Another book which isn’t on my #20BooksOfSummer list but which was crying out to be promoted up the TBR (interestingly, I haven’t done the same with Ruby Wax’s book on just mindfulness, so it’s the running bit that’s obviously luring me in. I expect this is because I’ve taken on this Mental Health Ambassador role run by England Athletics and Mind, which at the moment is involving lots of meetings and notes and asking questions, but also means I get to help out with two-weekly Run and Talk events in a local park to promote well-being by running (or walking) and chatting. I was hoping this book would be useful for that, although I’m not sure it’s as well-matched to what I needed as I thought …

William Pullen – “Run for your Life: Mindful Running for a Happy Life”

(18 July 2017)

I’m not entirely sure what I made of this book in the end – I thought very carefully about this review. I thought it would be a more general book about mindfulness and mental well-being as it relates to running, but it’s a much more structured and set out programme called DRT (Dynamic Running Therapy) for improving mental health while running which includes exercises, questions and spaces to make notes in parts of the book. I’ll admit that that kind of thing always worries me a bit and makes me feel a bit resistant, even though I know you are allowed just to write your own notes! Anyway …

Each chapter looks at a different area, then has questions to ask yourself while running (alone or with a partner) and the aforementioned space to make notes. There are chapters on depression and anxiety which explain how to spot these and where they might come from, then on relationships (including with oneself), anger, decision-making and mindful running with children. The length of the book means these areas aren’t treated in great detail, and I wonder if it would have been better off as a series of books for each area, as it’s a bit of a mix.

Now to the good stuff: the parts on how to listen if you’re running with someone, and on a grounding technique involving noticing all five senses (similar to something we do in yoga class sometimes and really powerful and calming), and on running with kids are excellent and full of good, practical suggestions. In fact, I’m going to share the conditions of being the listener from p. 43 as I think they’re excellent:

  1. Listen without judgement: Offer your partner a safe place in which to share. One where they feel free to explore and find acceptance for the parts of themselves that are less than noble or that they find shameful. There is no need to indicate approval or disapproval, surprise or agreement. Just stay present.
  2. Listen with empathy. Your role is to truly hear what the other person is saying. This does not mean constructing unsolicited theories of your own about what may be behind your partner’s problems or coming up with a good solution to them. It means taking in what you hear and empathizing without interpretation. Here and there you can reflect back any appropriate sympathy you may feel, but keep it to a minimum unless you are confident that it is wanted. The idea is that you are present, not totally silent, but mostly. It is their time to talk – your time will come.
  3. Be present. Make yourself as personally present and available to your partner as possible during your time together. This calls for you to relate to them in a way that is genuine, not obscured by personal needs to appear caring, interested, attractive, intelligent or successful.  So be true to who you really are and let that be a guide for you.

I think this is great, especially as I do tend to try to solve problems, and they’re something I’ll bear in mind. The part on mindful running, just noticing your footfalls and the places around you are good, too, although I realised that I am quite in the moment when running anyway, counting or looking around or going through my senses. I don’t listen to music when I’m running, which probably helps there.

Coming to the parts I felt troubled by, there are some lists of quite deep questions that you are supposed to ask yourself internally or discuss with your running partner while running. Now, I’m not a big reader of self-help books, and apparently a lot of these do include quite challenging exercises to do. However, I’d imagine these are done in the safety of your own home. The problem here is the worry (for me) about taking potentially triggering or upsetting questions and letting emotions wash over you, while running. Maybe the author’s clients run in safer, more wild places, but he talks about open sobbing and breaking down, and I would not feel comfortable doing that on the streets or in the parks of the city where I live; I just don’t think it would be that safe to be that vulnerable. And that’s obviously a shame, but that’s my lived experience and that of many runners, I’m sure.

It would be great as an exercise book to accompany guided DRT therapy, or if you do live somewhere where you can run howling down a beach and someone’s not going to try to nick your phone or you’re not going to accidentally run into the road. I took a lot from this book anyway, it’s just not exactly what I thought it was and doesn’t mesh completely with what I might need or use.

I’m reading the same books as I was reading yesterday, so no change there. Have you read self-help books? Do people do the exercises in them or is it more like when you buy a really lovely recipe book and then just read the recipes? I have nothing against them, I just don’t know!