When temperatures top 80 degrees in the summer, walking or running outside is the last activity I want to engage in. However, summer’s longer days make ample opportunity to enjoy an early morning or late evening run without the scorching heat. Some people avoid this cardio workout because it is isolating and, in comparison to dancing and other popular cardio classes, boring. This isolation, however, can make running or walking function as more than just a cardio workout. The isolation and repetitive motions of running or walking allows for a moment of introspection, where a person has time to focus on something greater than the general hustle of daily life. Here are five tips to elevate this cardio workout from a solitary sport to a spiritual experience.
Find a trail or park that is surrounded by trees or that is not on a major road
Seclusion is the key to having a spiritual running or walking experience. While you cannot completely block out the sound of people and traffic, you can find a spot where those sounds are minimal. The best places to find green space like this are in older neighborhoods or by schools.
Run early in the morning, just slightly before sunrise
In addition to being the best time for optimal temperature during the summer and calorie burning, there are fewer commuters on the road during this time which make for a more peaceful run or walk. Also, if you choose to walk at a park frequented by children, this is the best time to utilize a trail or track without the sound of kids playing. The quiet allows for introspection and experiencing sounds of nature that might not be as apparent with other people and cars around. Also, running or walking at this time allows for you to see the sunrise, pending no rainy days.
Note: While the evening is also a great time to run, there is usually more traffic and more people occupying walking trails and may disrupt the experience.
If possible, pick a place that has an amazing view
One of my favorite running trails has an amazing view of the downtown area that makes it worth the mile and half trek uphill to reach it. These visual cues on a trail or track are not only motivating to wake up early and hit the pavement, but they are also necessary for shifting your focus from the isolation of running or walking by yourself to the world around you.
Also, a trail or park that has a rich biodiversity are the best places to run or walk. There is nothing to take your mind off your burning calves than the smell of honeysuckle vines or the sounds of birds calling to each other or pecking around for worms. These sensory experiences began transforming the act of putting one foot in front of the other into something other worldly.
Leave the headphones at home
One time, I tragically lost an mp3 to a puddle of strawberry milkshake and had to run without the motivation of my favorite playlist. While it was a strange adjustment to run without music at first, the absence of the music allowed me to focus on the sounds around me that I was previously oblivious to which included the birds, the distance thrum of traffic going across a bridge, and my own breathing. The ability to hear your own breathing and heartbeat is an essential part of losing yourself in the experience of running or walking. You have a sensory connection with the landscape and your body’s reaction to navigating it. This experience is lost if you run or walk with music.
Leaving the headphones behind also gives you an opportunity to unplug from potential distractions. Nothing ruins a peaceful run or walk more than an unexpected, intrusive phone call. The time that you spend on the track or trail should be strictly devoted to you and your experience.
Aim for a thirty-minute run or walk
Besides being the optimal time for a brisk cardio workout, a thirty minute walk early in the morning allows you to fully experience a sunrise while also experiencing the change your body goes through while it adjusts to the exertion of your running or walking pace. If you are a beginner runner or starting a couch to 5k program, interval training, alternating between running and walking, still allows you to have a spiritual run or walk. You can reach fitness goals while also improving your spiritual health.
Regardless if you are a frequent runner or walker or if you are new to the trails, find a place that allows you experience more than a cardio workout