By Ashley Hunter Arnold
Influenced by a long history running, dancing and practicing yoga, I developed and teach a movement practice called Aha Movement. It’s a practice designed to help us all return to something I call balance beat. Because balance isn’t stagnant. It’s rhythmic and wave like. And each of us–with our own innate chemistry and history–have our own unique balance beat. It’s this blissful place where we feel in our groove.
But, it’s so easy in modern society to fall out of step. We often work too hard (and mostly in an unnatural seated position) and play too little. We’re often not sleeping enough (or deeply enough) and we’re easily distracted by either dwelling in the past or planning for the future. The present moment–the only truly accessible moment any of us have–is ignored. And it’s ignored at the expense of not only our balance, but real immersion in our life.
We’re in luck, though, because we love an activity that’s perfect for grasping the here and now: running. It’s introspective, it’s rhythmic and it is breath driven. But unfortunately, we’re still not alway present doing it. Injury might be dragging us down, or worry about training, or the remaining miles, or how we feel, or how we look, or our to-do list for the rest of the day … the list goes on.
So, I challenge you: Once a week, make a commitment to go on a run with the sole purpose of tuning in. And feel how even this one simple practice helps you feel more in balance and alive.
Herewith, three simple steps from Aha to help you make the most of it:
- Feel connected. Trail running–more than any other type of running–provides an increased visceral experience. The sounds, the views and the immersion with nature all set up an ideal environment for complete connectedness (think OM–the cohesion of the entire universe in a single sound). If you’ve experienced this simple deep, guttural feeling, you know exactly what I mean. And that feeling is plugged in. That feeling is the here and now. For me, the quickest way to access it is first to tune into the sound of the birds. From there, I naturally migrate to the sky and the leaves and the way the light moves across whatever landscape I’m moving across and then the temperature of the air on my skin. The more I tune in, the more connected I feel. Find the thing in nature that helps you feel connected and plug into it. Step with it. Lock into rhythm with it.
- The breath. Perhaps this is the easiest to grasp because by focusing on the breath completely–following the length of each inhale and the entirety of each exhale, we are automatically plugged into the moment because breathing is happening real time. If nothing else, follow the breath. Let it guide your pace and your cadence.
- Let go of time and fartlek. On this run, pick a route you know and can easily get through in the window of time you have available so you can run watch free without worry. And just run. Let go of pace. Let go of Strava! … And think more about frolicking than running. Throw in surges. Really do a fartlek. Did you know that fartlek literally means speed play? It’s a workout designed to reconnect you with your inner child! So go for it! Jump over rocks or limbs. Dance if you feel like it (or don’t). But whatever you do, don’t take yourself too seriously.
I’d love to hear how it goes! Comment below or email me with thoughts or questions.
About the Author
Ashley Hunter Arnold has been running for over 17 years. She went from a high school 300m hurtle state champion who despised distance running to winning the Leadville Trail 100 in 2014. Her long love affair with running is one filled with tangental explorations into all the questions about why she runs—a question that has frustrated coaches and supporters since day one. But, through it all, running is always there serving as meditation, exploration (in both a literal and philosophical sense), competition, discipline, “social hour” … and so much more.
She is the former Associate Editor of Trail Runner magazine and as a freelance writer has contributed to many print and online publications including both editorial and branded content. Today, she is a producer/director of Trine Films (located in Boulder, CO + Asheville, NC) and also teaches Yoga For Runners where she currently lives in Asheville, NC, with her partner Austin and their cats Fugazi and Pharaoh.
To connect with Ashley + find out more about what she’s doing, follow her on social media.