Surprising Benefits of Running Unplugged

male runner

I've been a runner for over 20 years, and for the first decade the only gear I carried with me on runs was my trusty Timex stopwatch. When it came to tracking mileage, I either assumed I was running 8:00 miles (i.e., a 40-minute run equals 5 miles), or I painstakingly mapped out a route on GMAP Pedometer ahead of time.

But gradually, I upgraded to a Garmin (and then a more tricked-out one) and started carrying my phone and all of its accompanying entertainment with me. I love having my heart-rate data and favorite true crime podcasts as long-run company, but lately I've been craving a good sweaty run where I can tune into my own thoughts and body. So on occasion I go on what I call a "naked run." Don't worry—I'm still fully clothed!—but I leave all of the electronics behind.

At first, it felt weird. And I admit, a little boring. My own breathing just doesn't compare to a Spotify playlist! But now that I run naked at least once a week, I've grown to really like it. It's my time to tune in to how my body is feeling or get lost in my own thoughts. If you've never left your devices behind, it might be time to give it a try. 

Benefits of Leaving Your Watch at Home

You won't know your elevation gain or exact pace per mile, but maybe that's a good thing. Run with a naked wrist, and it's almost guaranteed you'll be more in-tune with your body. Without external information, the only option is to run by effort. Without worrying about pace, it might be possible to run your recovery days truly easy (I know I'm guilty of trying to hit a certain pace, even on recovery runs!).

Running produces the "feel good" chemicals serotonin and dopamine, but if you're constantly looking at your watch, that will likely negate the stress relief that running can provide. Knowing how fast you're running isn't necessarily a bad thing, but it's probably a good idea to ask how you're internalizing the data. Does it motivate you? Or is your self-worth becoming dependent on the splits you see?

Why You Should Hit Pause on Music and Podcasts

Leaving any potential distractions at home can be a safer way to run (hello traffic!), but it can also help hone your mental game. Running can feel like a slog sometimes, and it takes some practice to move past those challenging spots. If you're able to summon up some inner strength and stay positive, it will pay dividends on race day.

Plus, if 100% of your attention is on your run, you'll be able to tune in to your biomechanics. Whether it's keeping a neutral foot strike or increasing leg turnover, proper form can require a lot of mental energy. Leave the tunes behind to give it your full focus.

Even if you decide running unplugged isn't for you, it might be worth it to challenge your relationship with devices. Can you skip the watch on easy runs? Would a race experience be more fulfilling if you turned off the music and focused on the crowd instead? Running unplugged doesn't have to be an all or nothing experience, so if you're hesitant, start small. You just might find yourself enjoying your own company and maybe even recovering better!

Need more convincing? 5 Reasons to Leave Your Gadgets at Home on Your Next Run

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