haven’t felt this good in years. It made my day. I am not an expert in many things but I do know this sport and hearing that was powerful. The power to influence people for good reasons, is a blessing.

I didn’t necessarily want to be Steve or Bruce growing up. What I did want was to learn how to maximize my own running ability with the same diligence as they did with their ability. This is the whole point in me writing this post. People are more capable then they realize when it comes to pretty much any discipline.

Zen running can be harnessed and your potential to achieve great results as a runner can only be built based on the amount of enthusiasm and diligence you bring to your preparation. Excellence starts today!

The level of commitment and dedication it takes to achieve anything to stand out in a particular discipline, has always turned me on since I was a teenager. How can I master the way I think to override any form of innate limitations I probably have subconsciously programmed myself into believing?

How can I help others to do the same. These have been my motivations in life through running, competition, anything.

Achieving mental zen as it pertains to running  isn’t easy, especially for beginners because of the amount of work and dedication that you have to build to truly enjoy the sport. The hardest part in the initial few weeks and months of building base mileage and endurance.

Far too often non-runners sell themselves short in their early stages of fitness by not allowing their innate running ability to appear. It simply doesn’t come overnight and takes an enormous amount of work.

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Zen Running Occurs When You Balance Your Life

You have to have balance. This is so important when it comes to running. That being said, you can’t let running rule everything else you do in life. You have to enjoy running first and foremost, if you don’t have that, the likelihood of achieving the right mindset to achieve great running results will be slim.

There has to be balance. I lost my focus and equilibrium a couple years ago chasing the sub 2.19 marathon barrier and surely was not zen running.

I lost the joy. I was chasing times and forgetting what brought me to breaking the 2.20 barrier in the first place, balance and enjoyment for what I was doing.

You will achieve far greater results when you are not placing so much stress on yourself to outperform the next guy or gal down the road and simply do the work and let the results come to you. Don’t push so hard and try to rush the process.

Focusing On Your Goals Will Bring You Closer To Zen Running

What do I mean by this? I mean that whatever goal you have set for yourself, focus wholeheartedly on it, until you gain access to it. Let me be blunt and clear.

Running is one of the greatest sports in the world, not only for what it does to us physically, spiritually and mentally, but to learn to love it and achieve a zen-like love to run well and exceptionally fast, your focus has to be razor sharp.

You must have complete determination. The worst opponent you can come across is one whose aim has become an obsession. For instance, if a man has decided that he is going to bite off your nose no matter what happens to him in the process, the chances are he will succeed in doing it. He may be severely beaten up, too, but that will not stop him from carrying out his objective. That is the real fighter. -Bruce Lee

Do you have a race in the near future? What are you doing about it today that is going to help you achieve the goal weeks and months down the road? If you ask yourself that question and can list a few things you are not doing, then adjust course and ensure you change those patterns to train correctly and effectively.

Zen Running Occurs When You Don’t Let Failure Derail Your Goal

Far too many runners have given up or just moved on to other things thanks to failure. Don’t do it. My greatest zen moment came in the 2007 California International Marathon after many set backs trying to break the 2.22.00 marathon barrier.

I had run a 1.07.06 half-marathon prior to this but my best marathon was ‘only’ a 2.40.02. What would have happened had I quit after running the 2.51.52 I ran at the 2007 Chicago Marathon prior to breaking 2.20.00 at the California Marathon less than 2 months later?

I have thought about that several times over the years since and I can assure you all that I would not have experienced the enlightenment I gained from outrunning some of the best marathoners in the world on that particular day. It was zen running in its purest form. You can’t let up.

How will you experience your breakthrough if you do?

I ran 2.19.35 to finish 4th. The Russian who finished behind me in 2.23 to take 5th had a personal best coming into the race of 2.12. I failed numerous times prior to this at the marathon distance. Zen running occurs when you have let go of all past failures and brought all your strength and focus into one effort, no distractions.

I was in the moment and found enlightenment from that day that continues to inspire me every day in my training. I ran on autopilot. It was as if all the stress I experienced in past races was lifted, what I am most proud of is my unwillingness to quit, despite the setbacks along the way, not running under 2.20.00.

I don’t say this to gloat because I have been humbled far too many times in the past by better runners but I write this because I want to see you excel and get out of those limiting thoughts you have about your ability.

See yourself doing extraordinary things and make it a habit to think of what others would term ‘unrealistic’, make it fun. There is no one telling you, you have to think rationally. The mind doesn’t know the difference.

If you watch this video of Prefontaine you will understand why I wrote this post. You don’t have time to let up. Your blessed with one life, why not ask everything of yourself, challenge every ounce of your ability and see what you can create?

To give anything less than your best is to sacrifice the gift – Steve Prefontaine

4. Utilize Massage 

Treat yourself to a weekly massage. It is a great way to flush out toxins and scar tissue from training and is probably the best method of rejuvenating your mental state and invigorating an already stressed body.

5. Meditation

This could also be termed visualization as well. Billy Mills was quoted as saying,

The subconscious mind, cannot tell the difference between reality or imagination

What you think about, what you visualize and focus on, will come to light in your running. Mills visualized and believed in what he was doing.

He was not only a good runner (who got that way due to many years of diligent, hard work), but he believed in what he was doing so much that there was no such thing as missing the mark with him. He focused on what he wanted day in and day out.

You don’t have to have the goal of winning an Olympic Gold Medal as your reason for running, we all have goals as athletes. Keep an eye out for how you think on a daily basis. Are you visualizing what you want or worrying that you are not capable of your goal?

Are you envisioning that goal race utilizing the zen running techniques your learning now for months down the road? If not, you can start today. The quickest way to finding enlightenment in the sport of running is narrowing your focus and clearing your mind of any negative feedback that won’t help you anyway.

It is like a finger pointing away to the moon, do not concentrate on the finger or you will miss all that Heavenly Glory – Bruce Lee

Achieving mental zen and running well involves an unwavering attitude, a calm spirit and an unwavering diligence to get out the door, day after day, month after month, year after year, until you get what you are striving for.

It isn’t easy and nor should it be. How could you possibly value anything that was easy to achieve. What fun is there in that? It isn’t until you are truly tested and placed in an comfortable environment and come out on top that you will truly appreciate your hard work.

Find enlightenment from what the great figures past, present and future have done. Be yourself. There is only one of you on the entire planet but don’t relinquish your future goals on account of a few failed attempts.

Zen running can only be obtained when you let go of worry, rushing to obtain results and simply take confidence in your daily preparation. No worry will equal better performances and zen running will play a huge factor in those results.

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