Run silent. Be bored.

I used to never run more than a mile or two without music. I like a good distraction and loathe boredom.

Before the pandemic plunged the world into chaos in early 2020, I was an avid runner. Never for competition, but I found it to be a great way to decompress after work or kick start my day in the morning. To help with the pain and discomfort of running, I would blast music into my ears for the entire run.

There’s nothing wrong with listening to music during workouts. I love Peloton’s classes with their fun music and upbeat instructors. But lately, I’ve been feeling overstimulated with non-stop entertainment.

Today, we have more access to engaging and addictive content than ever before. Of course, there’s nothing wrong with enjoying some deep movies, fun video games, and beautiful music, but in moderation. Personally, I’ve been feeling a lack of quiet moments throughout my day.

To help combat this, I started journaling in the mornings and trying to spend more time in prayer and meditation. Yet, there was one area of my routine that could use a shake-up. My runs.

Running for me was all about fitness and building speed/strength in my legs. I thought the best way to get there was to blast some upbeat and fast-paced music to help. There is evidence that music can help performance, but generally, you can’t be wearing headphones during a race.

I had taken a few months off running and focused on strength training and cycling. Then, a couple of weeks ago, I signed up for the Jim Beam Urban Bourbon half marathon and started my base training schedule. Day 1 was an easy 5K, and after a long day at work on back-to-back Zoom calls, I decided to throw on my shorts and shoes and go. No music, just the sound of my feet thumping on the road.

It was the first time I’d run without music in a LONG time. It felt like a whole new experience. I felt more focused on form, more aware of my surroundings (obviously with nothing playing in my ears), and more centered and present.

I kept it up for the next few weeks and did my first long run this morning without music for over an hour. The last time I trained for a marathon, I had podcasts going and lengthy playlists full of upbeat music constantly in my ears. So I was interested to see how I would do today.

When I first went out the door, my usual thoughts were flooding in. “ok, back straight,” “lean forward a little,” “make sure your foot is striking under your knees.” Then I settled in a found a good stride to take me through the end of my run. My thoughts cleared; I appreciated the beautiful morning and focused on being present and taking in my neighborhood. Running silent gives me a chance to decompress and process the past week. It allows for creative thinking, new ideas, goals, etc.

If you’re an avid runner, leave the headphones behind the next time you go out on a long run. Just try it. It’s tough for the first few minutes, just you and your thoughts. But once settled in, I’ve found it helps flush out my brain and clear the way for ideas and creative thinking.

I never used to be able to run without some distraction. But, lately, I couldn’t imagine running with anything but silence.

Silence helps our brains process information, decompress, and develop ideas.

Run silent. Be bored.

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Ryan Noltemeyer

Ryan Noltemeyer

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Advertising Account Manager, digital ad strategist, photographer, coffee snob, and runner. Powered by plants. Based in Louisville