We are so excited to have an opportunity to positively influence the health of the kids who are participating in the Kids’ Marathon!
As we introduce the concept of mindfulness, we don’t need the kids to be weighed down by the depth of the definition, but rather, let’s offer them opportunities to just experience it! In each newsletter, we’ll offer an idea of how to share this with your kids. We also have a link to a mindfulness exercise that you are free to use with the kids as well (or even just for yourself). Mindfulness is all about them being more in the present moment and gaining awareness of their own perceptions and surroundings in a nonreactive, nonjudgmental way. Again, the hope is that they learn some of these strategies so that they may consciously or even automatically utilize these techniques to keep stress at bay, well beyond the marathon!
If you have any questions, please feel free to contact our mindfulness guru directly. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 513.961.8400.
Mindfulness Exercise #1:
As your kids gather together before they start a group run, there will most likely be a lot of chatter and movement. You could have them either continue standing or allow them to sit or lie down (depending on their environment). Ask them to avert or close their eyes and just pay attention to their breath for one minute. Ask them to breathe a little bigger than their normal breath, and to pay attention to only their inhale and then their exhale, noting any sensations – any warmth or coolness – they can silently count the number of seconds it takes them to inhale and exhale to themselves to allow them to focus on breathing. Their breath should be felt all the way into their bellies and up through their chest. At the end of the minute, depending on the group, you could have a short chat on how that felt for them (do they now feel calmer, more attentive, more energetic, happier…, sleepy, silly) or you can just move on to get ready for the run. Personally observe the energy of your group before, during, and after to get a sense of how practicing mindfulness may be affecting them.
If you get some giggles from some members in your group for the first few times you try this, just know this is normal. Some of them may not be comfortable closing their eyes and that’s ok too. They will still get the benefit from the breathing exercise.
One Minute Breath Exercise
Mindfulness Exercise #2
Mindful Body Scan
This exercise helps bring their attention to their body, training their attention to focus on one part at a time and recognizing what area they may be holding tension. It is a great exercise for them to do right before their runs, just before a test, a presentation, or at the starting line of a race or game.
Mindfulness Exercise #3
Begin by taking ten mindful breaths as you begin your warmup. Become aware of your body as a whole. As you increase your speed, notice how quickly your breathing rate changes, and focus on your breathing whenever your mind wanders from the present moment. Pay attention to your heart beating and the rhythm of your feet bouncing on the ground. Notice if any of your body parts are tense and work on loosening them up. Enjoy the wind on your face and the warmth in your body as your run/walk unfolds. Observe any thoughts that pop into your mind without being judgmental. Pay attention to what you are enjoying from the run and note how you feel about your effort after you finish.
Pre-Race Mindfulness Strategies from Dr. Barbara Walker:
As a lot of runners approach their final days of training, their minds may become flooded with thoughts… This is where mindfulness fits in! Think about how you want to feel before and during the race. Many athletes would say, “Confident and Relaxed.” Use whatever works best for you. Continue to practice the breathing that we’ve talked about before (big breaths- 5 seconds in and 5 seconds out- from the top of your chest down through your belly). As SOON as you start feeling too many butterflies or your heart is pounding too quickly, take a deep breath. See and feel yourself responding to this, create a confident and relaxed image. What do you look like as you are approaching the start line- a powerful, fast cheetah or a scaredy cat? You choose!
Another mental strategy to be mindful of is an attitude of appreciation…. Think about how lucky you are to have the ability to be out there, to be able to participate, to have the ability to run or walk, be around others, all the support you have on a regular basis, etc.
Creating a mindset of gratitude, along with thoughts and feelings of confidence and relaxation, all while breathing deeply, will aid in helping you get to the finish line happier and maybe even faster! Remember, this is supposed to be fun!
We are so grateful that you have chosen to do this race and that you are brave enough to open up yourself to the practice of mindfulness.