Ask the Expert: Should I Run “Unplugged”?

Can running without music really help you run faster and better?

Running without a device can help you focus on the present moment, rather than thinking about stressors. Sunset run image via Shutterstock.

Sunset run image via Shutterstock.

There are proven benefits to running with music, but lately there have also been reports that running without music or pacing apps can be better for your mind, body, speed, and pace. So which is it— are there really benefits to running unplugged, or should you hang on to your ipod? We asked Coach Dan Flynn, a runner himself and a coach at Regis College, if running unplugged can really help you run faster and better.

Can running without devices help you run better?

There’s a lot that people can be thinking about while they run. As a running coach, I teach people that there are things that they should think about during running— like body checks, where they locate tight areas in their body and relax those areas to use that energy for running instead— that will help them become better and faster. If people listen to music, they are often distracting themselves from the experience and are not tuned into their bodies. So yes, you’ll be better focused without your devices.

I think that programs that track your speed have a place, but there’s also a lot to be said for having an internal pacer where you understand if you’re running too fast, too hard, or too much. A lot of times, people run too hard all the time. They can’t run easy when they’re being pushed to run fast paces all the time as is mandated by their running app.

So the short answer is yes— you should always try to carve out time in your day to work on you and to release stress without your devices. Running is a place where you get to be by yourself and do something for yourself. If you’re held to emails on your phone and taking calls and texts during your runs, you’re going to trip and fall while you run, you’ll hurt yourself, or you’ll probably run incorrectly. Plus, you won’t escape the stress.

The longer answer is that there are studies that say “these 100 people won’t run at all without music.” I’d rather have someone running with music than not at all, obviously. If running with music or tracking your pacing on an app is going to encourage fitness, then by all means, use it. But at some point, people need to drop the music and tune into their bodies. That’s what running is about anyway.