Before we dive into how to run faster mindfully, please understand this:
Running an ultramarathon, for me, is not an athletic competition, but instead, a spiritual journey.
I think to myself, “Why focus on lack instead of abundance?” Meaning, why compete when you can create?
Separation surely reduces energy, while togetherness increases it exponentially.
In ultra running, it’s much more meaningful to work on creating an unbreakable mind and body, as opposed to chasing a placement or time.
Sure, the techniques I’ve developed for handling suffering have benefited my running. After running over 100 ultra distances, you learn what to do with the pain.
I expected this lesson.
However, what I did not expect was how I’ve been able to use these same running practices to improve my everyday life.
That’s why fast times, first-place finishes, and new personal bests have never sat high on my ultra marathon priority list. Although I’ve placed in races, that’s only been a reflection of how well I can handle suffering on race day.
No, instead, I do things like fast for an entire 50k race. Or practice staying in the present moment. Or run while finding a more profound insight for life.
For a while, my ultra running goal was this: see how long I can run before feeling bad. For example, preventing and handling nausea and exhaustion; self-doubt and hopelessness; soreness and fear.
In general, I rarely ever run at what most would consider a “fast” ultra marathon pace.
Well, that was until recently…
You see, during my last ultra marathon, I developed a deep insight that created a paradigm shift. I aligned with a knowing that stuck with me for the entire 50 miles.
The idea was simple, result-driven, and somewhat liberating.
Here was the thought: put EFFORT in EVERY single step.
And each painful step became a sacrifice. It was a thank you for something greater…for the miracle of life.
In this way, not only did I run faster than usual, but also, I transcended the pain. Plus, this focus brought awareness to every step, keeping my mind in the present moment. No suffering from obsessing over the future finish line.
There were times I considered running faster, allowing the ego to creep in. However, something kept telling me to trust the process and instead to continue putting in the same effort with every step. That’s it.
I don’t wear GPS watches. I run on feel. So I paid attention to each step and the result…
I ran my fastest 50-mile ultra marathon ever, finishing in 1st place. And most importantly, I developed a mindful approach in how to run faster. A method I can now share with you.
Please note: I am not a certified health physician and do not claim to be one. I’m only sharing the methods that worked for me. Remember, sometimes when you push the limits, the limits push back. So proceed with caution and never forget that safety comes first.
The 6 Parts To Running Faster Mindfully
As I’ve mentioned, increasing speed has never been my main focus. However, being mindful and feeling good during every ultra marathon has been. Because of this, naturally, my times improve.
As of late, not wasting any step because of a genuine appreciation for life has made me faster.
Indeed, if you put in your best effort with each step, your speed will increase.
Remember, a 1% increase for three runs is not 3%. Your improvement compounds. Each time you run faster or boost stamina, you’re building from the new you. That is, a new runner who is faster and more enduring.
This mindful approach improves speed, keeps the ego out to prevent burnout, and allows your mind to find the present moment. Rest assured, I will explain each in more detail.
When I crossed the finished line of my last race…I snapped out of a trance. It felt like a mental shift that made running faster joyful.
To help you do the same, let’s dig a little deeper. Continue reading as I explain each part of learning how to run faster mindfully…
- Let Go For More Energy
- Give A Consistent Effort to Increase Speed
- Run In The Present Moment To Avoid Suffering
- Transcend Pain To Prevent Slowing Down
- Detach From The Ego To Avoid Burnout
- Run Fasted To Run Forever
Let’s begin. Continue reading as we discuss the art of letting go. You will soon understand how to align with a natural energy and distinguish between a solid effort and running too fast.
1. Let Go For More Energy
Through the countless commercials, news clips, and gossip columns, we’ve become hypnotized to certain beliefs.
And maybe the most dangerous belief of all is this: we should feel good all the time.
We are taught to believe that if we feel negative in any way then, well…something is wrong. Something is wrong with us.
This is the untrue promise of our existence.
So we numb the pain with some “magic pill” filled with empty promises, only to suppress our emotions. As you likely know, stacking unresolved feelings can be dangerous. With enough compression, the negativity adds up, becoming too heavy to handle.
Anxiety disorders, angry outbursts, and deep depression are only the start. Or at least, I think so.
But here’s the truth: Life is not about feeling good all the time. Life is about the highs and the lows.
We break down, stress, and grow.
Avoiding the lows will stunt your growth. That’s how we learn. Take growing your mental muscles for example…
Fear is the internal weight in the gym of your mind. Run away from your fears, and your mind becomes fragile. Run towards your fears, and your mind becomes stronger. And it takes a mightier mind to run an ultra marathon!
…welcome fear, accept the tears, and let your scars shine like stars.
And although I’m a believer in positive thinking, there’s no positivity without negativity.
The natural flow of life is not up-up-up-up or down-down-down-down. It’s up-down-up-down. That’s why when you direct your focus towards a specific goal; you will grow back stronger, reaching new highs.
But the lows will be there. They are unavoidable. And there are spirals in both directions.
We go through seasons. Like Summer to Fall, life comes and goes.
Just like the flowers that bloom each spring, we live and we die, along with the worms in the ground, the leaves on the trees, and the stars in the sky.
Take your muscles, for example. In building muscle, you have to struggle if you want to grow. We expand by demand. And as a runner, you must go through the resistance if you want to learn how to run faster or farther.
And although you cannot completely escape the highs and lows, you can transcend the pain. Because oddly enough, it’s inside of struggle where you find the reward. It’s inside of negativity where positivity lives. It’s inside of darkness where you discover the most radiant light.
What a paradox life can be…
Like the old saying goes two steps forward, one step backward.
To go up, you must first go down. This is not hyperbole or some positive thinking cliché. This is a law that governs our lives.
As an ultrarunner, on race day, it’s easy to identify with these highs and lows. Through such repetition, one can get trapped in their compulsive cycle of thought.
But here’s the good news: if you learn to let go, you can align with the flow of life. When this occurs, you feel a new level of energy that you’ve never known existed.
Become the observer, not the thinker on race day. Let someone else track your time as you run from timelessness.
This way, you are not the mind, but instead, use the mind as a tool.
We must go down to go up…
Travel through hell to make it to heaven…
Expand by demand…
Let go to move forward…
Forget yourself to remember who you really are…
Realize how much you love someone, only when they’re gone…
Or, one of my personal favorites, “For when I am weak, then I am strong.”
-2 Corinthians 12:10
Let go, to align with the flow of life, and ignite your spirit. Do this and you’ll find meaning in the miles. You’ll run with so much enthusiasm that it takes you to the finish line, every time, all the time…in no time at all.
And here, running will feel like you’re moving downstream. You’ll run faster, with less effort.
It all starts with the act of allowing. Let go and feel the flow. As I like to say…
I never race against another person, nor do I race against myself, I LET GO. I eliminate the resistance from within and allow my spirit to move me forward.
Remember this: living a life without struggle is the untrue promises. Our downfalls are life’s most promising teachers. Yet living a life of peace is very possible. By learning the lesson, you accept the resistance, thus transcending the pain into a blissful experience.
2. Give A Consistent Effort to Increase Speed
“It once happened, on a certain day, a bull and a pheasant were grazing on the field. The bull was grazing on the grass, the pheasant was picking ticks off the bull; they are partners, you know?
Then the pheasant looked at a huge tree which was at the edge of the field, and very nostalgically said, “Alas, there was a time when I could fly to the top most branch of the tree, but today I do not have the strength even to fly to the first branch of the tree”
The bull very nonchalantly said, “That’s no problem! Eat a little bit of my dung every day, you will see, within a fortnight’s time you will reach the top of the tree.”
The pheasant said, “Oh, come off it! How is that possible?”
The bull replied, “Really, please try and see. The whole humanity is on it, you could try, too.”
Very hesitantly, the pheasant started pecking at the dung, and lo, on the very first day it reached the first branch of the tree. In a fortnight’s time, it reached the topmost branch of the tree. It just went and sat on the topmost branch and just enjoyed the scenery.
The old farmer saw a fat old pheasant on the top of the tree. He took out his shotgun and shot him off the tree.
So the moral of the story is: even bullshit can get you to the top, but never lets you stay there.”
This story comes from a book titled, Inner Engineering: A Yogi’s Guide To Joy by Sadhguru Jaggi Vasudev. It highlights a very profound principle learned through running.
The principle is this: what you put into running is what you get out. Putting in an honest effort through training will prepare you for race day. In like manner, putting in a partial effort may get you in trouble.
This holds especially true when attempting to run a personal best. You may get out front early, only to crash and burn later.
Energy-in is energy-out.
Giving effort with every stride is an honest way to run faster. You give everything. Not in a way where you crash and burn, surrendering to a DNF on race day. Instead, you find real balance and journey steadily to the finish.
Okay, so you may be thinking, “I get it, give effort, but how do you determine the right level of effort?”
Well, the answer is different for every runner. So feel it out.
But remember, it’s less about force and more about alignment. You are not pushing yourself to move, but instead, being pulled forward.
You trade a run full of stress and force into one of harmony and flow.
And here’s the good news: by merely putting in enough effort in every step through training, you will naturally become faster for race day.
And no, you don’t have to clock times or keep track of your pace.
I don’t own a running watch. Keeping my mind off the clock and in the present moment has been a huge contribution to my success.
Plus, the less you rely on the numbers, the more sensitive you become to your speed. You can feel the difference between an edgy groove and a decent pace.
That goes for becoming aware of negative self-talk as well. By focusing less on the external world of race splits, running gear, and supplements, you have more time to listen to your inner world.
You begin running from inside-out rather than outside-in. And from the inside is where the real power lies and where the infinite energy awaits.
Eventually, you step back as the observer and view your thoughts subjectively.
You snap out of unconscious doing.
Of course, you are going to have bad runs and good runs. But running mindfully guides focus to your inner world. You become honest with yourself. That is, you prevent excuses by not identifying with them.
As a result, you see them for what they are…EXCUSES… and let them go to run faster.
Never forget this: internal resistance will slow you down well before external resistance. That’s because you can see the separation between you and the resistance externally. It’s easy to tell you are not the hill so you don’t identify with it.
However, internal resistance can be trickier. It feels a part of you and usually comes in the form of a self-limiting story.
That’s why putting effort into every step works so well. Even if you feel sluggish, you may not be able to run fast, but you can give effort. In this way, you run the best race you can, ironically changing your bad run into a good run every time.
And don’t we always run faster when having a good run? I know I do.
3. Run In The Present Moment To Avoid Suffering
When running any length race, especially a new distance, if you get stuck in your mind, you’re a slave to time. In other words, fixate on the finish line long enough, and running feels like an eternity.
100-mile finishers surely know what I’m talking about.
But here’s the good news: it doesn’t have to feel this way.
A mind stuck in the future creates an enormous amount of suffering. And the longer the race, the deeper the grave you dig.
Remember this: the thought of crossing the finish line while racing can create motivation, obsessing over it can create anxiety.
And in a like manner, the past can become problematic also.
Consider if you’ve received a DNF in the past. The memory can inspire you to finish your next race, however, obsessing over it can create depression, sorrow, and despair.
But remember, when you detach from your thoughts, the mind becomes a powerful tool. You can now leverage the past and future as motivation, instead of suffering from it.
So how does putting effort into every step help? Well, by doing so, you are no longer obsessing over your past shortcomings or the future finish line. By focusing on each step you are letting go of your thoughts and finding the present moment.
So what happens when self-sabotaging thoughts arise?
The answer: acknowledge them without judgment, and let them pass. Afterward, bring your focus back to each step.
The present moment is timeless. When you run from the stillness, instead of stress and anxiety, you find peace and joy.
In the present moment, measurements like time and distance are non-existent. You’ll cross the finish line in no time, running from a place where no time exists.
And remember, VISUALIZING crossing the finish line and OBSESSING over it are different.
The practice of visualization can create success. The habit of clinging onto thoughts can create suffering. Visualize the finish line in training, and then forget it on race day.
4. Transcend Pain To Prevent Slowing Down
Putting effort into every step produces an edgy groove. This keeps you at the breaking point of your pain threshold.
Any faster and you may blow a gasket, back off, and you may lose momentum.
It’s tempting to pull back effort to find comfort in a sport that makes you so uncomfortable. But don’t. Instead of avoiding the pain, transform and absorb it.
How does one make this happen? Or better yet, how does one ALLOW this to happen?
The answer lies in your mind.
No, I’m not delivering a magic pill here, but that doesn’t make it any less magical.
What you’re about to learn is how to transcend the pain of every step…every time…no matter the pain level.
And it’s through the magical power of gratitude.
WAIT, stay with me—there’s more…
As I like to say, when you’re grateful, it’s impossible to feel bad, and in a sport where discomfort is a guarantee, gratitude will help you along the way.
As human beings, for whatever reason, we see sacrifice as a way to give back. A way to show appreciation for life.
Whether it’s through hard work, suffering, or going above and beyond for others. If anything, it brings balance back to our unbalanced and often stressful lives.
Yet, by giving, you are allowing grace to flow into your life. Creating an opening. It’s in giving that we receive.
The true giving-receiving relationship is about circulation, not transaction. It’s like blood flow. Allowing both sides to take place creates a healthy circulation, thus creating a healthy body and mind. Only receiving or only giving stops the flow, like a clot, creating DIS-ease.
If you align with this thought, then let running become a “thank you” for the gift of life. Give thanks.
Every step of appreciation can transcend the pain.
But it takes honesty. Remember, No one is watching. You must be honest with yourself. You’ll know if the effort is real. Even with a crowded mind, once you’re running, and you find the stillness… you’ll know.
Ultrarunners, if you follow any of my writing, you know I speak about the power of gratitude often. I frequently mention focusing on your heart-center before a run through meditation.
Give thanks for running and all the goodness in your life. Even the problems are gifts when you learn from them.
For more on a pre-run meditation, read The Balanced Ultramarathon Guide: How To Run Longer and Prevent Burnout.
Gratitude is not some new thought or idea. It’s been practiced for thousands of years.
So give effort with every step and accept the suffering. Don’t avoid it. It’s in the pain where we learn our greatest lessons. And when you’re ready, transcend it by giving thanks.
Allow it to transcend into a new dimension.
And when the fireworks begin to go off on the screen of your unconscious mind— you will understand this better when it occurs—you become inspired (in-spirit).
Suddenly, no longer are you running alone. But now, from a greater whole. You go from running to FLYING, letting go, soaring through every mile.
So…give effort, give thanks, and never give up!
5. Detach From The Ego To Avoid Burnout
Now, let’s discuss the ego. While racing, there will be times you’ll want to increase your pace. Especially when you start feeling faster, quicker, and lighter on your feet from following this guide.
For me, anytime this occurs, I remind myself to relax and trust the process. I then fall back into that edgy groove. No matter who is ahead or behind me…I get back to the stride of an honest effort. That’s it.
Not only does this prevent burnout or a sluggish pace, but it also helps you detach from the highs and lows that come with any ultra marathon. By doing so, you significantly reduce the chances of a DNF.
In this way, you are no longer a victim of your circumstances, but instead, the creator. Now you have control of your run—and race—finishing with the best outcome based on your current stamina.
The key is to detach from your outer runner, and let your inner runner free…
Here’s the thing, running while motivated by external rewards only takes us so far. In this way, you are running from an egoic state. You are running from the “outer runner.”
Your outer runner is motivated by things like finisher medals, online race times, and finish line photos. And although there’s nothing wrong with using these outcomes to drive you forward, you may find them to be short-lived.
Therefore, if you want to run frequent ultra marathons and find longevity, you will run into a problem. You will see that the longer you run, the more difficult it becomes for your outer runner to keep up.
So unless you discover a deeper meaning in the distance, it becomes relatively easy to give up on ultra running, that…or ultra running gives up on you…
That’s because external rewards come and go, and although they provide a sense of satisfaction in the moment, they are empty in nature.
On the other hand, if you look inwards for motivation, you’ll find it to be everlasting. The depths of your inner dwelling stretch far beyond what we could ever comprehend.
If you find a deeper meaning in your running, then you begin to align with your true self. This profound alignment has no limitations. Here’s where you find your “inner runner.”
Your outer runner creates limitations, your inner runner surpasses them.
Run from the inside-out and trust the process. This is the core message of running faster mindfully.
6. Run Fasted To Run Forever
There are unbelievable powers that arise from fasting. In fact, fasting is a common practice for many. The benefits are remarkable.
Deep cleansing, enhanced intuition, and a fat-adapted body are only the start.
Personally, as I’ve shared before, I routinely run 50k with no food or water. Otherwise, I run at least the first 20-miles of any distance on empty.
Something about running 100 miles only with fluids feels refreshing. It’s a humbling experience.
To help, when running on empty, and I grow thirsty, I ask myself these words: Am I suffering yet? If the answers “No” I then refrain from consumption.
For me, eating food during a run, especially on race day, provides too much comfort. When this occurs, the run loses its magic.
I lose grace in my pace.
Once the struggle is big enough, I step away from exclusion in replace of inclusion. It’s a wedge between the ego and self. Here is where you detach from self-sabotaging thoughts on race day.
How could you ever fatigue with the Divine flow in you and all around you? Liveliness replaces tiredness, and ultra running becomes less exhausting.
Sometimes we have to not do, or not perform, as we usually do, to break free of our old ways. That’s how we grow.
It’s not that you don’t perform or do anything, it’s just that any doing becomes non-reactive.
You yield to overcome, breaking free of compulsive cycles thus regaining consciousness.
At times, we need to feel broken instead of whole. Exhausted instead of energetic. Weak instead of strong.
Sometimes we need to fail instead of succeed. Lose instead of win. Let go instead of hold on.
As I write this, I have just finished a 50k winter training run with no food or water. I started at 12:00pm and ran into the early morning.
Sometimes it takes being cold, tired, and weak to find our true strength. Because it’s in our emptiness where we find fullness.
You must lose yourself before you can find yourself.
When you let go, you connect.
We trek down our path, in this journey of life, lost, only later to find our way home. To rediscover who we are, experiencing ourselves again for the first time.
When I’m running in a fasted state, it’s much easier to surrender and align with the flow of life, with spirit, with oneness.
Fasting empties out the negativity making way for positivity.
Plus, fasting while running helps enormously with becoming fat adapted.
And fat-adaptation allows you to tap into a near-infinite supply of energy from within. That energy is fat, and through fat adapted running, you will run longer with what feels like less effort.
In this instance, body fat is actually a wonderful thing. It’s potential energy. It’s an adaptation over thousands of years of feast and famine. Fasting and eating naturally will bring you back to your roots…to this available energy.
And your body feels amazing…
I provide a quick and easy-to-follow program in my book, The Fat Adapted Running Formula: A Step-By-Step Program To Becoming A Fat Adapted Runner. Choose an option below to get started…
Now, just because you become fat-adapted doesn’t mean you run without sugar. Instead, you develop a base. You consume less sugar because your body is much more efficient at burning its own fat as fuel.
Running on low-sugar can significantly reduce stomach issues in longer races like the 100 and 200-mile distance. At least it has for me.
As a fat adapted runner, you become less reliant on external sources of energy. You have more available energy from within, making the distance between aid stations almost irrelevant.
Plus, running fasted allows for much more clarity and insight. You start developing meaning in your running. As a result, you build an unstoppable mindset. A frame of mind that carries you through the lowest of lows of an ultra marathon. That, or find yourself detached from the ups and downs completely.
If fat-adaptation is a new concept for you, consider the old parable about the snake in the darkroom. It goes something like this…
Close your eyes and imagine you are sitting in a dark room. There’s no way out.
The room is silent when, without warning, a voice comes over a loudspeaker. They tell you this: There’s a big deadly snake in the room!
You feel a rush of fear shoot up your spine, knowing the snake can bite you at any moment.
Suddenly, across the room, you see a big dark figure. It’s the snake!
Adrenaline pumps through your vaines, and just when you are about to lose it, a flash of light illuminates the room. What looked like a snake was actually…
A big rope.
Within a split second, your fear vanishes. Gone completely.
And although the light was only momentary, it gave you a glimpse of truth. Your experience in the room will never be the same again.
In this example, the room is your running, and fat adaptation is the snake. Letting go of out-dated practices like carbo-loading can be scary.
I know…I’ve been there myself.
But once you get a glimpse of the truth, meaning, once you finish that first run as a fat adapted runner without feeling sluggish…
You get a glimpse of the truth.
The truth is that it’s possible to run any ultra distance, and it starts with fat adaptation.
Do you want to become a fat adapted runner yourself? If so, the only question remains is this….
If not now, then when?
A Powerful Final Thought
If you’ve ever wondered how to run faster without the added stress of competition and expectations…
…now you know.
As you can see, learning how to run faster isn’t solely for competitors. In fact, increasing speed can very well be for anyone…including you.
If you direct your focus in the right direction, the possibilities are endless.
And remember: where your attention goes…energy flows.
By putting in an effort with every step, you run faster progressively. You get the most out of each run. As a result, you have a greater chance of reaching a personal best.
Running faster mindfully doesn’t require a watch, and you surely don’t need to track your pace or bpm.
No more worries about placement. And because of this change in attitude, race day anxiety reduces dramatically.
So focus on your footsteps, stay in the present moment, and enjoy the journey along the way.
Never forget that fat adaptation is a real option for you. That is, when you are ready to harness the power from within.
Now get out there and start running FAST…mindfully…and free yourself from the burdens of the outer runner along the way.
Let go and set your inner runner free!
“If you’re always in a hurry, always trying to get ahead of the other guy, or someone else’s performance is what motivates you, then that person is in control of you.” ~ Wayne Dyer
With that, I leave you with one final thought…
One day, my son asked about unhappiness.
He wondered why we had to feel this way. And although we can’t always be happy, how we feel is always a choice. Our thoughts trigger emotions.
I told him to look out the rainy window and tell me how he felt.
He said, “sad.” I asked him why, and he said, “Because I can’t go out and play.”
I then asked him to use his imagination. I told him to imagine he was a farmer, and it was his job to grow food for his family, friends, and to make a living. Reminding him that without rain, there is no food…
He began to catch on.
I then asked him to look back out through the rainy window and tell me how he felt.
He replied, “happy” and found a game to play indoors.
In life, we experience both the highs and lows. We will always face struggles.
In fact, living a life without struggle is the untrue promise. We will always fall. Yet adversity is one of life’s greatest teachers. In this way, living a peaceful life is very possible. It starts by accepting the pain.
Yes, we will struggle, but you know what?
We don’t always have to suffer.
Clinging to negative thoughts of the past and future creates suffering. So does avoiding the lows. By storing unresolved emotions, they compress, ready to burst at any moment.
Negative thoughts create negative emotions. Positive thoughts create positive emotions. It’s really that simple.
What’s difficult is being self-aware enough to break free of impulsive reactions.
Thoughts trigger emotions, and emotion triggers physical action.
Mindful running will help.
The long run teaches you how to handle suffering. This may be running’s greatest gift of all.
The key is to experience the lows, learn from them, grow from them, and then transcend the pain.
But it takes awareness and acceptance.
How we see it is how we feel it. Life is short, and the days are shorter. I’m on this path to learn, love, and grow. Today, let it rain down on me!
The course is the course, the distance is laid out. So adjust your focus. Don’t count the miles, count your blessings. This is an approach you can always count on.
Say thanks, run fast, and enjoy the journey along the way.
Remember…Separation surely reduces energy, while togetherness increases it exponentially. During an ultramarathon we face the highs and the lows and the good and the bad. But through the pain, we learn how to put opposites together, let go of our either-or mentality, and run from a place where no tracks are left behind, regardless of the trail you are running on.
And if you’re ready to tap into what feels like an infinite supply of energy, then grab a copy of The Fat Adapted Running Formula below.
When every step of your run begins to feel like the first step of you run, you have mastered fat adapted running…
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