Running to not only help the body but the mind – Dynamic Running Therapy
Hey running friends! It has been a while since I have ventured into the blog world. I have started up a podcats (Runningdad podcast) which has turned out to be a lot of fun and –well life has just been busy!
But – I am still meeting and getting to profile amazing runners and people in print as well.
A chat with the founder of Dynamic Running Therapy, an approach which combines psychotherapy, mindfulness and movement to help with mental health issues.
William Pullen is a 50-year old and lives in London, England but for a time lived in Toronto, Ontario. He is a psychotherapist, runner, author, and app developer and the founder of Dynamic Running Therapy (DRT). DRT is a therapy approach which combines psychotherapy, mindfulness and movement.
Along with using and promoting this new type of therapy that combines lacing up and more traditional therapy, Pullen has written a book about it called, ‘Running with Mindfulness: Dynamic Running Therapy (DRT) to Improve Low-mood, Anxiety, Stress, and Depression’. He took a moment to chat about his book and DRT.
How did the idea of the book come about – and how did the idea for DRT come to you?
“DRT first – I had a bit of a meltdown about 11 years ago. I found myself depressed, scared and anxious. I knew I had to do something to help myself so decided to go into therapy, take up running and do yoga. It was while running with a friend who was going through a divorce that I discovered how helpful it could be. We both found ourselves talking very easily – what we were feeling seemed to flow freely, as though the running somehow was giving us clarity and license.
The running also helped us to feel better on a physical level, as well as being psychologically empowering – no bad thing when you are depressed! It was a relief to have a practice whereby I could show up, talk easily and feel refreshed and strong at the end of it. Not long after that I decided to train to become a psychotherapists and over the next 6 years took what I felt was best from my training and incorporated it into what became DRT.”
Who do you think can benefit from reading your book?
“Well the book contains a number of different things so is potentially attractive to all sorts of people. It has guides for mindful running and mindful walking which most people can benefit from. It also has specific programs for the treatment of depression, anxiety, anger and relationship issues, among other things. Each program takes the reader on a journey of self-discovery and growth using a combination of walking, running, and mindfulness. I ask them to walk or run with questions which address how they relate to themselves and others, lifestyle choices, their personal background, and the choices they are making today as well as the beliefs that they hold about themselves and the world.
The book also contains programs for running with your kids, as well as something called Empathy Runs which are a great way for bonding and sharing special moments with the people in your life.”
What is it about running that can help those dealing with mental health issues?
“I believe that sometimes words alone are not enough for some people, and that through applying ourselves physically to our situation we can embody the kind of change and growth we are looking for. In other words, the strength and confidence I experience from the outdoors and from becoming the person who can get from A to M and then finally to Z helps empower me and heal me. You see mental health issues and debilitating and anything you can do to empower and help focus that person is of benefit. It’s a kind of hack sometimes but it really works. Of course its hard to show up when you’re depressed – really hard. But if we can make showing up feel like a rejuvenating, healing experience it becomes easier. Its also a great way to burns of energy if anxiety is an issue.”
What is one simple thing runners can try?
“They could try Empathy Runs – you can find this on my website but simply put it involves: Two people running together for about 20 to 30 mins. One person listens (no interrupting, helping, saving, encouraging) in silence then repeats back a synopsis of what they have heard. Then the roles are swapped. It’s an incredible way to feel heard and unburden yourself in a healthy way of some of the natural stresses we have in our life. Of course its not always about stress – sometimes they become gratitude runs.
Or they could try and bit of mindful running – this involves emptying the mind of thoughts about yesterday and tomorrow and instead concentrating on the here and now – this is done either through focusing on the breath as you run (count to 10 and start again) or every other footfall. To begin with you will find yourself getting to footfall/breath 2 or 3 or 4 and then thoughts about the future or past will creep in. At this point you acknowledge that thought, let it go, and start back at one again. The real practise is not in trying to get to 10 uninterrupted because its not about success and goals. It’s about meeting your inner dialogue with whom we often have a dubious and ambivalent relationship with and trying to improve it through gentle recognition and acknowledgement f what is going on. So often we are caught up between pushing ourselves and then castigating ourselves when we don’t get to where we wanted to be – this is a tough prism through which to experience the world. Mindful running helps you find a more compassionate and easy going way of being – one that is actually more productive because it wastes less energy. “
If you find running a form of therapy and stress relief already, DRT may be something you should lace up for and learn more about.
I personally really like the read and it all made sense to me. I have a background in psychology and neuroscience and have been a runner for 30-years. The book is easy to read, straight forward and has a section where you get exercises to do and space to jot down notes/thoughts. Worth finding online and ordering.
Pullen runs now for fun and to stay in shape and can be found online on his website and on Twitter @PullenTherapy.
* In Canada – Kristy McConnell (Alberta) combines walking, running and therapy and is a runner. Her website: https://www.obpwellness.com/. I profiled Kristy a little while back (the blog).
You can find Pullen’s book on Amazon.ca and on his website. You can listen to my podcast chat with him here.
Keep lacing up my friends and keep looking for the positive in life – I am out there with you!