Following a difficult period in his life, Martijn Mensink was at home with a burn-out when he decided to completely change course. He developed an interest in mindfulness and started training, and together with his wife Dianne Schuutmaat, he started the Mindful Run initiative. In four years, the idea has become a nationally known project that’s also crossed the border into Belgium.
Can you tell us a little bit about yourself?
I see myself as somebody who inspires people, based on the idea: ‘if I can do it, so can somebody else.’ I try to help people blossom, like I was once able to do. Back then it was also a revelation for me, I just forgot to feel it.
How did Mindful Run start?
I was having a difficult time and really wanted to change direction. That’s when I decided to start training very intensely. Then I experienced a type of burn-out, where I didn’t know what to do anymore. Eventually, I did a course in NLP (Neuro Linguistic Programming) which finally turned the tide for me. Afterwards, I was given the chance to teach with Allen Carr, where I had to speak in front of groups of people—something that I found quite scary. But I had reached a point where I dared to do it, after I had started to get to know the spiritual world a bit better. I started with the first Mindful Run courses in May of 2014 and in July of 2016 I held my first training. Within 24 hours, the first training was full, despite the fact that we didn’t even have a manual for it yet…hehe.
90% of the people admit that they don’t do what they like to do, or they’re not who they once wanted to be. I think that’s because the little voice in their head stops them from it. That’s also my target group: people who think too much and aren’t acquainted with the concept of mindfulness. I want to attract people who aren’t yet conscious of their choices. Our courses last 5 weeks and are full of techniques that we explain personally. After the 5 weeks are over, the people have to go at it alone; we give them all a few tools and techniques, so they can make more conscious choices.
What do the courses consist of?
Mindfulness can be difficult to understand or to apply. But you can combine mindfulness with running—you can even practice mindful sailing, if you want. It is a matter of awareness.
Alongside that, it’s meant for everybody, because it’s so diverse and accessible.
Sometimes it’s difficult to live healthier, due to all the in-between obligations we have. In our courses, everything you learn can be integrated into any moment of your life, including daily tasks. This helps you feel stronger and more able to find peace. We try to keep this very accessible and personal.
How do you explain people’s increasing need to slow down?
You see that people are starting to wake up. Social media is making the need bigger, too. These days, we investigate everything ourselves. Instead of going straight to the doctor, we look it up ourselves. Your health is actually the most important thing. And how great is it that mindfulness is part of that? Mindful running is a form of stress relief, which allows you to increase your stamina at the same time.
Apparently, our approach works, because time after time, the students confirm that they find it very helpful. We don’t give it too much of a theoretical framework; we try to stick to practical tools. Of course, not everybody is super enthusiastic; everyone takes away what’s most important for him or her. As of today, we’ve never encountered somebody who didn’t take something positive away from the experience.
Are there any books you’d recommend to our readers?
The most inspiring book I’ve read recently is The Presence Process by Michael Brown. It’s become a bit like our bible; it has freed us both. I didn’t understand it at first, but when I started going through the 10-week process step by step, I understood it much better. You can go through the process multiple times and continuously find different personal value in it, and you get very clear assignments. You get to know yourself very well.
What is your favourite way to relax after a busy work day?
I prefer to meditate for a while. Walking outside, cycling, breathing calmly. Running in nature. Walking for a while to relax—not because I have to, but because it’s really nice. Sometimes during the walk, I sit on a bench for a bit to meditate. If I’m feeling very stressed, I will take a lot of time for it; it really helps me during difficult times. If you become really good in mediation and awareness, you can integrate it into everything you do.
And finally, what is your goal for the future?
My next mission is to make the Mindful Run Walk Coaching a success. If I could use something like that, then it’s likely that other people could, too. Mindful running works for everybody, no matter where you come from or what your past is like. By improving your breathing (and your nutritional habits) you create awareness. Mindfulness can save lives and contribute to a better world. That is also my mission and goal. Ultimately, the meaning of life is good health—and doing what you love.