Let the mind run

July 29, 2022
Ursula Griffen

Nike has been telling us to Just Do It’ for 30 years; a command, an order, a final word against all our excuses. This resonated well with a world of athletes and provided a well needed mantra to help people overcome their inner critic.

I battled with these inner excuses for 10 years and in the March 2020 lockdown, I went on my first run since high school. Maybe it was being locked in an apartment on K'Rd and it was my only chance to break free or maybe it was because of our new neighbours running club or maybe the Nike slogan finally got through to me.

Two years and many kilometres later, I have had an awakening. This time it didn't include plant medicines, or 10-days of silence, this one included running on concrete. I have awakened to the powerful synergy of mindful awareness and running.



Running is incredibly physically demanding and in meditation, we sit in stillness. On the surface, they might seem like opposites, but when you drop below the layers they are deeply interconnected. In both instances, we are working intimately with our mind and becoming present in our body. They truly compliment each other, running deepens our mindfulness practice and mindfulness deepens our running practice. 


Image: Logan John Buchanan



Running, our inner critic and depression

As we practise meditation we become more self-aware. We begin to notice our thinking and can identify our inner critical voice more easily. This is important because when I started running I noticed that my inner critic was stopping me from putting on my shoes and it would also tell me, "I’m too slow." “I’m not good enough, or fast enough, why am I even trying” “I’m so tired, I might die, just turn around now.” At my first community-run with Grave Runners, I walked most of the way and I think my pace was around 7:30 min/km and naturally, my inner critic told me off.




But then I would notice another voice coming through. “Keep going Ursie, just one more km.” "You are nailing this, your stride is so bouncy, keep bouncing.” “Wow, my chest feels good.” “Gawd, look at that view” (my inner voice obviously isn’t as demanding as the ‘Just Do It’ slogan). 

I see this as my positive voice of reason, I like to call it my higher self. It helped me to keep running and I defied what I thought was possible in my own body. Over the many lockdowns, I connected deeper with my running practice and I realised that I was successfully changing a limiting belief that I have had for 10 years.



Image: Graverunners



Listening to this ‘encouraging voice’ takes practice and we teach this in our Practice Presence course. The more we do it the easier it gets, it's called neuroplasticity. And it’s the same with our inner critical voice too, the more we let the inner critic direct our actions, the more it will limit us. So, we need to be mindful of what thoughts we are acting on.

Nike successfully spoke to a world of athletes with their slogan ‘Just Do It’. It is an effective way to overcome the inner critic and get moving. Sometimes, slogans and mantras are helpful to change our thinking, it is like an interruption for subconscious behaviour.

We want to build self-awareness and listen to our kind and encouraging self. It is critical for mental health and improving in our running and mediation practice. And it is a key part of the most important relationships you will ever have, including the one with yourself. 

Interestingly, it has also been researched to be important when navigating depression. It is that same voice that pulls us out of our depressive states, it is the one that gets us out of bed, into the shower and reassures us that it will all be okay. We want to nurture this part of us and train this line of thought to be easier to access. We are learning to support ourselves from the inside out. Not only for running but for our mental health. 

Sometimes our ‘encouraging voice’ is so faint we can hardly hear it. That is when we need connection and accountability and why initiatives like Grave Runners are so important. Running with others is very connective and you can achieve more than you could on your own. Same for meditation, sometimes our practice slips and we get out of routine. Finding a community of practitioners is pivotal for keeping your practice alive. This is why REMiND exists. 

We have a super exciting collaboration happening in the lead up to the Auckland Marathon with FAT and Grave Runners. 'COMMUNITY SERVICE' is made up of three training runs intertwined with mindfulness practices and breath work. It is free for anyone to attend. RSVP here.

In the mean time friends, stay calm, stay centred and keep putting on your shoes.