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For many runners, putting our headphones in and queueing up our favorite tunes is just as much a part of our pre-run ritual as lacing up our shoes. Those headphones may seem like a necessity for keeping yourself motivated during your run. However, they might be getting in the way of your progress. We are going to talk about some of the benefits of running without headphones today.
There are plenty of reasons to ditch the headphones. You might think that music is helping you. It may seem like listening to some upbeat, fast tempo tunes is a way to keep you energized and performing at your peak. Especially if you’re on a long run (12 miles or more), music or podcasts could just be distracting you from the goal. In this post we’ll look at the reasons why leaving your headphones at home might give you a boost to your training.
Maintain Your Concentration
Running shouldn’t be a mindless activity. Your goal should not be to zone out and float through your run, only realizing it is over when you come out of your trance at the end. On the contrary, if you want to improve your performance and beat your goal in your next race, it is important to focus on your form and pace while you’re running.
If you’re listening to music or a podcast, it is easy to get distracted and let your mind wander. Your running form requires attention. And pace takes active work to maintain. If your mind is wandering or hovering in an emotionless state of bliss, you’re not giving yourself the best advantage. You can end up getting home and look through the data on your phone only to be surprised that you weren’t going anywhere near the pace you thought you had been.
Get New Data
Runners love data. We take great joy from looking at our splits and paces and mileage on a variety of apps. Data doesn’t have to all come from an app though. Plenty of information comes to runners through our own observations. The best way to learn from a run is to experience it with all five of your senses.
If you have music pounding in your ears, you will miss out on other “data” around you. Maybe one of your feet drags a little bit. If you take your headphones off, you’ll be able to hear that light shuffling sound that would otherwise be drowned out.
Don’t Let Your Pace Change Based on the Song
Running on a pace goal requires paying attention to your pace. There are multiple ways to do this, all of which require regular monitoring of your speed and cadence and adjusting as needed.
If you’re like me, fast songs subconsciously make me pick up the pace, and boring ones make me slow down. Sometimes I don’t even notice it. A fast song comes on and I realize just how slow the previous snooze-fest was making me go. If you want to stay consistent with your pacing, then it is best not to let something that inherently has its own musical rhythm impact your running rhythm.
If you live in an urban area, running with headphones can bring obvious safety concerns as well. Cars can sneak up on you. You’ll risk not hearing a car honking their horn at you, or worse, the sound of their tires squealing.
Other runners or cyclists could be trying to get your attention with an “On Your Left!” call that you may not hear.
One less thing to have to set up before your run means you’re out the door sooner. My pre-running checklist is already long enough. Having to find my headphones, make sure they’re charged, and pick a playlist or podcast to run to are all unnecessary steps that I’m glad to cut off the checklist.
Let’s also not forget how much time can be spent on curating a podcase just for running. Sure, there are plenty of Spotify pre-made playlists out there. But I like to have my own selections available, and I can waste a lot of time scrolling through them all and trying to decide which are good or bad for running.
Ignore Your Notifications
Something that comes along with the territory of running with music is running with your phone. Leaving the headphones at home means you can leave your phone at home too. If you aren’t running free of all tech, you may need a decent watch.
I cherish the time I have without notifications popping up. Those vibrations on my watch or bells ringing in my earphones under the music can be distracting. Running free from all of those distractions helps me focus on the task at hand.
Hear the Crowd
This one only applies to running proper races. When there is a crowd of spectators assembled, being able to hear them and experience the energy of the crowd makes a huge difference. If you run one of the larger marathons, the cheering fans are there for the entire 26.2 miles, supporting everyone that comes by.
This is a great experience that shouldn’t be missed. If you have your headphones in and are just moving forward while ignoring your surroundings, you’ll end up missing out on one of the best feelings you can get – active support from an adoring crowd.
Music might be crucial to your current running routine, and the thought of skipping it may seem like unnecessary torture. It makes sense, especially if you’re going on a long run. Every runner that starts out with regular headphone use faces that fear when they try running without headphones for the first time. Do you really want to have to listen to your own thoughts for three or more hours?
Hopefully, the tips provided in this article show that running without headphones can be a liberating experience. It can be one that can help you focus on what you’re doing and bring home that next PR!