Our lives have become inundated with technology – so much so that we're often checking our devices from the moment we wake up (iPhone alarm anyone?) to the moment we go to bed. Technology can feel downright invasive and sometimes you just need to get away from it all.
Fortunately, there are ways to unplug short of being able to visit a remote island or a mountaintop without cell service. After all, we all need a few moments, even it's just an hour or so, away from the buzzing and dinging of notifications. If you’re looking for that moment of respite but don’t know where to start, we’ve got a suggestion: Try to unplug during a run. Here’s how.
If you're training with music every day, going cold turkey might be a bit much. Instead, why not try a few minutes at the beginning or end of your run without music and just see how it feels. At first it might feel a bit weird to hear the sound of your feet and your breathing instead of the bass coming through your headphones. Over time though, if you are able to wean yourself off the music, you might just find that your mind wanders to some of the most interesting places and that your run actually has a soundtrack of its own: the bullfrog down by the pond early in the morning, the crunch of the gravel under your shoes, the wind …
Learn to Set Some Boundaries
If your phone isn't with you, it can't bother you, right? Learn to set boundaries with bosses, coworkers and friends so that you can actually carve out some “me” time. So many of us end up feeling bad when we want to or try to take some personal time. If this sounds familiar, start setting sound boundaries by gently letting the people in your life know that you'll be trying something new and that they can support you by not expecting an immediate response when you're running.
Make it Social
Before there were text messages and Snapchat, there were actual face-to-face conversations. How about bringing some of that human interaction back into your run? Agree on the course ahead of time if you like, or let one person lead and the other person follow. It's a great way to pass the time and the miles as well as get to know another human being on a deeper level. When you're running and laughing, chances are you won't even miss the music you usually listen to. If it feels too extreme for everyone to go without a watch, designate one person to keep track and then switch off the timing duties every run. Can't meet up with another human? Take your pup instead!
Ditch Your Garmin
If the thought of doing this sounds impossible, I get it. I have the Garmin Forerunner 735XT and it's probably the most important training tool that I own. It gives me pretty much all the data I could want and then some: distance, pace, time, calories, heart rate, etc. And yet sometimes all that data starts to feel like just another spreadsheet. When I find myself checking the numbers more often than enjoying the run, that's when I know I need a little breather from my GPS. It's not a full-blown breakup, just a couple days is often all I need to reset.
Focus on Your Effort
Do you know what it feels like to run by feel? Sounds pretty foreign,right? In the days before GPS, however, if you ran with anything, it was just a basic wristwatch. Before that, the only indicator of your performance might have been a stopwatch held by a coach who shouted out your times as you ran by. Before we had all these personal ways to track our own performance, many trained by feel. How hard is your breathing? How difficult is your perceived exertion? Though it's not something that can happen overnight, with some practice, you will over time get better at learning to run by feel.
Treat Yourself to Some New Scenery
If you've been using music or other technology to distract you from the run, shake things up a bit. Head out to a new trail or go for a run along the beach. Anything to put some spark back into your run. You might just find that instead of looking down at your watch (which you've left in the car) your eyes are focused on the breaking waves or the roots on the singletrack underneath your feet and you're actually enjoying yourself rather than counting down the minutes until it's over.
Put It in a Pack
Carrying your phone for safety reasons? Totally understandable, especially if you're somewhere new, coming back from an injury or just wanting a little added security. Instead of holding it in your hand or wearing it on your arm, how about keeping your phone tucked in a pack and only pulling it out in an emergency? There are some really great lightweight running packs out there and most of them also offer hydration solutions so you get two benefits in one: peace and quiet on the run and improved hydration.
Learning to cue in to our bodies and run by feel is a great way to avoid an injury. By tuning in to our effort and the subtle signals that our bodies are giving us, rather than relying on technology to do so, we can not only improve our running, but run injury-free. Though completely cutting technology out of our running lives might be a bit extreme, with some effort you might be able to find better balance and possibly even learn to like running without it.
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