How meditation can make you a better runner, according to research

Sitting down for 25 minutes could improve your endurance exercise and running performance, says a new study

Women sits on an athletic track in a meditative pose
(Image credit: Getty)

We all have heard of the saying ‘mind over matter’, but when it comes to strenuous exercise, the mind sometimes needs an extra bit of training. 

Meditation can help with anxiety, stress, symptoms of depression and other issues. However, it turns out that the practice of mindfulness may be also be able to teach your brain to endure physical endurance better, which in turn will improve your overall running experience. 

Just like the best running shoes for women or best running shoes for men, mindfulness training – a form of cognitive-behavioural therapy including meditation, that can be used to train your brain to be more aware and accepting of physical experiences –  could become an essential part of every runner's arsenal. 

A recent study published in the Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine journal recruited 67 female college students to test out the impact of mindfulness training on running endurance. The participants completed two 800m runs with an eight week gap between the two races, of which half of the runners received mindfulness training. Before each run all runners had to rate themselves on the following: a mindfulness scale, a psychological toughness scale and a subjective fatigue scale. 

The results found that the runners who received mindfulness training scored higher across the three mental endurance tests. The researchers labelled the three scales as measurements of tenacity, strength and optimism. Additionally, the mindfulness trained runners reported that they found the second 800m run significantly easier, whereas the neutral group showed no improvement across the board.

Woman meditating

(Image credit: Unsplash)

Mindfulness practice can also boost your perceived energy levels. A 2017 study conducted by the University of Waterloo discovered that practising 25 minute sessions of yoga or mindfulness meditation can improve our brain function and 'vigor-activity' levels.

So if mindfulness has the potential to reduce negative body feelings experienced during a run, and can enhance your performance, then surely this is something worth investigating for any hobbyist runner. Meditation is an excellent way to help you achieve a consistent level of mindfulness, which should hopefully take effect on your running performance. 

Yoga is a really helpful and accessible way to begin meditation. It doesn’t have to eat up a whole morning or evening but can instead be a session as small as ten minutes before a run, or during a lunch break. Below you will find a yoga tutorial designed to help you find mindfulness in as short a time as 10 minutes. Get yourself one of the best yoga mat to perch yourself on and let your mind and body do the rest as you follow along.

15-minute yoga for mindfulness

Jessica Downey

Jessica is an experienced fitness writer with a passion for running. Her career in journalism began in local news and she holds a Masters in journalism. Jessica has previously written for Runners World, penning news and features on fitness, sportswear and nutrition. 

When she isn't writing up news and features for Fit&Well covering topics ranging from muscle building, to yoga, to female health and so on, she will be outdoors somewhere, testing out the latest fitness equipment and accessories to help others find top products for their own fitness journeys. Her testing pairs up nicely with her love for running. She recently branched out to running 10Ks and is trying to improve her time before moving on to larger races. Jessica also enjoys building on her strength in the gym and is a believer in health and wellness beginning in the kitchen. She shares all of this on her running Instagram account @jessrunshere which she uses for accountability and for connecting with like-minded fitness lovers.