As runners, we’re often hard on ourselves. I’m so slow, you might think as you check your watch. Or: my feet hurt, am I starting to get a blister? Or the perennial favorite: Oh god, I’m only halfway. But a new set of mindful running tracks from Headspace, featuring comedian Kevin Hart, got me thinking about my inner monologue a bit differently—so I talked with him over the phone about what he thinks about when he runs.
Check in with your body
Mindfulness often involves noticing our feelings and our surroundings, but in running, we might be reluctant to check in with our physical selves. For example, w might be afraid that we’ll be distracted by our aches and pains.
But Hart notes that sometimes checking in with our bodies can give us a more accurate assessment of what’s actually going on. On the one hand, your body can clue you in that maybe you need to slow down or take a break. But on the other: “Your body can go, oh, this isn’t that bad,” he says. And in time, you can teach your body what running should feel like, and in turn, learn just how capable you are.
Think, but don’t overthink
It’s fine to let your thoughts wander on a run. I almost expected to hear advice about guiding your thoughts back to your body and environment when you notice them wander, but Hart has a different take: “Sometimes it’s good to be by yourself, and think for yourself,” he says. “To find clarity.”
It’s also worth noticing what kind of thoughts you’re having, either while you run or while you’re at home thinking about running. We can overthink small things, Hart says, “and when we overthink them, they become big things.” He told me about the time he was training for a marathon and imagining all the ways it could go wrong: cramping up on the race course, for example. In the end, none of his pessimistic what-if scenarios happened, but he says, “I almost spoke those things into existence” by worrying about them.
It’s okay if running doesn’t feel natural
In the mindful running tracks, Hart speaks about learning to love running, and how we need to practice the skill of being kind to ourselves. We’ve talked before at Lifehacker about the physical side of getting used to running—things like slowing your pace and teaching your body that you don’t need to go all-out all the time. But there’s a mental learning curve as well.
“The best advice that I would give anybody is: take your time,” Hart says. If you want to enjoy running, that may be a thing you have to work at. Challenge yourself with something small, and feel a sense of accomplishment when you achieve it. “It can be rewarding because it’s you against you. And you can only get better at it.”