How to Improve Your Running by Tuning Out

When I started running 5km+, it was 2003 and mp3 players were the ‘it’ thing. They conveniently became the ideal running companion for long(er) distance runners of all levels. Then iPods came along and it was a rarity to see someone without ear buds. As my road running distances got longer, one of my biggest motivators to go for a jog was the iPod. Did (or does) this happen to you?

Two years ago as I started trail running, became more diligent with training, and purchased a Suunto sports watch, I noticed a shift in my motivation (read Why I Run). I haven’t had the need to run with music, and the one time I did plug my ears, I couldn’t stand it! I’ve had this conversation with a few runners and find that the longer someone has been running, the less likely they’re to train with music. I hope to encourage existing iPhone & iPod runners to try running without their tech for a week. Let’s do it!

Reasons To Run Without an iPod

  1. Pacing + Breathing: These are two vital things for a runner and music always kept them off balance for me. I tend to run to the beat of the music versus maintaining a pace. I’m also a big believer in long term enjoyment of a sport and listening to your body in terms of what you can handle each and everyday. If your body is not up for a run on a certain day and you’re in tune with it, it’s better not to push it. Yet music encourages me to push harder and ultimately risk injury if my body’s not up for it.
Running in Virgin Gorda

Running in Virgin Gorda

  1. Observing: I don’t think we can engage all of our senses at once, there’s always one or more that overpower the rest. By running without music, a different sense that you hadn’t experienced because it was overpowered can be unleashed. For me, that extra sense led to observing, soaking in, and enjoying my surroundings. Also, with spring and summer finally here, I feel like my dog must feel while running through the Sunnybrook trails – everything smells so fresh, pleasant and new. Experiencing these heightened senses motivates me and make running joyous.


  1. Detaching: My phone is the last thing I put down before I go to bed and the first thing I pick up when I wake up. How about you?    [Insert YES here]    Give yourself a break from all the tech! The weekend long run is what, 3 hours? It feels freeing to disconnect! Within a week, it’ll feel like you own your life a little more than before. You’ll be proud of not only being self-motivated but also self-disciplined.


The only (and last) time I put one ear bud in my ear was while trail running my first marathon, the North Face Endurance Challenge in San Francisco in 2014. I wasn’t prepared for it physically or mentally so, after a really long and never ending hill, I became bored and started questioning my decision to run this distance. To tune out, I tried listening to music hoping it would give me an extra pep in my step. Sorry, Lil’ Wayne, you’re a fun performer but you ruined that one for me completely. I learned my lesson… on the trails, your biggest motivators are around you and your biggest inspiration, is you.

Tune Out to Tune In… To You. 

Never ending hills at ECSCA

Never ending hills at ECSCA


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