The Perks of Running Without Music

When most people learn that I do most of my running without music, their response is something to the effect of WHAT?! But…WHY?? 

Well, here’s why…in a nice, bulleted list format, of course.

-Heightened attention to your body’s needs. Music is a great distraction, yes, but being distracted while running isn’t necessarily the safest route. It’s important to tune in to your body as you run and notice those little nuances- Is your stride getting funky? Your ankle bothering you? An old injury creeping up? Pay attention to your footfalls and let your body move with its natural rhythm, not the ever-changing rhythm of your fave Pandora station.

-Preserve music as a motivation strategy in desperate times. Because I generally don’t run with music, having a backup playlist on hand can serve as a great motivator during particularly long (read: 26.2 mile) runs or on those days when the last thing you want is to be left alone with your own thoughts. During my marathon last fall, I ran music-less until mile 17, at which point I switched on my badass “Awesome Jackie’s Marathon!” Spotify playlist (curated specifically for me by my college besties- I have the best best friends 🙂 ). This was the perfect energy boost to get me pumped up for the final 9 miles, when my internal drive just wasn’t cutting it anymore.

-Erase a context for timing. If you’re really looking to relax on your run and avoid counting miles/feet/inches as they crawl by, music may be keeping you from doing just that. You may be subconsciously (or consciously) counting songs and using them to calculate minutes run and minutes remaining. Stop! Enjoy the scenery! Which brings me to…

-Soak up the sights & sounds around you. In modern society, we are far too bogged down by stress (I, for one, am a self-proclaimed stressball). I often find that my calendar is so packed with both social events (the fun stuff) and work-related commitments (the not-so-fun stuff) that I can’t even bring myself to enjoy the good times. Running through nature (and the city streets, for that matter!) helps me stay present (work in progress) and relish in the fact that I live in such a beautiful part of the world that has so much to offer. Whether it’s the sounds of critters on the trail or the chitchat of tourists in the city, tuning into what’s going on around me helps me to remember how good I have it here. Why drown that out with Ke$ha (sorry Ke$ha, love you) and risk missing out on some juicy sidewalk gossip?

-Safety! Cue motherly lecture: you are much more likely to hear and see oncoming traffic, pesky bikers, and vicious neighborhood dogs when your ears are free of headphones. Having faced some nearly disastrous traffic incidents and witnessed running-trail crime, I cannot stress this enough. As much as we hate to admit it, our beloved running trails are not the safe havens they used to be.

-Be alone with your thoughts. Cheesey as it sounds, this super-isolated, quality “me time” is the best time to iron out any thoughts or emotions you’ve been struggling with. Unless, of course, you’re having one of those days (see above), running with nothing but your own thoughts in your head can really help to clarify work issues, solidify your to-do list, or come to terms with difficult emotions or conversations you want to bring up. Oftentimes I leave for a run feeling stressed or overwhelmed and return with a clearer idea of not only what I need to tackle next, but how to go about doing so. 

Whether you decide to run music-free for just the first few minutes each time you lace up, or maybe commit to doing your short runs in silence, definitely give it a go and see how you feel. As with anything else, running without music takes some getting used to, but I promise the benefits are worth the awkward first few miles. 🙂

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