An Experiment: Running With Open Focus Attention

September 19, 2013

Here’s the thing; I hate running. I’ve avoided running most of my life except if I’m going to miss a bus or a train or if something nasty is chasing me. On the whole I prefer walking. So why would I subject myself to something that is so disagreeable to me? In a word—curiosity; I wanted to see if Open Focus Attention (click here for the Open Focus Attention interview with Les Fehmi)  would change my experience with an activity that I was uncomfortable doing. I also wanted to prove to myself that it’s never too late to change (I turned 61 last June) and that I might feel differently about running if I changed how I focused on it.

Experiment Design
Day 1:
I would do an Awareness Through Movement® Lesson as a warm-up (Basic Flexion—Elbows to Knees which is available through my store). My route would be modest—around the block which is approximately half a mile. At the end of the run I would record the distance I ran, my time and my impressions.

Day 2:
I would do the same Awareness Through Movement Lesson as a warm-up and add 30 minutes of General Open Focus Training from Les Fehmi’s CD before going on my run. At the end of the run I would record my data and compare the two experiences.

The Outcome
Day 1: I managed to run for 6 minutes and covered about ¾ of the route before I petered out (to be honest I was surprised that without any training I was able to run as far as I did since I had visions of running half a block and crashing). At the 5.5 minute mark my breathing became more labored and my feet felt heavier and heavier until my pace slowed naturally to a walk.

Day 2:
When I started my run I was in anything but Open Focus; I think I was trying too hard. At first I kept wondering if Open Focus attention would make any difference; that morphed into worrying that my breathing was becoming labored and I wouldn’t be able to make it as far as I had the first day. Apparently the committee of idiots was alive and well in my head. They kept telling me that this wasn’t going to work and that I might as well just give up before I even started. Of course these were all narrow focus thoughts and as they came I did my best to just let them be. I decided that at the very least I would allow my visual field to expand and I could track the sensations in my whole body rather than just the places where I was uncomfortable.

Gradually I was able to stay in Open Focus and although I was still struggling, it was getting easier; I began to expand my awareness of sensations, thoughts, space and time. At about the 5 minute mark “the shift” occurred. Unexpectedly my breathing became easier, my feet became lighter, I felt that the road was running me and that all I had to do was to put one foot in front of the other and all the effort and tension I felt to perform disappeared. It was magical and as I completed the full route I noticed that this time I wasn’t out of breath, there was no feeling of heaviness in my feet and I continued to experience a feeling of lightness after the run was completed.

Results and Conclusions
On Day 1, I ran for 6 minutes and completed ¾ of the course. On Day 2, I ran for 6 minutes and 50 seconds and completed the full course. On the second day my expectations got in the way at the beginning of the run but gradually let go. I think if I continue to use Open Focus Attention in running a lot of the mind chatter will fall away as I practice.

I’m still not a runner but I was mildly surprised that it actually felt good and that the Open Focus attention did make a difference. Will I continue? The jury is still out on that one but I’m considering it.

If you have any questions or comments visit me, as feldylady on Twitter or on my Facebook page under Sandra Bradshaw, Guild Certified Feldenkrais® Practitioner. 

Looking for Feldenkrais® Awareness Through Movement® Lessons designed for the beginner? Check out my store at 


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