Depression Marathon Blog

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Diagnosed with depression 17 years ago, I lost the life I once knew, but in the process re-created a better me. I am alive and functional today because of my dog, my treatment team, my sobriety, and my willingness to re-create myself within the confines of this illness. I hate the illness, but I'm grateful for the person I've become and the opportunities I've seized because of it. I hope writing a depression blog will reduce stigma and improve the understanding and treatment of people with mental illness. All original content copyright to me: etta. Enjoy your visit!

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Practicing Mindfulness On the Run

I've been feeling a bit restless, irritable and discontent lately. No particular reason. Just me being me. Me focusing too much on me, as my sponsor so nicely observed. Thanks, K. So on my run today, I practiced something I learned long ago but don't do often enough. In DBT it's referred to as mindfulness. It's a meditative technique which, when I practice it, helps me focus on something other than my own restlessness. Like I said, today I did it on my run.

Running meditation is probably the only way I'll ever succeed at meditating. Meditation doesn't sit well with me, because I rarely have the patience to sit and practice it. Sitting quietly in an attempt to meditate makes me more anxious! I've long since given up trying, even though it's supposed to be an integral part of my recovery program. Maybe someday I'll grow into it...

While running a hard workout today, however, I realized I was actually practicing a form of meditation--mindfulness. My training schedule called for a speed workout. Specifically, I was to run 10 reps of 1:30 hard followed by 1 minute recovery within my 7 mile run. One minute and thirty seconds of hard running doesn’t seem like a lot on paper, but you’d be amazed how long 1:30 lasts when you’re running hard, especially on reps 8, 9, and ten. To keep my mind off my increasingly heavy legs, burning lungs, and racing heart rate, I counted my steps.

Yup. Simple as that. I counted my steps. But again, it only sounds simple. With distracting traffic, pedestrians, the urge to look continually at my watch, my fast pace (i.e. counting very fast), AND heavy legs, burning lungs, and racing heart; counting from 1-300 got a bit more complicated. (Was I on 49 or 59?)

I found I really had to focus on the numbers, at times even visualizing them, or I quickly lost track of where I was. A few times, I found myself stuck on the same number repeatedly or jumping from 49 to 60 instead of 50. It was challenging. It was mindful. It kept me from focusing on my effort (read: pain!) and helped me through a tough run. It helped me get out of myself, and I felt very satisfied once done.

Maybe I’m not as hopeless as I thought. Maybe meditation isn’t such a far flung idea for me. Maybe meditation can be something other than sitting on a pillow chanting, “Ooohhhmmmm…” Maybe.


Anonymous said...

just found your blog. depression certainly is its own marathon. it's nice you found the literal marathon to help overcome your figurative one. i'm still searching. art, skiing, surfing, hiking, music--those have been a few of my tools. seems like the goalposts keep shifting though. i always think of the lyrics to "marathon" a song by a group called rush (many can't get past the lead singer's voice):
"your meters may overload
you can rest at the side of the road
you can miss a stride
but nobody gets a free ride".

full lyrics here:

good luck in your upcoming marathon(s).


etta said...

thanks, james!
glad you found my blog. welcome. hope something here helps you with your journey.
thanks for the lyrics, too. very appropriate!

Bradley said...

My Buddhist spiritual advisor has stated several times that he can find no writings by the Buddha that says you have to sit uncomfortably on the floor. The run you are doing is meditation indeed. We all need to find what works for us. It's all just about getting out of your own head.

Running Hoosier said...

Glad to hear that you were able to so something to help.


Stu said...

Hello Etta

Thank you for this interesting and thought provoking post. I found it by Googling mindfulness+running

I'm a depression sufferer like yourself and also a runner too. I am currently mid-way through a course in Mindfulness and (surprisingly to myself) found myself practising Mindfulness techniques whilst out on a long 13m run recently.

Like you, I struggle with the concept of sitting still meditating but have always had an interest in the meditative aspect of running.

Mine was a different technique to yours. I used the 'body scan' method of breathing exercises in imagining myself taking in oxygen from the whole of my body - not just through my nose/mouth and into my lungs. I found it a comfort whilst having a long run. It deflected the harsher thoughts of the hardships that the running was putting me through.

I have tried it since and find it works more effectively on the easier-paced runs rather than the 'eyeballs out' sessions!

I'm looking forward to reading some of your other thoughts, especially on depression and exercise.

Best wishes, Stu