In this world of technology we live in, it isn’t too often that we desire to unplug ourselves from the stressfulness of everyday life, and when we do so it feels eerily unnatural. Unplugging from our cellphone or mp3 player leaves us with the strangely stressful feeling of missing something urgent, like a life-changing message; when in reality it is most often a Facebook comment we’ve lost brain cells reading.
Now, this is by no means preaching because I am all for running with my iPod and am neurotic about making sure to update new music to keep myself motivated. Running to music is no doubt a great motivation and often a wonderful pick-me up. Honestly, who hasn’t had a favorite song come on at the end of a run when you felt near death, that which inspires you to sprint as though you were approaching the final curve in an Olympic race? However, while there are great benefits to plugging in, I began considering what I was missing having faltered from my non-headphone roots.
Around this time last year I got sick of listening to my un-updated music on one run in particular. Having hip problems most of the summer it had been a nice distraction to be able to zone out from the pain and listen to my favorite alternative rock playlist; little did I know that by listening to music I was ignoring the sounds of my body. As I took my earphones out I listened to my stride, and paid attention to the sound of my feet hitting the crisp gravel. Crunch. Thump. Crunch. Thump. It was a quick realization that I had been missing out on the signals my body was giving me to fix certain elements of my form. Expecting to hear a balanced sound from each foot, it was a great surprise to be making such peculiar vaguely cereal eating sounds. Now knowing that I was overcompensating with my good hip this made me beg the question, what else was I missing while plugged in?
This one day inspired me to take out my headphones far more often. Not just for the above reason but for others I realized when running technology free.
Attention: I’m incredibly guilty of listening to music way too loud and switching songs during my run if I’m not grooving to one. For all runners this distraction; when running at night, taking the sketchy shortcut, or deciding to go on the isolated heavily rooted path, can turn a bad situation into a worse one. Taking those earphones out can be a safety measure at times, may allow you to listen to what your body is telling you or it might just allow you to realize a new building was constructed on your morning route.
Bad Form: Going back to the idea of switching songs during runs, can we appreciate for a second how awkward corkscrewing around to change a song on an armband must look. Now having that stunning visual image, consider how movements like that while running could be twisting muscles in ways they shouldn’t be twisted. For those reading this and think they are homefree because I’m not going to address clipping it onto your shorts, you’re wrong. Headphones notoriously interfere with the direction your arms are flowing when they are placed to the front. Arms moving in strange ways means torso, hips, knees, and feet moving strange ways too.
Communication: Isn’t it the strangest thing when two people go running together and listen to music? Dubbed the anti-social run, this demonstrates the lack of communication that our culture has become accustomed too. Running an anti-social run defeats the purpose of training with another person all together. You are both in your own worlds, and the most talking that typically occurs is one runner making a comment and the other responding “What?” It looks positively ridiculous and realistically you can better motivate each other by running without music and speaking coherent sentences.
Enjoying the Run: If you’ve ever been to a gym it is safe to say you are familiar with the Top 40 hits they typically play on loop to create a distraction for those who have no interest in being there. The idea is making the concept of working out bearable, what are we doing but the same thing to ourselves? Let’s go ahead and admit that sometimes it is hard to get out the door but let’s also consider how great it feels when we’ve succeeded in that effort. Behaving in a way with headphones that symbolically demonstrates forcing ourselves to workout eventually leads to resentment of the sport. It’s okay to sometimes unplug, stop, smell the roses, and enjoy the run.
Feeling the Rhythm: Granted this concept sounds like a Latin dance song but what I mean is being able to feel the rhythm of your pace. Often with music on there is the tendency to slow down and speed up at certain songs. Regardless of what distance you’re doing if you get comfortable running a certain time repetitively, without your attention being split, you begin to know what that time feels like. This is a great skill for anyone interested in lowering their times, it requires concentration though.
Visualization: Flashback to childhood when your parents would tell you, “Use your imagination.” The same goes here! While it is great during a workout to imagine raising your finger for number one and maybe even running through the finish line banner, while Eye of the Tiger plays in the background, it isn’t the most plausible. Leaving the music at home allows you to concentrate on picturing where you would want to be at a certain point in a race, what split you’re going to run, whose running next you, and how you’re going to finish.
Taking the headphones out allows you to find out more about what is around you, what kind of runner you are, and the runner you could be. You may truly be surprised at what you find out.
Suggested Reading: Negative Impacts of Running Gadgets
About the Author: Marie Walsh is a senior at Rice University, who runs for the Owl’s Cross Country and Track & Field Team. An avid runner, she loves to learn whatever she can about the sport and spread the knowledge.
Follow Marie on Twitter @MarieAWalsh