A confession: I run a lot, mostly with but sometimes without music.
I’m addicted to multi-tasking and find solo runs a great opportunity to play my favorite Spotify playlists or catch up on the latest podcast episode. Music also keeps me entertained and motivated, and I enjoy the company on longer distance runs.
But there’s also times when I need to run without music. In total silence.
Running without music allows you to focus more on your surroundings and your body’s movements. The absence of distraction helps cultivate an increased sense of awareness, enabling you to tune into your breathing, foot strikes, and heartbeat. This can be particularly beneficial for improving your running form and preventing injuries over time. Additionally, it can promote a more meditative state, helping to reduce stress and send you into an ‘awe run‘ like trance.
Many runners find that ditching the tunes leads them to a newfound appreciation for exercise. Without music, you can fully absorb the beauty of nature, engage with fellow runners, and embrace the rhythm of your own body. It can even make running fun again.
In this article, we’ll dive deeper into the main reasons why it can be better to run with or without music and what role they can play in your training regime…
The Many Benefits of Running Without Music
- Improved pace control
- More in the moment
- Awareness of your surroundings
- Better breathing and foot strikes
- Creative problem solving
- More varied training runs
- Be social with other runners
- Personal safety
- Active recovery runs
- Recreate race day conditions
Things to Consider: Running With or Without Music
#1: Improved Pace Control
When you run without music, you’re more likely to develop a better understanding of your own pace. This can be particularly useful for marathon training. Without the distraction of music, you can better focus on your body, form and pace. You’ll learn to control the controllables like a true Stoic athlete and maintain a steady tempo, which will ultimately improve your performance.
#2: Be In the Moment
Physical activity is not only great for your body, it’s kind on your mind.
Running without music allows you to be more present and find your flow state. Every mile is rich in minor thrills waiting to be discovered – be they in nature, architecture, wildlife, or a beautiful vista. Switching off your music when running helps you to shift your attention outward instead of inward.
An exercise in presence, perspective and joy-seeking. You begin to enjoy a deeper connection with the world around you and understand your role as a participant in a larger story.
#3: More Aware of Your Surroundings
With a better awareness of your surroundings, you’re better able to navigate your way round a route and watch out for potential hazards. This is particularly true if jogging at night. Additionally, being more in tune with your surroundings can make your runs more joyful, as it awakens your senses and encourages you to take everything in.
💌 Learn Runner Psychology… in 5 Mins a Month
#4: Better Breathing Technique
By paying attention to your breathing, you can learn to develop a more efficient technique.
When you run, your muscles and cells depend on the constant delivery of oxygen and expulsion of carbon dioxide to propel movement. Good breathing also ensures proper muscular function of the diaphragm, which is key for stabilizing your core for better running form, and regulating your nervous system for staying cool under pressure.
Performing deliberate breathing exercises while jogging can help you to breath more easily and efficiently, ultimately leading to better times.
#5 Unlocks your Creative Potential
Another benefit of running with music is added clarity and inspiration.
There’s no better way to move beyond writer’s block or work through a difficult issue.
It’s only when we relieve ourselves from high-pressure situations and allow our minds to wander can we do our best thinking. You’re blessed with countless visual stimulation when immersed in nature.
We’ve all had that epiphany when on a run or in the shower. Our subconscious mind has been searching for that killer idea or solution all along, but it’s only able to enter your conscious mind when there’s sufficient room.
Research shows a 60% boost in creative output after running or walking outdoors.
#6: Adds Variety to Training
Always running with the same stimulation not only limits your overall progress, it also quickly leads to boredom and sometimes why running is so hard.
The cure is “Polarized training” – mixing up your intensity and inspiration, versus sticking to the same training regime again and again. So running with music one week, and a short break without.
#7: A Greater Sense of Safety
It pays to continuously scan the landscape for possible dangers. Think sudden movements from car doors, leisurely penetrations, cyclists, dogs, and the like. Lowering the volume on your earphones or entirely switching off music when running allows you to stay mindful of your surroundings and avoid possible collisions. Running on high alert hones your instincts and reflexes.
Sadly, a lot of female runners I know choose to run without any music because of the fear of harassment or worse, particularly when running in the city. Everyone deserves to run without fear.
#8: Running Without Music is Good for Active Recoveries
We all need to press reset and slow down once in a while.
Active recovery runs can speed up recovery from intense exercise sessions or longer distances when tired muscles can experience delayed onset muscle soreness (or DOMS). This stiffness will otherwise often prove debilitating for a few days post-training. All it takes is a gentle jog at 30-60% of your maximum heart rate to loosen up and flush toxins from the body.
Embarking on slower active recovery runs without music help you to decompress and embrace the well-earned canter.
#9: Mimics Race Day Conditions
With many trail races banning earphones, it can pay to recreate the conditions in training.
The closer you get to that marathon (check out my Lisbon marathon review) or upcoming race, the more of an edge you can gain by mimicking race-day conditions during training. That includes warming up, running the same route and jogging in the morning, race pace, running without music, and eating breakfast at the same time so you’re not running on an empty stomach.
Related reading: How to Start Trail Running
#10: Be a More Social Runner
A jogging partner or friend can help to kick your training into a new gear. Swap the music for chatter as you run and enjoy trading a hearty “good morning!” to everyone you pass.
Having a running partner or joining a group can help you build relationships, share insights, and stay motivated while keeping your mind occupied during your run.
You’d miss out on that with headphones on.
Incorporating Music-Free Runs in Your Workout Routine
Balancing Music and Silence
Running without music can be beneficial for your workout routine. During music-free runs, you can focus more on your body’s movements, improving your overall form and efficiency. To get the best of both worlds, try alternating between running with music and without it. This way, you can reap the rewards of both entertaining and focused runs.
Listening to your breath and footsteps while running can help increase your awareness, fine-tuning your technique. Running in silence also allows you to pay more attention to your surroundings, avoid sensory overload (e.g. when running on a hangover) and notice more, which can enhance your safety, especially when running on busy streets or trails.
Recommended Breaks from Music
Consider taking music breaks during specific types of workouts. For instance, when you’re trying to lose weight, incorporate silent intervals during your high intensity running sessions. This will help you stay more in tune with your body’s physical limits, preventing overexertion and potential injuries.
Furthermore, during free runs – where you have no specific goal or structure – try going without music. This can help you stay more present and engage in mindfulness, making it an effective stress-reducer.
Incorporating initially shorter, playlist-free runs in your workout plan allows your ears to rest as well. Just like your body, your ears may require occasional breaks from audio stimulation to recover.
It’s also worth noting that some professional athletes, like NBA players, practice focusing techniques, which can also include silence – allowing them to perform better under pressure. So, by incorporating music-free runs in your routine, you could build mental resilience and enhance your overall performance.
Remember to stay confident and clear in your approach, and make the most of both music and silence to bring balance and variety to your workout routine.
Conclusion: How to Run Without Music
Is it better to run with or without music is deeply personal.
You may discover that running without music enables you to be more in tune with your surroundings and nature. By focusing on your breathing and footsteps, you can improve your running form and develop a better connection with your body. This awareness can enhance your overall running experience and help you learn more about your physical and mental capabilities.
Additionally, running without music can be motivating in a different way. Music can sometimes be off putting. By eliminating distractions, you can better focus on your goals and challenge yourself to push your limits. This will allow you to become more resilient and mentally strong.
Finally, embracing the sounds of nature and your environment while running can create a more holistic experience. With each stride, you have the opportunity to deepen your appreciation for the world around you and find motivation in the simplicity and beauty of running in silence.