“It’s all in your head.”

Running without headphones – I’m a big fan. I can’t tell you the last time I wore headphones on a run. Nothing new, I’ve blogged about this before, both why I enjoy it and the benefits of running without headphones – safety, mindfulness, all of it.

Then, this past weekend, a few of us were out for dinner and the topic came up. My bro-in-law seemed less curious about why and more interested in what – as in, what the hell do you do all those minutes if not filling them with music, a podcast, or other noise in each ear.

I started thinking about running without headphones and the different ways I use that time. Typically, I always think about food – what I’m going to eat after my run, obviously. But there are plenty of other things I take the opportunity to do and think about when not filling my head with noise from a device – and you can, too.

From morning runs to evening runs, from runch to race-day, here are three things you can do during each run when you don’t have headphones.


Good conversation with this dude.

Morning Runs
Arguably the most difficult and the most rewarding (for me anyway), the morning run is an opportunity to start off the day in the best way possible. Here’s how skipping headphones helps.

1. Wake up: Quite simply, morning runs without headphones are a chance to wake up in a peaceful, yet energizing way. Take in the fresh air, let the body warm up – and do it all in a calming way, without upbeat music blasting through your ears.

2. Gratitude: There’s something about quiet mornings, birds, and sunrise that has a way to make a person feel grateful. For those who practice daily gratitude (or those who don’t but would like to), the morning run is a great time to be, consciously and intentionally, grateful for another new day.

3. Prioritize: There’s a lot to do every day, right? A morning run is a great opportunity to start with a clear head and prioritize the day.

Evening Runs
After a long day, there are few things in life better than an evening run (for me anyway). Before Abel arrived, I used to look forward to my evening run and I still do on days there’s enough time to bring him along. As running is a big stress coping strategy for me, here’s how doing it without headphones is really beneficial.

1. Unwind: Good days, bad days, let’s be real – every day is filled with some crap. An evening run is a good opportunity to think about the crap once more but then let it go. Because there are more important things in life with which to fill that headspace.

2. Simmer down: Along with letting go of crap, there are plenty of things on any given day that really get to us, to our core. Maybe a coworker did something rude. Perhaps a spouse didn’t put away the laundry. Whether big or small, things get to all of us. Take this time to simmer down and maybe you can let go of that crap, move on, and be happier.

3. Resolve conflicts: Or, if you can’t let go of the crap or it needs to be resolved, think about what you want to say to that person, how you want to show up to address that conflict. Running is seriously the best time to reflect, gather the right thoughts, rehearse the conversation, then be ready to deal with it rationally.

Lunch Runs – Runch
I’m new to running at lunch – runch as I shared in a recent blog. It’s the rarest of all runs (for me anyway) but offers big-time benefits when forgoing headphones.

1. Reprioritize: Similar to the morning run, thinking time during a runch can help to collect one’s thoughts, mid-day now that some of the clutter has been cleared out, and re-prioritize the rest of the workday – because, things come up. Always.

2. After-5 Thoughts: Beyond work tasks, runch is a great time to prioritize those precious evening, off-work hours.

3. Me-Time: Between meetings and coworkers, customers and phone calls, or kiddos and playgroups, most people don’t get much solo, distraction-free time during the day. Runching without headphones to take in a few valuable moments that are just you – think about something or think about nothing. It’s your time.


No headphones meant we heard our friends cheering us on.

Race Day
Perhaps the easiest and most fun day to leave the headphones at home, here’s how no music can enhance the event-day experience, whether a 5k, 10 mile, or full marathon.

1. Talk…to Strangers: When I pace, I love talking with other runners. I love hearing where they’re from, why they’re running, what’s inspiring them, all of it. Sadly, I don’t get to do this with most runners on the course, as most wear headphones. It’s totally cool that most choose to wear headphones but, even when I’m not pacing, I love chatting during a run, for many of the same reasons.

When my friend, Maggie, chose to skip her headphones at Grandma’s Marathon, I loved it because that gave us 4-plus hours of friendship time – not talking the whole way or talking about much at all, really, but just having each other’s ear and attention.

2. Keep On the Goal: Running without headphones is great for keeping a pace and consistent breathing to have the best run. It’s easy to throw off cadence and pace every time a new song comes on – whether the beat is faster or slower – and never really settle into a solid pace and breathing rhythm. Sure, music can motivate, but it’s mindfulness of breath and step that makes for a great run.

3. Be There: There’s a lot to enjoy during a run and being fully present, sans-headphones, is the best way to take it all in.

Why do you run without headphones? What types of thinking do you do?

The comments are all yours so please leave one. Or connect with me @lindsayinreallife on Instagram or @LindsayIRL on Twitter.


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