Get your Zen on! The joy of mindful walking and running.


By Curt Woolford, MA, Mindfulness Instructor, Consultant, and Coach

As I’m gearing up for a run, I’m pondering the topic for this mindfulness blog. After selecting just the right gear so I’m neither too hot nor too cold for an eight mile run, I finally get myself outside. After a couple miles my mind wanders, reminding me that I need a blog topic. I let the thought go and return my attention to my running.

Then the light-bulb goes off. What I’m doing right now – mindful running, is the blog!

Let’s slow the pace a bit and explore mindful walking. In the Zen tradition, mindful walking is referred to as kinhin, which means paying attention. Like many mindfulness practices, mindful walking is a way to increase awareness by paying attention to the present moment.

Kinhin can be done almost anywhere, indoors or out. Whether walking on a sidewalk, in the woods, or up and down stairs, mindful walking is an opportunity to guide yourself out of a chronically distracted mind.

When you walk, run, swim, or engage in physical activity, it’s all too easy to mentally check out. Kinhin will help you to gather your attention and increase your awareness of the present moment, focusing more attention on what’s happening right now.

Mindful walking is a simple practice. These techniques also apply to mindful running:

  1. As you begin, walk at a natural pace.
  2. Bring attention to the sensations of walking. Feel your whole body walking, the movement of your legs, the lifting and placement of each foot.
  3. When you notice that your mind has wandered away from walking, bring your attention back. Re-anchor attention in the process and sensations of walking whenever you notice your mind has wondered.
  4. Do your best to practice without effort and without judgment. It’s the nature of the mind to wander. Your job is simply to notice when your mind has wandered and return your attention to walking … again and again … as often as is needed.

Let’s return to my mindful run. It all began three years ago when I ran the Broad Street Run with my daughter Laura. As I trained for this 10 mile race in Philadelphia, I began to apply mindfulness to my running.

I benefit more from running when I do it mindfully. When I redirect my wandering mind back to the process and sensations of running, I run with more ease, more efficiency, and more joy. I’m also more aware of how my body is responding to the way I’m running in each moment. As I continue to increase my mindful running skills, I have benefited from a significant decrease in strained muscles.

The benefits of mindful walking or running are available to us all. The awareness that emerges from practicing present moment mindfulness techniques like kinhin will reduce stress and increase enjoyment and appreciation of your life. Give it a try!

Questions about Mindfulness?

Visit  for more information about mindfulness and  for guided audio practices.

Contact me at  to schedule a mindfulness coaching session. Get the support you need to benefit from a mindful life. The first coaching session is free!


About Curt Woolford, MA

Mindfulness Instructor, Consultant, and Coach

Curt’s professional background includes mindfulness, organizational development, organizational communication, and human resource development. He is founder and director of the Mindfulness program for Crozer-Keystone Health System where he teaches mindfulness-based stress reduction and develops workshops for physicians and nurses. Curt’s mindfulness at work consulting includes Drexel Emergency Medicine, Lourdes Health System, Crozer Chester Medical Center, Independence Blue Cross, Drexel Law School, Philadelphia Bar Association, Subaru of America, Swarthmore College, and Penn State University.

Curt has been a practitioner of mindfulness for 30 years. He has studied mindfulness-based stress reduction with Jon Kabat-Zinn, The Penn Program for Mindfulness, and the Jefferson Mindfulness Institute. Curt has been an instructor of mindfulness, yoga, tai chi, and qigong for 20 years. With degrees in Philosophy and Educational Psychology, Curt brings a deep awareness of the learning process to his mindfulness instruction.