Over the years I have run track and road races of every distance, from the mile to the marathon. Many times, it felt like running was what kept me together. It got me through emotional ups and downs, connected me with nature and friends, and kept me centered.
I mentally wrote a good part of my dissertation while out running the road, preparing for a marathon. During that time, I read stories about counselors who were empowering students by involving them in road racing. I even once had a counseling resident train for and complete a 5K race to boost self confidence and self efficacy. Running can be very therapeutic. This is the topic of William Pullen‘s new book, Running with Mindfulness.
Pullen is a psychotherapist in the UK who created Dynamic Running Therapy (DRT) as a way to empower clients through the combination of movement, body awareness, relationships, and the power of being outdoors.
“This process does not offer peace and everlasting life – it offers a way to learn to be more accepting of who you are inside and of the things that have already happened to you and will happen to you in the future. It helps you to value what is real in the here and now, not the stories that you tell yourself,” writes Pullen. He started on this journey in the summer of 2007, while running in London’s Hyde Park.
Pullen’s work is very client-directed and empowering, and relies on the assumption that we naturally want to get healthier, like plants that naturally seek the light. And you don’t have to be a runner to use this book. You can walk, or you can just be outside and follow the guidance that Pullen offers. This book is about grounding yourself in life. DRT is self-led and you can do it for as long as you want to. Pullen provides the coaching.
This is not an exercise or fitness book. It is a work book for getting healthy. Some cultures emphasize the difference between fitness and health, for one can be very fit, but also very unhealthy. Pullen does an excellent job of introducing DRT and the process. Throughout the book he uses quotes from Martin Luther King, Jr., the Sufi poet Rumi, The Buddha, and others to inspire and encourage readers to think. My favorite, and one that fits for running and for life, is one from Joseph Campbell:
“If you can see your path laid out in front of you step by step, you know it’s not your path. Your own path you make with every step you take. That’s why it’s your path.”
Like a good coach, Pullen prepares readers for the journey with his excellent guide on mindfulness. There is instruction on scanning the body, environment, and emotions, and on priming oneself for a session. The book’s chapters include exercises to help readers deal with depression, anxiety, relationships, anger, making decisions, and parent-child relationships.
Pullen primes readers for each exercise with advice on how to get ready for an exercise on a particular topic, what to pay attention to and how to do that, and how to be intentional in the process. He also has a series of questions to consider with each exercise, and provides space in the book to write answers. Readers are also encouraged to come up with their own questions. There is space for note taking and journaling at the end of each chapter. Readers have the option of doing the exercises on their own or with a partner. There is guidance for the partner in each chapter, too.
These are Pullen’s principles of DRT:
- Clients have the resources and strengths to solve their problems.
- Clients are the experts and thus define their goals.
- Emphasis is placed on what is possible and can be changed.
- Client feedback is critical to efficacy.
Pullen also puts particular emphasis on relationships, and encourages readers to remember that “to really love someone is to allow them to be who they are and to grow as they need to, not as we need them to.”
The most important and only life long relationship we have is the one we have with our self. Pullen’s book and DRT give excellent coaching for making the relationship with ourselves and others healthier.
Running with Mindfulness: Dynamic Running Theory (DRT) to Improve Low-Mood, Anxiety, Stress, and Depression
Soft Cover, 224 pages