The Sound of Silence: Running Without Music During Workouts

Let’s talk about running and music. Many people plug in their headphones before hitting the pavement or treadmill, and for good reasons. Maybe you don’t like running and need some tunes to make it bearable. Or perhaps you feel like you need a push—something to get you through those last few grueling minutes. Music can be a great way to distract yourself, zone out, and forget that your legs are burning and your lungs are on fire. And let’s be honest, who wants to listen to their own heavy breathing?

But here’s the kicker: there are compelling reasons why you might want to ditch the music during your runs, especially in a group class setting. First off, intentionality matters. Running without distractions can help you focus on your form and technique. Hearing your breath can guide you to find a proper pace and stride length, ensuring you’re not overexerting yourself or falling into a sloppy rhythm. Plus, how many times have you wasted precious seconds fumbling for your headphones or grabbing your phone mid-run? Those are seconds you could spend improving your time or focusing on your workout.

Moreover, running with headphones inside the gym is a major no-no. You can’t hear your coach’s cues, which are crucial for avoiding injuries and getting the most out of your workout. And if you’re running outside, not being able to hear your surroundings is a safety risk. Cars, bikes, other runners—you need to be aware of them all to stay safe.

So, what’s the alternative? Mindfulness. Enter Chi Running, a method developed by Danny Dreyer that focuses on running as a mindful practice. Dreyer’s approach encourages alternating between focusing on specific aspects of your form and running without any specific intention. Here’s how you can integrate this into your runs:

  1. Focus on your form: Spend one minute concentrating on your posture. Imagine a string pulling you up from the top of your head. Keep your shoulders relaxed and your core engaged.
  2. Body scan: For the next minute, do a body scan. Notice how your feet hit the ground, aiming for a midfoot strike and trying to land softly. Check in with how your body feels—are there any areas of tension or discomfort? Adjust your form as needed to stay relaxed and efficient.
  3. Run without intention: After a minute of focusing on form or doing a body scan, spend the next minute running without any specific focus. Just enjoy the movement and let your body do what it naturally does.
  4. Repeat: Continue alternating between these focused and relaxed minutes throughout your run. This method helps maintain awareness without becoming overwhelming.

In addition to Dreyer’s method, here are some practical mindfulness strategies:

  1. Engage your core: Use your core muscles to support your movement. This helps prevent injuries and makes your running more efficient.
  2. Breathe deeply: Focus on your breath. Inhale deeply through your nose, filling your lungs, and exhale fully. This not only helps you maintain a steady pace but also keeps you grounded in the moment.

We know it’s uncomfortable. There’s something undeniably motivating about running with music, and there are certainly times when it’s warranted and even amazing. But here’s the thing: the vast majority of runs in CrossFit workouts are 5 minutes or less. You can handle 5 minutes of silence! Embrace the discomfort, listen to your body, and focus on your breathing. You might just find that running without music isn’t so bad after all—and you’ll become a stronger, more intentional runner for it.