Training Your Mind, To Run Better

WORDS & Photographs by Alexandra Côte-Durrer

01. Courtesy of Alexandra Cote-Durrer

Visual meditation has helped me so much in the way I run. It’s kind of funny, because I learned about it as a coping mechanism for my post traumatic stress disorder. Meditation has been known for its benefits when it comes to mental health. The brain however isn’t the only organ who benefits with consistent meditation. 

02. Courtesy of Alexandra Cote-Durrer

In a study published in 2012 in the edition of Circulation: Cardiovascular Quality and Outcomes found that meditation can play a large part in improving heart health. To kick off the study, 201 people with coronary eat disease were given the option of taking a class on either transcendent meditation or health through diet and exercise. After five years, it was found that those who had chosen to pursue meditation had reduced their overall risk of stroke, heart attack and death by an amazing 48%

03. Courtesy of Alexandra Cote-Durrer
04. Courtesy of Alexandra Cote-Durrer

It’s crazy how the simple, yet complex art of meditation can help with so many illnesses.

I remember taking a meditation workshop taught by an ex cardiovascular surgeon who has been studying breath work, and the positive impact it can have on the heart and body in general. Laying on our backs in Savasana, she showed us different breathing techniques to use in different situations. She then told us how as we grow older, we forget to breathe properly. This is due to the stress we experience in certain life events in which our breathing becomes more irregular. With the help of meditation, we can re learn how to properly breathe by simply taking time to notice our breathing patterns and playing with various exercises. This will also bring in a load of positive impacts to the physical and mental body.

05. Courtesy of Alexandra Cote-Durrer

For some, meditation can be quite difficult, especially when we first try. Not going to lie, I struggled many years in trying to meditate. In my mind, I had to sit on my bolster and wait in silence. Living with multiple anxiety disorders, my mind would go all over the place and I would forget to breathe altogether. That’s when my therapist introduced me the visual meditation, which is a meditation method using visuals like positive images, symbols, nature etc and using mantras and breath work to help calm the mind while the body is in a relaxed state.

06. Courtesy of Alexandra Cote-Durrer
07. Courtesy of Alexandra Cote-Durrer

There are many ways to do it, but here is how I do it:

1) Finding a nice visual aid to look at. Usually I like to go outside and look at nature, but when I am inside, I look at a nice nature picture I took. Focused on the visual, I take one deep breath in, hold, and then release out of my mouth. I usually do this 3 or 4 times. After, I simply let my gaze stare at the visual and in my mind I focus on my breathing.

2) While running, I will focus on a visual. This can be a root on the trail ahead, or the trees etc. As I am running and looking at my subject, I focus on doing deep breathes in, and deep breaths out. This can be very tricky at first because we really need to focus on our pace and sometimes when we run we easily fall out of breath. When I start to struggle, I walk and let my breath catch up and then start running again.

08. Courtesy of Alexandra Cote-Durrer

Meditation while I run really made me tune in more to my body and the environment I am in. I used to get so anxious running in the city and ever since I started doing breath work while on my urban runs, I have noticed a huge decrease in my stress levels. Not only has it helped me find peace within, but my runs and training weeks have improved greatly.

09. Courtesy of Alexandra Cote-Durrer

A 2016 study published in Translational Psychiatry found that combining meditation with running reduces symptoms of depression by 40% on depressed participants. It is clear that meditation during runs is nothing but good. Being able to incorporate it in your training log enables a better experience in every way possible. If you’re like me, and don’t really know where to start, I suggest reading about the different types of meditation to find the right one that fits for you.

Remember, meditation is like nutrition, it is different for everyone.

08. Courtesy of Alexandra Cote-Durrer
Want to listen to guided meditations while running? Be sure to check out Meditation On The Run, an online initiative that focuses on teaching about your mind’s relationship to everything you experience while moving on your feet.

About Alexandra Côte-Durrer

Visual Meditation Series by Alexandra Côté-Durrer is a professional photographer, trail runner, and mental health advocate based in Sainte-Adele, QC Canada.

Her main canvas is Canada, particularly her home province of Quebec. Alexandra loves discovering and inspiring others to wander around her home province by showcasing some photographs, writing stories about her adventures, and of course creating content for tourism and adventure companies.

Alexandra’s goal is to work alongside amazing and inspiring companies constantly creating authentic and timeless content all over Quebec and Canada. She has been concentrating on commercial photography for over 7 years now and is currently focusing on adventure storytelling.

You can find more of her work on her pages:

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