Why you should try running without music

‘My iPod hasn’t charged!’ ‘My headphones won’t pair with my smartphone!’ If you’ve ever used those excuses to skip a run, it’s time to reconsider your approach. While music, podcasts and audiobooks can motivate and entertain, relying on them for even the shortest, simplest runs means another item you have to prepare and carry, another obstacle between you and your workout. Plus, headphones – even on low volume – limit awareness of your surroundings. Try a few short runs with open ears and you may find...

1/ You run easier

Running to a pounding beat can cause you to push too hard too early, causing you to slow down as your workout goes on. Tuning in to your breathing and effort level activates your conscious brain, which can help you measure your pace. If that makes you hyper-aware of how achy, tired or bored you are, a better distraction might be running with a friend or a group. In this case, you’ll be able to use the ‘talk test’ to ensure you’re not going too fast: you should to be able to carry on a conversation with ease as you run.

2/ You notice more

By focusing on how you feel in your environment, you can better see the sights and hear the sounds of life around you. You’ll notice architectural details you missed before, feel the vibrant energy of other people going about their days and smell the beans being roasted at the corner coffee shop. And in case you think ‘noticing’ sounds awfully sappy, remember that it also can help keep you safe from some distracted drivers, wayward dogs and people staring dopily at their smartphones.

3/ You might even like it!

If you’re a beginner, not that long ago you may have said, ‘Running? So boring. Why on earth would I do that?’ If that’s how you currently feel about running without your favorite auditory distraction, consider the possibility that you might prefer running without headphones if you’d just give it a chance. Try leaving your earbuds at home once or twice a week for at least a month. If those runs are utterly miserable, well, at least you tried – but you’ll probably learn you don’t need distractions as much as you thought you did.