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A fit man running outside.

Repeating the same basic stride and movements again and again, running allows you to find a rhythm and zone out. This in turn opens up opportunities to work through stress, solve problems, and achieve that euphoric runner’s high.

But chronic repetition is a slow-burning form of mistreatment. This partly explains why many runners deal with numerous physical ailments, including shin splints, joint pain, back soreness, worn ligaments, sore feet, and blisters.

Boosting body awareness can help you shorten recovery time and avoid injury. While it may slow you down at first, running with increased awareness will, over time, integrate with your running habits. Eventually, it may speed you up by improving your technique.

Next time you run, try adding a new dimension of body awareness:

  • Notice that if you look down while running, your feet tend to land heavier and with more force. Instead, look straight ahead, even upward.
  • Open and broaden the center of your chest by becoming more aware of it.
  • See if you can keep a lighter feeling in your hips and pelvis while also staying aware of a subtle connection to your heels and feet.
  • Try to relax your hands and fingers, and avoid clenching them into a fist.
  • Become more aware of the bottoms of your feet — how they hit the pavement, how they lift off. Keep a sense of lightness and inwardly open your chest as your feet hit the pavement; lift from the bottoms of your feet as they rise. Notice the changed feeling in your legs and chest.
  • Run with a deepened sense of wholeness, feel the outline of your entire body through your skin, and experience your breath in rhythm with the space around you.

This article originally appeared in Experience LifeLife Time’s whole-life health and fitness magazine.

Matthew Sanford

Matthew Sanford is a certified Iyengar yoga instructor, an author, and the founder of Mind Body Solutions, an organization that champions mind–body fitness for people of all abilities.

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