Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Turn the Music OFF.

I love music. I have about a hundred “favorite” songs, I’m usually the first in line for karaoke and I’m even learning how to play the ukulele. You get it. I. Love. Music. I’m even passing along my love for bad pop music and spontaneous dancing to my kiddo. Proud Mama.

When it comes to running, my musical tastes range from hillbilly mountain music (for the long, slow, “out for the day” kind of run) to The Chili Peppers (for when I have the urge to play air drums) to Whitney Houston (anytime, anywhere).

As much as I love belting out Katy Perry’s California Gurls while bouncing down the trail, I cannot ignore the flaws of running with music. I used to be strictly anti-earphones while running, choosing to be “One with Nature.” All Yoga-Zen and stuff. Then one day, I was feeling particularly bouncy and decided to turn on the tunes. Just this once. Fast-forward about six months later and I’ve shamelessly joined the zoned-out flock of loyal “Must Run with Music-ers,”….Whoops.

I headed to the park yesterday for a nice little six-miler with my headphones on and my phone plugged into my running app. About a mile into my trek, I had a sudden and acute sense that I needed to get those earbuds out of my head. I suddenly felt irritated by the noise, longing for the sounds of nature punctuated by the baseline of my feet hitting the dirt. Pipe down, Taylor Swift. I’m running here. I flipped off the tunes, tuned into Now.

Ahh, that’s better.

Running with music is fun. I love it. It’s also totally addicting and should be used with caution. Coming off a long stretch of total indulgence, it’s time to leave the headphones at home; time to reconnect with nature and stuff. There are lots of reasons to unplug. Here are a few of them.
Nice little reminder, Reedy Creek along the James


Don’t be that guy. 
A few weeks ago when I was jogging on the trail, I came up behind a poky man-runner that I needed to pass. From about 10 yards back, I gave the usual “To your left,” warning. He didn’t budge. I said it again (a little louder); he was oblivious. Damn headphones. By the time he realized I was passing him, I was about 2 inches from his face. He jumped like 5 feet in the air, almost stumbled down a steep embankment and then gave me a dirty look as I passed by. As if!

If you’re running down the street sans headphones (looking fierce, of course), and some guy yells “Nice legs!” from his car window, you’ll want to hear it. You’ll predictably roll your eyes and seem to be appropriately offended, but deep down you’ll feel like a hot runner chick. I’m right. I promise.

See Ya.
I can’t tell you how many people I’ve passed in races and out on the trail who stopped running to mess with their phone, rearrange their uncomfortable earphone cord or wait for their running app to restart. I, too, have fallen victim to this running-with-music trap; it’s totally obnoxious. I listen to Pandora most of the time, and sometimes I’ll begin my run thinking I’m in the mood for some No Doubt radio, only to become totally annoyed by Gwen Stephani about 3 miles in. I stop, dig my phone out of its pocket, unlock it, wait for my app to open, change the station (then change the station again).  I finally decide on a little Van Halen (rock on!), put my phone away and hit the dirt. Then I realize my Nike Running app has conveniently paused itself. Great. By the time this whole floundering event has unfolded, I’ve lost about 5 minutes, along with most of my trail-runner dignity. Pitiful.

Kids sound awesome.
I recently came up on a sweet little trio: a dad and his kids collecting sticks and exploring in the woods. I heard the little boy laughing. It wasn’t a regular “oh that’s kinda funny,” sort of laugh. It was a deep-down belly-laugh that kids enjoy so easily and so much more often that adults seem to. It was the kind of laugh that found its way to every inch of his body. This kid’s toenails were laughing. I was about 12 miles into a 14-miler, and things weren’t going that great. I was cranky. Hearing the boy’s laughter smacked me out of my funk instantly; I found myself laughing with him as I jogged past. He looked up from his dirt pile, gave me a huge mile and waved, “Hey, fast runner lady!”
Those last 2 miles flew by. Thanks, kid.

Crickets, frogs and other critters.
Maybe it’s because I grew up playing with slimy insects and catching bugs, but the sound of crickets and bullfrogs makes me happy. Really happy. When I ditch the earphones, the first thing I always notice is the sound of hundreds of critters, loyally keeping me company out on the trail. I love those guys.

Dudes with Axes.
You don’t need Pearl Jam distracting you if you happen to come across a guy in the woods carrying a large axe. I once crossed paths with a large mountain man who happened to be wielding a giant ax-saw-mallet-combo tool. After almost peeing my pants and trying desperately to remember my old kickboxing moves, I realized he was a friendly park volunteer just doing some trail maintenance. False alarm. But still.

Crutches Are for Sprained Ankles.
Face it. Music is a crutch for runners. It gives you a boost, helps you maintain whatever pace you’re aiming for that day and keeps your mind occupied during your run. That’s great and all, but what happens if you forget your music? Or a race doesn’t allow headphones? Or your battery dies? Suddenly, you find yourself at a completely self-imposed disadvantage. You don’t need a crutch.


I’m not suggesting that we should go all anti-headphones all the time. That’s crazy. I’m just saying headphones are best saved for jaunts on the treadmill (barf!) or for avoiding conversations with people you don’t like. Or both at the same time.

Try leaving the music off every now and then. You might like the crickets’ concert more than you’re expecting.