What to Say When You Run
Updated: Jan 30, 2019
It's okay to talk to yourself. Here are 2 important words.
In Buddhism, a mantra is a "word or sound repeated to aid concentration in meditation." Lucky for us restless runners, you don't have to sit silently on the floor to meditate. Running is an amazing form of active meditation, helping us to clear our minds of the hectic thoughts that preoccupy our busy daily lives. Our only real need is our next breath – not an email to write, or a deadline at work, or a bill to pay. Our lungs become the center of our being.
Breathe in, breathe out. Continue for miles. That's active meditation.
Repeating a spoken mantra helps you focus. (Even while running.)
A mantra prevents intrusive thoughts that would otherwise pull your attention away from your breath, away from the present. Thoughts like "I have to clean when I get home" or "What should I have for lunch?" or even "Is this run almost done?"
As you repeat the words of a mantra over and over, you're maintaining mindfulness and presence. The words can focus you, or calm you, or even mentor you through your meditative experience, as long as they keep you focused and really there.
So what should you say? Well, there are no set rules for what your mantra needs to be. A short repetitive phrase is all you need, so go ahead and get creative. But I'd like to introduce you to what I consider the most powerful mantra for any runner:
So Hum. Two Sanskrit words, intoned for centuries by Tibetan Buddhists in their meditations. The calming sound is believed to balance the masculine and feminine energy in all of us. But what interests me most is the literal meaning, which is "I am that." It's generally accepted that the "that" refers to the Universe, so as you utter "So Hum", you're really affirming that you are one and connected with everything in existence.
And here's what I love about this. "So Hum" is an affirmation of existence and being, absolutely without judgement. As runners, we tend to live in a world of judgement, in which every workout is measured with a self-critical eye. Think of the ways we normally describe ourselves during a run, and you'll notice our descriptions are full of evaluation, sometimes subjective, sometimes objective, but always with some implication of good or bad: I am tired, I am slow, I am hurting, I am fat, I am hot, I am cold, I am thirsty. These declarations influence our perception of ourselves in the moment, often with a punishing verdict.
But So Hum – I am that – simply acknowledges that we are existing in the present moment, a living extension of the Universe. It doesn't demand that we define our exact state.
So Hum does not judge us. So Hum frees us to simply be.
I'm often hard on myself as a runner, quick to criticize my pace or results. So Hum reminds me with every breath to just be alive in the moment, to honor my existence as I run.
How about you? Do you ever hear your own thoughts judging you harshly, the negative energy building mile after mile? Then maybe you'll want to give this a try with me.
The next time you feel stress, negativity or chaotic emotions as you run...
Breathe out: "So."
Breathe out: "Hum."
Enjoy your meditation.