I don’t run with music. You cannot use any device in a triathlon, and I am training for an IronMan so I might as well get used to it. Also, as I wrote in my article “The Safety Aspects of Running“, it is safer to run without headsets so that you can be aware of your surroundings, and hear any signs of trouble. So I don’t run with music, EVER and that means I spend many hours just with my thoughts.

Like so many of us, I have a crazy, hectic life and so my training has become my reprieve. I tend to leave everything behind as I get out the door. In my head, while running, I’ve written amazing blog posts, solved many conflicts and had many inspiring ideas. But in truth, I forget half of it by the time I get home. This used to bother me so much that my runs became a mental battle trying to think of specific things and then finding ways to remember them. It became a stressor instead of a relief, and killed the fun for me. In time, I have transformed my run into a meditation of sorts.

I know I will have thoughts, and ideas but I no longer NEED to remember them. I don’t go into a run thinking I need to solve something. Now I know better, and before every run I say something like this:

“I know my head may not remember or learn any lessons, but please let my soul be open to receiving whatever the universe wants to give it” and with that I give myself permission to be totally spontaneous.

run without music beach

IT’S NOT HARD TO LET YOUR THOUGHTS WONDER WHEN THIS IS THE SCENERY ON YOUR LONG RUN

I love to watch my thoughts, and see where they go. Something or someone might come up and that will entertain me for a while. Sometimes it’s a song that comes and sticks in my mind, and sometimes it’s a really annoying one. For example, it could be Queen’s Rhapsody and I begin to sing “Oh, Mamma Mia, Mamma Mia, Mamma Mia let me go…” over and over again. I laugh at myself as I don’t know half the words and I hope I am not singing out loud!

Other times, out of the blue I have an idea for my job, or for my blog and I flush it out. I may not remember the details, but I tend to remember the idea if it comes out that way.

But sometimes things begin to hurt, and the run begins to be tedious and then I have to be proactive regarding entertainment. Don’t laugh, it is taking some courage to share these strategies with you but here is a laundry list of silly yet helpful things I do:

2+2=4+4=8+8=16 … until I can’t count anymore. Then I go to: 3+3=6+6=12+12 …. I am not a numbers person so this gets hard quickly for me taking time to get through each addition.

Army songs … I make up all kinds of songs to the tune of the army marching song, that song the drill instructor sings at boot camp when you are running. At least that happens in the movies! My versions start innocent enough, but they end up R rated with lots of curse words if I am really struggling. As a preschool teacher, I rarely use expletives so they come out here in droves! Here’s a G rated one:

8 miles down and 3 to go,
I can do this for sure,
I am more than half way done,
Finishing will be such fun.
One… two …

They never stay this clean.

Dedication – I dedicate the next mile to FILL IN THE BLANK. It is usually one of my boys or my husband. I think of them, I imagine their smiling faces, their words of encouragement and it immediately brightens my mind frame. I rarely think of the person the entire time, but I use this when I need to feel warm and fuzzy.

Write a speech – I have given wonderful speeches in my head. I have been imaginary valedictorian and I have also been the alumna that returns to guide the young women of a new graduating class. In my mind, I have told stories at The Moth, I have played at Wait Wait Don’t Tell Me, I have been a guest on 60 minutes. My ego goes rampant and I indulge in the self-centeredness of my imaginary accomplishments.

Beats & Mantras. These are self explanatory: step, step, breath, breath, step, step, breath, breath. Or I am strong, I am a runner. I am strong, I am a runner. Over and over and over again.

Inventory: When all else fails I take an inventory before I stop. Do my feet hurt? No. Do my ankles hurt? No. Do my shins hurt? No. Until I get to my head. Most of the time, nothing hurts … its just my head wanting to give up. This inventory helps me hone into the problem: my mind.

Inverted Inventory: I imagine the carbs from my Gu Gel making it into my muscles and giving them some strength. I envision it going through my stomach, leaking to the sides, onto my thighs, my quads, my knees, etc… I imagine a glow and where I see the glow I feel those muscles become warm and energized.

run without music cold

THIS IS ME AFTER A PARTICULARLY LONG AND ROUGH RUN.

So that is me, but I asked my FitFluential and SweatPink Ambassadors (both are online fitness communities) what they did when they ran without music. Their answers are much saner, less cooky, and might be more helpful to you:

Janice from Fitness Cheerleader says she sometimes turns the music off when she needs to tackle a specific problem and works out the solution during a run.

Axel from Iron Rogue says that paying attention to where he is going to step and watching for wildlife is usually entertaining enough for him. Where Tanya from Turtle Pacings says she likes to hear the sounds of nature. Tiffany from Tiffany Jorge says she people watches (I never thought of that!), writes to do-lists, and makes up dance steps in her head.

Many of us listen to the birds and many of us pray. But one thing is for sure: all of us continue to run. Because at least for me, running gives me the space I need to be with myself. A space that is hard to find elsewhere. So where at first I was less than enthusiastic about giving up the music, I now welcome it and enjoy observing where my mind takes me. No headsets in the IronMan? No problem.