Beginner’s Mind Running

beginner’s mind:  having an attitude of openness, eagerness, and lack of preconceptions

After a three week layoff from a back injury, that perfectly coincided with the last weeks of my teaching career and temperatures rising into the mid to upper 90’s, running has become tough.  Not only have I not run for three weeks, my weekly mileage the past three months has barely been half of what it was before my last marathon in February.  This was deliberate.  I wanted to take a much needed physical and mental step back from running and training, a running pause, if you will, knowing full well that my overall level of fitness would drop.

Now I’m wondering if it was worth it.  Brain and body don’t seem to be working together anymore.

Body liked the step back and comfort of little to no running.  It really enjoyed all that time spent relaxing on the couch.  I could get used to this! it said.  Brain has not liked the past several months at all.  At first, it spent most of its time berating its owner:  You should be running!  You’re going to get fat and lazy!  Everyone else is running hills and you’re spread out on the couch!  It was good at making excuses.  I’ll run tomorrow when it’s less windy.  My allergies are horrible today.  It looks like it’s going to rain . . .

Yeah, right.

I knew it was time to take action to get Brain back in the game.  It was time to adopt a beginner’s mind attitude to running.

What does this mean?  Beginner’s mind running simply means to run like we did when we first started out, before we had any preconceived notions of what running was really all about.  It’s when we ran because we had never run seriously before, and weren’t really sure if we could, but were willing to keep at it, mile after mile, because we loved the way it made us feel.  It’s when we ran without knowing or caring about our pace, when we ran just because we wanted to challenge ourselves and see how far we could take it.  It’s when we ran and the mind didn’t turn it into something it wasn’t, like a means to an end, miles to be put in that would bring us closer to our weekly mileage leading up to a race.  It was just running, nothing more, nothing less.

In essence, beginner’s mind running is like pressing the rewind button on the brain, erasing every “should have,” “why didn’t I,” and “if only.”  It’s when we put all the training plans, pace expectations, and disappointing race times on the shelf.  We leave the guilt, the excuses, and the expectations behind, and we remember what it was like to be a beginner again, taking those first tentative baby steps towards the runners we have become.

Now that I think about it, shouldn’t we almost always run this way?

My first half marathon, 2007

Working to regain my lost stamina and conditioning hasn’t been easy, but it hasn’t been all bad either.  I enjoyed not having a training plan to follow and no races in the immediate future.  I needed to look forward to running again, to miss it, and I have.  I’m running for no other reason than the pure enjoyment of running, just like I did when I first started out five years ago.

The training plan, the speedwork, the hillwork, and the races will all come down off the shelf soon.  In the meantime, I’m going to go back and start at the beginning.


  1. skippingstones

    This is good advice for us all, runners and non-runners alike. It’s so easy to give things up, for lack of a better phrase. Whether it’s healthy eating habits, or house cleaning routines or whatever it is that takes more effort than sitting on the couch. Which is pretty much everything. Baby steps and Beginner’s Mind (fill-in-the-blank). Sounds like a good plan.

    • Run Nature

      Thanks! I think we sometimes tend to make things way more complicated than they really are (okay, maybe that’s a particular specialty of mine). Keep it simple, keep it easy, and don’t beat yourself up when you have to start all over again.

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