063. The Therapeutic Power of Running with William Pullen

William is a London-based psychotherapist, author and app developer. He is the founder of Dynamic Running Therapy (DRT), a psychotherapeutic approach which incorporates running. H is book “Running with Mindfulness” published by Penguin, is in 11 countries. The Dynamic Running Therapy app is available on iOS.

From his own struggle after a long-term relationship ended, leaving him depressed and withdrawn from life, William learned something. He started running with a friend, and found that these runs helped him work through what he was facing and processing (or not processing). He came to learn why running was so helpful, and created an approach, he calls Dynamic Running Therapy, through that. He shares his story and what he learned with us in this episode of the show.

Key Points from the Episode with William Pullen:

  • William is a psychotherapist in London who, about a decade ago, was going through a tough time and turned to therapy himself.
  • At the same time, he started running with a friend, and realized that he was getting such emotional benefit from the running, too.
  • That lead to creating a program that combines the two into his book and methodology, Dynamic Running Therapy.
  • In his situation, he was in a failing relationship too long. He notes how hanging on can drag you down and hurt you further. Then the relationship ends when you’re at your weakest, and it crushes more than if you had acted sooner.
  • He found himself in the throes of depression, and had the presence of mind to recognize that he needed help.
  • We got into why running seems to be so helpful. William had a couple of key reasons.
  • First, running is rhythmic, which has a calming and almost hypnotic effect.
  • Second, because it absorbs so much of your energy, it quiets the distractive power of the mind, making it easier to focus on what matters that you are trying to work through.
  • Dynamic Running Therapy is about running with a set of questions to work through.
  • He tends to start with a 5-10 minute grounding process, which has four steps. First is to take in what’s happening in your body. Then, what’s happening around you (smells, sounds, etc). Third, scan how you’re feeling. Finally, ask yourself what you want from the session.
  • Often we aren’t focused enough when we try to work on things, so this helps bring us to a place of focus.
  • William believes we live in an age of disembodiment. We are focusing our energy in things like social media and work that no longer fits into 9-5 hours. Running helps bring us back.
  • When we run, our body registers us as going from passive to active, which shifts our brain’s processing. This allows us to work on problems differently.
  • William sees this as one of the reasons we go into a run with lots of questions or problems in our head, and miraculously, we seem to have them resolved when we’re done running.
  • I had to ask if treadmills count since the experience is so different from running outdoors. While it may be different, or not as good, something is better than nothing, so treadmills can still work.
  • The key is for making that treadmill experience as open and clear as possible. For example, not having closed in walls around you, or a screen staring you in the face, distracting you.
  • We get stuck in the world through repetition and rigidity. Breaking through this comes from getting moving. The more free we are with that, the better. So William prefers getting outdoors, exposing yourself to something different and interesting (he threw out African drumming, which I’ve used myself to great effect).
  • He posed a great challenge to people. Do you have too much order in your life or not enough? Having too much can be as problematic as not enough as it can hold us back. Find balance.


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