How Athletes and Trainers Practice Mindfulness

How Athletes and Trainers Practice Mindfulness
In This Article

The M-word is sweeping its way across magazine covers, TED Talks and podcasts. “Mindfulness” is one of today’s hottest topics. The concept is pretty simple: You live in the moment, are aware of what you’re doing and don’t feel overwhelmed by activity around you. But the concept isn’t simple to follow, especially in a world with constant distractions, such as relentless social media updates, 24/7 news and smartphones beeping with new text messages.

This makes training in the moment challenging, as your mind wanders to such things: You get a text message and feel the need to stop cycling to answer, or your phone flashes a news update and you scroll through while out on a run. How can you stop these interruptions while working out? A few sports enthusiasts offer their own experiences for you to take with you into your training.


I live in the moment when I run hills. The burning, the breathing — it hurts. The pain makes me more mindful of what’s going on with my body. That’s what pain does; it grabs your attention. Pain gives me a way out and a way through. I can use it as a reason to stop, or I can use it as a reason to grow stronger. The moment the pain becomes uncomfortable, negotiations ensue. My body lobbies for stopping and my mind considers my body’s arguments. For my body to keep moving, my mind must take charge. I override the cries from my body with commands. I start telling my feet to move fast, my arms to swing strong and my breath to count 1, 2.

Martise Moore, running coach and founder of GreenRunner


My energy is fueled by positive thoughts in the hopes to multiply my self confidence daily. My mother told me when I was a child that we remember everything through pleasure and pain. So every morning I have a positive outlook on life and reaffirm that my day will be under my control and I’m the ruler of my destiny. When I go through my day, it’s filled with activity and I approach it like a child at a playground; I’m here to have fun, make friends and leave on a positive note. Remember what It was like to not take life too seriously, to have fun and look forward to lunch, to have play dates and make new friends. So when you’re going for a run, smile at people, it will make you feel better. When you’re in the gym or on a court, have a smile on your face and you’ll notice people will smile back or you’ll make a new friend.

Marc Coronel, owner of Open Mind Fitness; Trigger Point and TRX senior master instructor


Mindfulness, alongside great movement prep, is essential to all my workouts as one must align the mind and body for positivity. For a kick-ass day, I stoke the fire of excellence by framing my mindset around gratitude. For example, this morning, as gratitude for my family’s safety, I dedicated my workout to the victims of the recent hurricanes. I did a kettlebell circuit that always challenges me at the halfway point so when my physical barriers came into play, I thought to myself, “This is for the energy, the light, the hope for those affected by the hurricanes. So, what does your best look like for them, Brian?” Then, boom, my effort level is back up because I remember that my life, my energy and my love is being channeled for those in need.

Brian Nguyen, Dragon Master at Elementally Strong Life


When I’m running, especially long distances, I mark the distance with gratitude. For every landmark I pass, I name something I’m grateful for, and I really take in that feeling of appreciation and love. For instance, if I’m running along the reservoir, I’ll spend that time meditating on my son’s big blue eyes and how much I love him. If I run down a city block, I focus on how lucky I am to call New York my home. This practice helps me keep gratitude a regular part of my day, and believe me, it makes the miles just fly by.

Sonia Satra, mind-body expert and founder of wellness program, Moticise



While running, I make sure I connect with my breath as soon as I begin. I simply focus on my breath coming in, filling my lungs and then going out again. When my mind strays from the breath, which it inevitably does, I accept it has happened, and refocus my attention on the rhythm of my breathing. Once I have been focused on my breath for a while, I begin to connect with my body by focusing my attention on the different muscles and joints in use when running. I move my attention through my feet, feeling them as they make impact with the ground, through my legs, feeling all of the different muscles being activated, and through my arms, feeling them as they swing back and forth in rhythm. This is actually a fantastic way to help your body recruit all of the necessary running muscles.

Eamonn Leaver, psychologist, sport and exercise scientist


I am a runner in New York City and when I do long runs, I always try to run from home (Astoria) into the the city. To do that, I have to run across the Queensboro Bridge and whether on foot or in car, it’s always humbling. You get a panoramic view of the city and a reminder you can do anything, including the 20-miler you set out for.

Lynette Pettinicchi, runner


I’m a distance runner, and I don’t run with music or podcasts. Though focusing on my form and breath helps keep me present (and improves my running) most of time, on the hardest days and longest runs, I turn to counting individual steps to keep my mind and breath even and relaxed. Steps add up so much faster than you expect — much quicker than counting down in half-mile increments. And we don’t spend much time counting in the thousands, so it’s just enough of a challenge to keep negative thoughts and distractions at bay.

Kate Ziegler, marathoner and cycling advocate


I observe the surroundings. No headphones or music. I love music just as much as the next person, but not while I’m running. When I’m running, I’m observing everything going on around me. In an early morning run, it may be the sound of the birds or watching the sunrise. When I run through the neighborhood in the fall, I can hear when a football team has scored a touchdown by the cheers that erupt in the houses. Sometimes I hear people fighting in their houses and other times I hear their laughter. On the weekends, I can smell dinners being prepared as I run by. I usually try to guess what they’re making. One doesn’t usually associate using the five senses while running, but in essence, that’s what I’m doing.

Christine Goldfuss, runner


When I am going for a long run, a swim or cycling, I always pay attention to the small details in my body so I can maintain a meditative focus on the task at hand. If I feel some tension in my left foot, I know right away I am not using my glutes enough, so I will quickly make a minor correction, and get myself back in good alignment. Mindfulness allows me to get through endurance activities because it gives me the ability to focus on my body and have a mental task at hand.

Rui Li, president and CEO, New York Personal Training


I consciously seek to feel each contraction precisely in the specific muscle I am targeting in that exercise. This is a great mindfulness task when training to ensure maximum results.

Jordan Paris, CPT, Men’s Health Fitness Council


I find my greatest mindful runs are when I am totally tuned into my breathing. I create patterns as I ebb and flow between fatigue and energy and almost turn them into a tune or song in my mind. When I am consistently breathing, in-out, in-out, in-out, I fall into that blissful lull, like I do with yoga or meditation, where each step feels like it’s happening without any effort. Breathing like this is even more important when pacing for a faster finishing time, when you’re pushing yourself to maintain a challenging speed. I often tell clients, “Find comfort in your breathing; let that cradle you and carry you.”

Jessica Thiefels, CPT, founder and editor-in-chief of Honest Body Fitness

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