Top Ten Ways to Be a More Holistic Runner

By Rick Morris

The term “holistic” is concerned with whole systems and how they relate to each other rather than individual systems. So, a holistic runner is always relating to a complete system made up of their mind, emotions, spirituality and all of the physical components such as strength, flexibility, lactate threshold, VO2 max, running economy, etc. In contrast, a non-holistic runner may look at only one or two individual components at a time.

A holistic runner also keeps an open mind and considers all training techniques, workout components and race distances. A more non-holistic runner is generally more dogmatic about specific training methods, training runs and goal distances.

Holistic type runners are usually more successful because they are lifelong runners that run for the pure joy of running and are flexible enough to overcome any running obstacle. Would you like to be a more holistic runner? Here are our top ten ways to become a more holistic runner.

Run Year Round

Most holistic runners aren’t born, they acquire holistic tendencies through knowledge and experience. Running only for race season or for specific goals usually won’t get you to the holistic level. Run year round and make running part of your life. Then you will be on the path to holistic running.

Mix it Up

Running as a whole includes long and slow distance running, fast running repeats, hill running, stamina training, road running and trail running as well as many other types of running. Don’t fall into a rut of one type of running. To develop yourself as a holistic runner you should always try to include a wide variety of running paces and conditions. Also keep an open mind on training techniques. Don’t criticize or ridicule those with different training ideas or techniques. They just might be on to something.

Go Low Tech

A non-holistic runner becomes a slave to their running watch. They are too concerned with exact pace. Lose your watch, your GPS and your computer program, and move to the holistic side of running. Learn to run by feel. Learn what your paces feel like and listen to your body’s feedback.

Go for the Joy

If there is one emotion absolutely essential for holistic running, it is joy. You must love running and run for the pure joy of running. Only then will you truly be able to put aside the negative thoughts and emotions associated with less emotionally positive goals such as competition, performance or weight loss. It’s not that those are bad goals, they are very good goals. But striving for those goals alone without the support of a love for running is setting yourself up for failure and a non-holistic running life.

Practice Enlightenment

Enlightenment has many definitions, but in essence, it refers to a complete lack of egotism and a feeling of being one with all things. It is a freedom from suffering, desire and ignorance. How does this make you a more holistic runner? Holism isn’t just a physical thing, it also has a spiritual component. Part of the barefoot running trend has its roots in holism. Running barefoot connects you to the earth and gives you the impression of belonging to a much greater whole. Enlightenment isn’t something you’re born with, you need to practice it. Practice feeling the earth and the environment around you when you run. Feel the earth under your feet and the wind passing over your body. Open your mind and take it all in. You are well on the path to becoming a holistic runner.

Lose the Ego

As mentioned above, a big part of enlightenment is a complete lack of egotism. To continue on the path of a holistic runner you need to lose the ego. I know, that goes against the grain of competitive running. It takes a big ego to develop the desire to pummel your fellow competitors into the ground. But this is about becoming a holistic runner, not a hardened competitor.

Remember you are running for the pure joy of running. Quit being concerned with times, pace or performance and focus on the joy of running, becoming one with your running and practicing compassion for your fellow runners.

That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t take part in competitive races. On the contrary, competing is still a big part of a holistic runners life. You just need to change your attitude about competition. Run for the joy of running, the exhilaration of the competition and the comradeship of your fellow competitors.

Strengthen and Lengthen

Yoga and Pilates are great cross training exercises because they lengthen and strengthen your muscles at the same time, which is ideal for building your running strength. Muscular strength and flexibility is an important piece of your holistic running puzzle. It will not only make you a more holistic runner but will also improve your injury resistance.

Goal, Goal, Goal

Many non-holistic runners may have only one or two goals. They may be training to complete a marathon or running for weight loss. A holistic runner runs for many reasons and has many goals. Don’t limit yourself to one reason to run, enjoy and embrace them all. Run for fun, fitness, stress reduction, competition, motivation, charity, compassion, spiritual growth and any other reason you can think of. The benefits of running are endless, so take them all in.

Train Your Brain

At one time I thought running was 100% a physical exercise. Later I began to realize that a large portion of running is mental. Today I am convinced that running is mostly a mental/spiritual exercise. Train your brain along with your body. How do you train your brain? I think you need to challenge your brain in two ways. First you must improve your power of positive and compassionate thinking. Don’t let negative or destructive thoughts enter your head. Second, you need to challenge your brain with physical challenges by including very hard training workout on a consistent basis. Do those two things and your brain will be up to the holistic challenge.

Be Flexible

Before I became a holistic runner I had a very strict and unyielding running schedule. I just had to get in my planned workout for that day, no matter what. I become very fit, but I wasn’t a happy runner. The inflexible nature of my training program destroyed the joy of running. Don’t let a lack of flexibility throw a blockade into your holistic running path. Being a holistic runner involves more than just running. You must make running a functional part of your whole life, including your non-running life.