The running world is full of divisions. Those who run at night and those who don’t. Those who run long races and those who don’t. And the big one: those who run with music and those who don’t. I fit into the second category—I don’t listen to music when I run.
If you’re someone who has always listens to music while running, someone who is new to running and isn’t sure what to do, or someone who just wants to justify not listening to music while running, this article is for you.
I’ll cover all the big reasons why people like me choose to run without music, and there’s a good chance that you might consider doing it if you haven’t before!
Run with Friends and Socialize
Different people have different preferences for running. You might be the type that likes to run by yourself. However, turning the music off can open up opportunities to socialize while you’re running. If you’re new to an area or new to a running club, leave your headphones at home.
Get to know the area and the people who live around you. Even someone who is introverted like me appreciates the opportunity to interact with people around me, something that’s harder to do if I’m listening to music.
Plus, if you know that you’re not going to run with music, you’ll probably try harder to find a friend to run with or consider joining a group. This can be a great way not only to get to know people but also to push yourself as a runner.
Clear Your Mind for Better Focus
Some people like to go for a run over a lunch break or during the workday to clear their minds. You can do some amazing thinking while running. Music can, in some situations, be a hindrance to this.
If there’s a problem you’ve been struggling with at work or in your personal life, consider leaving your music at home and go for a run to try and parse it out. There’s a good chance that you will.
Laura Vanderkam, time management guru, encourages daily exercise, especially. It’s a great way to work out kinks in your life, she says. And there’s no point to continue to try to work through a problem at your desk if you’re not getting anywhere. Go for a run.
I can speak to the success of this personally. I am a freelance writer, and once I got a big project for a client researching sports programs. It was definitely the largest project I had ever taken on, and I was tempted to skip my afternoon runs to work on it since it had a quick deadline—two weeks.
But I went for my 6-mile run as planned, and found myself working through all the kinks as I pounded the pavement. When I returned, I had a clear idea of how to blaze ahead with the project and was so glad I had gone for my run and left the music at home.
Concentrate on Running Form, Cadence, and Pace
Something that every runner tends to do as they get better is to stop paying attention to form. This can make you a sloppy runner. It’s much easier to do if you’re listening to music or books and are more focused on that. When you don’t have music as a distraction, though, you’re able to concentrate on your form, cadence, and pace. That makes you a less-sloppy runner.
You can count as needed to make sure that you have a good cadence, remind yourself as I do to lean slightly forward, keep your shoulders open, and make quick, short strides to maintain a comfortable and consistent pace.
Allows You to Zone Out and Destress
I tend to be someone who is always thinking, and it’s hard for me to turn my brain off. But running without music is a great way to do it. After the first mile, which I always find to be the hardest, I just start plowing along and start thinking about a variety of other things.
It’s a great way for me to not only get exercise but also to turn off my brain because I can’t maintain the same deep focus and stress about particular issues when I’m focused on getting one foot in front of the other.
Allows You to Focus on the Sights and Sounds of Running Outdoors
This is my favorite reason to run without music. What I love about running outside is that there is so much to see. Granted, I live by the beach, so my runs always involve hearing the ocean, watching birds flying in the wind, and feeling the gentle (or sometimes not so gentle) breeze.
I can’t imagine tuning all of this out with music. Some of my most calming times are when I go running by an ocean road. Getting to hear the smooth laps of the tide is the best. But even when I’ve been visiting friends and family elsewhere, I leave the music at home.
I want to experience the gorgeous trees, the singing birds, the smell of cornfields, and the hum of crickets instead of music that I can listen to anytime at home or in the car. Getting to experience nature is definitely one of the reasons why I run.
Simplifies Your Run
I love all the benefits that technology brings, but we can all agree that it is just plain difficult sometimes. If you’re trying to run with music, you’ll have to deal with headphones and maybe wires depending on how high-tech you are, listening gadgets to carry somehow, and there’s always the possibility of technical difficulties.
By going low-tech (and this includes forgoing the GPS watch every so often), you’ll make your run and your life so much simpler. All you’ll need to think about is your route and hydration. You won’t have to deal with anything else.
Aids in Safety
While there are certainly ways to be safe while listening to music, the fact remains that it’s safer to not listen to music. You’ll be able to hear oncoming cars, people, and dogs if you’re not wearing headphones.
This is especially important at night. If you can’t find time for a run earlier in the day and have to run at night, you’ll want to be as alert as possible, and listening to music can focus your attention elsewhere. It’s better to forego the music so that you can stay safer on the road.
Helps You Practice for Your Race
The reason I started running without music was that I was trying to prepare for my race. Many races don’t allow headphones so it’s good to start practicing early, especially if you have a long race. As they say, practice makes perfect.
If you don’t plan on listening to music (or can’t) during your race, you don’t want to be training the exact opposite way. It might be hard to let go of the music during your training, but come race day, you’ll be glad that you did. Nothing new on race day, and that includes music!
Reminds You to Be Grateful
Finally, I’ve found that running without music reminds me to be grateful. At the end of the day, it’s a huge gift to be able to run. The fact that I’m physically able to do so when so many other people can’t keeps me humble.
And I remember this more when I don’t have music. I tend to be more grateful for the little things—a slight breeze, running with a friend, the movement of my legs, the stars at night, and so forth. If I can do that better without music, then the music has to go.
In the end, running without music is so freeing to me. It’s how our ancestors would have run, and I feel more grateful and closer to nature when I leave the headphones at home. If you typically run with music, try something different this week and see if you like it better without music. I think there’s a good chance that you will!