Running, Therapy and the Evolved Body

In a  recent issue of Runner’s World I read about Dynamic Running Therapy (DRT), founded by William Pullen. His website says DRT

… is fundamentally the linking of movement (walking/running) with traditional talk therapy. It replaces the static atmosphere of the therapists’ office with an outside environment rich in life, change, and possibility. Less confrontative than an office where client and therapist “face – off” to one another, with DRT the therapist joins the client side by side, sharing each step.

The benefits of running for mental health have been known for some time. What is interesting and exciting here is the combination of mindfulness and therapy with running to create a context for exploring clients’ issues.

My partner and I have always found we can discuss our deeper personal problems when we are walking, particularly on long walks in the countryside. He too now runs and we have started talking while running; I recognise how DRT will work with those who are able to run or walk. But I think the benefits of this context might be deeper than just movement outside and side-by-side. I suspect that there are close links to our oldest human instincts in running. Our bodies have so many evolved features adapted for long-distance running that it is hard to avoid the conclusion that we are all runners. And if distance and endurance running is naturally human, combining this with our other great adaptations, cognition and self-awareness, will connect us to who we are in our embodied thinking selves in real time. All this seems to have connections to what it is to be human and my musings about Zen and Heidegger.

I have had a long-term interest in the uses of philosophy as therapy, and there exists a movement that uses philosophy as counselling. Prompted by Pullen’s development of DRT I am beginning to wonder whether there isn’t something to be said for linking running with the philosophical approach to therapy, especially in the context of, perhaps, a phenomenological view of counselling, something which is well-established  already.

Connections, connections, connections … who would have thought the simple activity of running could be so ontological!

Right, I’m off out for 10 miles, or so, to think.

[All of the above led me to a great little piece by a therapist called Manu Buzzano called The Art of Phenomenology. Regularly readers of this blog will appreciate why I liked it so much.]