I have made a discovery recently: I like running without music. Before I started running, I visited a lot of online forums where other beginning runners congregated. I heard the same thing over and over: running is boring on its own, so you’ve got to have music to take your mind off it. Knowing that surely I too would find running boring, I brought my music with me on day one of my quest to become a runner. Over the following months, I changed up my playlist, deleting songs that didn’t inspire me to push harder and adding new songs as I found them. I had one criteria for picking songs for my play list: the song must build up to a climactic key change. I find that when the song is building up to the climax, it pushes me to run harder, and then when it gets to that climactic key change, it puts a huge smile on my face and I suddenly enjoy what I’m doing. I don’t think I have an explanation for that, everyone needs to find their own warm fuzzies, right? Since I’m a musical theatre nerd, I had a wealth of songs with climactic key changes to choose from. All was well… for a while.
It turned out the songs had a drawback. I knew that most songs on my play list were about 3 minutes long. That meant I was acutely aware of exactly how long I had been running for. When trying to run for even just half an hour, monitoring your progress in 3 minute increments makes it seem like an eternity. I switched up my playlist and only listened to really long songs, and that helped a bit, but I found myself getting bored of listening to the same song for 8 or 9 minutes. So I tried something revolutionary. I went for a run without my music.
I anticipated that I would get bored, that without music I’d hear my breathing get heavier and be too aware of how winded I was getting, that I’d look down at my GPS watch every minute willing time to pass more quickly. None of that happened. Instead, my mind wandered off to distant places. I thought about what I was going to make for dinner, pondered deep philosophical questions, thought about people I’d fallen out of touch with and wondered where their lives had taken them, all sorts of things. Before I knew it, I looked down at my watch and I’d already been running for 15 minutes!
I listened to music when I started running because all I heard from other beginning runners is that running is horribly boring and they’d never be able to do it if they weren’t listening to music. I went in with the wrong attitude. I expected it to be a chore that I’d need a crutch to struggle through, but found that freeing myself of the crutch allowed me to clear my mind and enjoy the experience so much more. I know that there are plenty of people out there who are the opposite of me, who have tried both and decided they prefer running with music. But I wonder how many beginning runners out there go in with the attitude that I did – that running is going to be so unenjoyable that they’ll only get through it if they bring their iPod. So I encourage everyone to always go into new things with a positive attitude, whether it be a new exercise routine or a new budgeting routine. If you go in with the expectation that it’s going to be unenjoyable, it probably will be.