A Liberating 'Naked' Run


By: , SparkPeople Blogger
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By SparkPeople member Jamie Berube

I feel naked if I run without my ipod and Garmin. I rely on Lady Gaga and Usher to push me through my first mile. The beats of Kanye and Jay Z help to quicken my stride as I get into the groove.The numbers obsessed part of me can't help but peek down at my Garmin Forerunner every five minutes to see my mile splits and distance.

But it hasn't always been this way.

The first time I went for a "run" I was 19. Garmins hadn't been invented and iPods were a lawyer's kid's luxury. I was happy with my mixed CDs and a Discman. Four years later and these gadgets are as essential to a run as my legs themselves. Dependency? Maybe a little.

However, there are days when I need my run to accomplish one thing: quiet the noise inside my head. This can't be done with "Poker Face" on repeat.

Being more interested in negative splits and distance rather than my organic movement along the roads of the So Cal suburbs makes my run feel tense and taut. For me, this adds to the noise inside my head.

Work has been rough lately. I'm a social worker which demands more than I have to give sometimes. On a Thursday evening I came home and needed to run. I cared nothing about how far or fast I went, I knew I just need to go.

I spread a smear of almond butter on a banana and chugged a cup of ice water before I headed out.

I popped my ear buds in and hit the pavement with a half hour until sunset. As I picked up my feet I struggled with the heaviness of the first quarter mile. The dimness of the dinnertime sky coupled with the dropping temperatures of nightfall would normally have dissuaded me out of my sneakers and back onto the couch. But I was invigorated. After five minutes I had a "Forrest Gump" moment where, figuratively speaking, I felt like the braces broke off my legs and I was freed to really run. I felt good and strong. Mostly though, I felt free.

I didn't expect this. After-work exercise rarely feels good and fun for the first ten minutes before the endorphins kick in.

How could this have been? What did I do differently?

I looked down at my wrist and noticed I never hit "start" on my Garmin. I picked up the face of my iPod and saw nothing. I never turned on my music. I hadn't even thought of it until that moment.

I realized I didn't need Kanye to power me through the next mile. I couldn't have cared less about my pace. I was satisfied with the quiet. No pressure, no distraction, just my ponytail and me moving through the breeze.

Lost in the warm peach glow of the West coast sunset before me as I turned the corner toward home, I found the nakedness of no music or Garmin to be liberating. It was a kind of Zen.

"How was your run?" My husband asked as I walked through the door.

"Good…" I answered. "Really good."

My answer didn't faze him as he slaughtered zombies on xbox. I didn't expect it to. How could I adequately communicate the feeling of Zen anyway?

I took off my earbuds and tucked my Garmin away. Maybe I'd bring them on my next run. Or maybe I'd be OK with the nakedness of just my ponytail and me, moving through the wind, quiet and free.

About the author: I am a recent transplant to Southern California where I work as a social worker and freelance writer. I married a relentless Chicago Cubs fan and love of my life almost two years ago in Florida, where I grew up, before I became a California girl. I enjoy reading, writing, running, vegetarianism, funfetti cake and Forrest Gump. I truly believe in giving peace a chance.

Ever have an "A-Ha" moment while exercising? What was it?

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    I read your post just when I started my "Learn to Run" program. I now do my "homework" trail running, because of your post, I don't use my iPod. Thank you. LOL-now I hear good things-the breeze, trees creaking, geese, dogs barking. But I also manage to hear some bigger animals that are way to close for my comfort and some really big trees swaying, ha ha ha. Today, I'm not sure what I heard, but it made me run faster. - 7/29/2011   9:30:42 PM
    I'm running in the Pocatello Marathon in Pocatello, ID!! - 5/27/2011   3:28:47 PM
  • 62
    I also love running "naked" as I love listening to the sounds of the world around me when I run. However on longer runs, I do often like my music and my garmin. Depends the mood and the reason for the run. Keep running. - 5/24/2011   4:55:49 PM
  • 61
    I have just had a similar experience -- I am normally completely lost without my Polar heartrate monitor/calorie counter and my ipod, but lately I've been working out sans equipment. I found that I actually push myself a bit harder and go a bit longer without them! And I feel invigorated after solving the problems I've accumulated throughout the day. - 5/23/2011   10:08:02 PM
  • 60
    I love a quiet run. When I first started running I was always "naked". I do enjoy music when running, but every once in a while the music I want to hear is my breathing and the sound of my feet hitting the road. It helps clear your head of all the noise you hear all day long. - 5/23/2011   12:50:47 PM
  • DAWN0237
    i too started running with music.(cd player) it kept my mind off what my legs were doing and helped me though my training.i graduated up to an older model ipod my kids got me for mothers day one year. it was nice -only thing was the life of the battery was dying a slow death...so many a times I'd start out with music and end up without.so yes i found i can run w/o, and it is so nice . this year i got a newer one but i don't feel like i need it all the time. i enjoy it mostly on the treadmill.i find it motivating , it keeps my mind off the numbers and the lack of scenery.(tm is in the basement) sat. i ran on a bike trail and i could hear the croaking bullfrogs..soo cool - 5/23/2011   9:08:05 AM
  • 58
    I love this blog. It is so true. There is always a point that I get to in my work out that I just feel at peace with myself. I know that when I get there I am getting all the stress out. I just need to work on getting there more often. - 5/22/2011   10:58:57 PM
    I got 4 gold medal yesterday!! - 5/22/2011   12:35:44 PM
    I think this is very true. I used my ipod as well and have been without it for a few weeks and I feel that I do not need it anymore. - 5/22/2011   11:54:10 AM
  • 55
    I love this blog! And thanks for making me think about my own 'aha' moment. I think I'll blog about mine, too. :-) - 5/21/2011   2:57:39 PM
    Today is my track meet. I'm doing the 3000, 1500, & 800 meters!! - 5/21/2011   10:03:10 AM
  • 53
    Love this blog. I miss the ocean, Redondo, Manhattan and Hermosa Beach, not to mention all those Pacific Coast drives! I have lakes and rivers nearby but nothing beats the ocean! - 5/21/2011   12:42:53 AM
  • 52
    I liked the article despite the misleading title that almost made me skip it. I think to each his or her own. Some want or need music or whatever; others don't and it is all good.

    I have severe tinnitus, so I NEVER have silence. When the tinnitus is severe, music with headphones is a lifesaver (or sanity-saver). I also need music in the late summer and fall, to drown out the intolerable, incessant buzzing of the cicadas!! I live in an urban area and adore the sounds of traffic over the nature sounds on the multi-purpose path nearby. Different strokes for different folks. It's way cool that some folks have enjoyed going without the electronics and find that more enjoyable.

    My grandmother used to like to do her housework naked (she said it made her feel liberated and let her skin get air) , so the title actually rather frightened me. I am SO glad I never walked in on Grandma! - 5/20/2011   4:28:44 PM
  • NJ_HOU
    negative classist comment -- get a life
    iPods were a lawyer's kid's luxury. - 5/20/2011   1:28:10 PM
  • 50
    I am fairly new to running and I have thought this whole time that I need music to both motivate and keep the run interesting. Well, my last run I decided to only turn on the music if I needed it. I ran the entire 3 miles with my earbuds in my ears but never turned my ipod on! It was one of the best runs I've ever had. I had an opportunity to offer myself encouragement and self-love that I usually don't do. The entire run I would repeat in my mind, "I am strong, I am fit, I am beautiful." By the end of my run I not only felt great about my run but about myself and my body. I will definitely continue the naked run on a regular basis. - 5/20/2011   12:24:38 PM
    Most of my running routes are near streets with pretty regular light traffic, so the music covers up traffic noise more than natural sounds. However, I went running with my 8yo the other day, and he wanted to talk almost the entire time. That was definitely detracting from my usual run mindset - but I also enjoyed his company. And I guess it gave me a chance to do the "talking" exertion test, which I can't do when I run alone. :^) - 5/20/2011   11:29:25 AM
  • 48
    If I had looked down and noticed my garmin was not turned on, i would have felt instant dispair! How can I know how far I went or how well I did if I don't have that thing on? Running without music is no biggie to me anymore. Had to do it when my iPod died on a run once. And I liked it so I kept going without it. But the Garmin??? Nah, not so much. - 5/20/2011   10:48:12 AM
  • 47
    Love it. Very inspiring, thank you for sharing your experience! - 5/20/2011   10:27:56 AM
  • 46
    Aw, I was expecting an article about literally running naked...maybe shoes and a bra though. - 5/20/2011   10:18:08 AM
  • 45
    I don't use an Ipod or Garmin. I listen to what I call, God's Ipod - the birds, the wind, the rustling of leaves, the rain. By not wearing an Ipod I am more alert to the sounds and sights of nature. During one run, what at first sounded like a deer in the woods ended up being two fox pups playing and chasing each other, what an awesome sight that was! I have seen some of the most spectacular sights of nature while running and I honestly believe that I would not have seen these had I been plugged into and distracted by an Ipod. Plus, I know I need to be 100% alert because car and truck drivers aren't always. - 5/20/2011   8:48:00 AM
  • 44
    Amen, sister, amen. I often run with HRM but never with music. Can't handle all that input; feet, legs, breathing, cars, scenery, etc. I prefer to hear the sound of the road beneath my feet and my own breathing. - 5/20/2011   8:19:00 AM
  • 43
    I wrote a blog on 5/07 that touched on the idea of "unplugging". It happened after I had been out of commission for 4 weeks due to an injury. Since I didn't know if I was going to be able to run more than 10 feet, I left all the toys at home during that first tentative run. It was a wonderful experience; I did a Half Marathon without aid of artificial entertainment and I plan on doing that from now on! - 5/20/2011   6:03:55 AM
  • 42
    I read once that the connection between Forrest Gump and running was they were both "mindless repetition." Forrest could do it because it just came natural to him. I am NOT a runner, so I'd have to put a lot of effort into it since my fat b#%t wasn't made for running. LOL - 5/19/2011   11:37:11 PM
    I used my Ipod when I run alone. I like heavy music. I cant stand that soft suff when I run!! When I'm with a group or a race, I don't use it! www.pjmyrace.com - 5/19/2011   11:12:39 PM
  • 40
    Tuesday AM was my time. The sky was beautiful, the weather perfect for an 8:00 AM bike ride in the retirement community in Florida where I winter. The bell chimes rang out for 8 AM and then there was 15 minutes of the bells chiming patriotic songs. I was at peace. It was beautiful.
    I liked your blog - 5/19/2011   11:00:52 PM
  • 39
    From many of the comments here, I think you have really touched a deep need in peoples psyches with this blog.
    I think getting away from the beats and rythms of music is essential sometimes to restore peace in my frazzled mind!
    But I am currently training for a goal race and pumping helps me get the distances in!
    I schedule time every week with my little family & dog to ramble in nature. - 5/19/2011   8:28:25 PM
  • 38
    LOVE LOVE LOVE this blog!!! And I love the feeling too!!! Never thought to.compare it to Forest!!! Haha! - 5/19/2011   4:34:28 PM
  • 37
    What a nice blog! I used to be very dependent on music for training. However, recently we moved to a neighborhood that doesn't have sidewalks so I have to run on the road. I stopped using music because I was wanting to make sure I heard any signs of cars long before they were upon me. And it's interesting how that decision REALLY changed the dynamic of my running! My running time has become, more than ever, my low-distraction meditation time...and I love that! - 5/19/2011   4:02:39 PM
    Wow, thank you all for the encouraging and kind comments. I am glad to that many of you can relate to valuable the quiet can be during a run. It's great that we can all encourage and support one another in our exercise endeavors.
    If you are interested in checking out my regular blog, I would love for you to stop by and say hello! I'm at www.everydaydolce.com

    - 5/19/2011   3:57:39 PM
    Although I am no where near my goal weight at the moment, I caught the running bug 11 years ago before my kids were born. I now have 3 kids and running is my escape from the everyday. I have to fight to squeeze in this "ME" time. Not to mention it is the only exercise that I can see the physical transformation from exercise. - 5/19/2011   3:49:43 PM
    I have to say, I run with my dog. It's rewarding seeing how happy she is as we trudge along. While music is nice, I often forgo it and listen to everything else instead. - 5/19/2011   12:55:02 PM
  • 33
    I agree - running on your own with no music or electronics can be very liberating! I finished the SP's 'Walk your way to 5k' programme 2 weeks ago and every time I jogged, I did it without any music or anything. In the gym, I rely on music to keep me going but when jogging outside, I like to hear what is around me, such as the birds or to just be aware of any people around. - 5/19/2011   12:38:30 PM
  • 32
    I used to listen to my mp3 player at the gym, but once I began road running in the mornings, I decided it was safest to run on streets without the music. I was worried my longer runs would bore me, but I find that I enjoy listening to my surroundings and letting my head clear in the mornings, and no carrying or fiddling with my mp3 play is one less thing to worry about.

    Sometimes, at work, when I get really focused, I will suddenly notice that I am wearing my headphones, but not listening to anything in them. It always cracks me up when it happens. Sometimes music is needed as a distraction - other times music is a distraction. - 5/19/2011   12:29:03 PM
    Oh yeah! Those were the good old days! Running while trying to hold the CD player flat, so it wouldn't skip!!! - 5/19/2011   12:09:24 PM
  • 30
    I loved this blog and the thought that we can just enjoy the moment and power of exercise withouth the distractions. However, I don't like the teaser headlines on these. Sparkers are smart enough to not need to be duped in with these kind of tactics. - 5/19/2011   11:57:28 AM
  • 29
    Although the title was a bit misleading still a great blog. Thx - 5/19/2011   11:36:42 AM
  • 28
    This is a great Blog,enjoyed reading it,I run on the beach in the morning and I don't use a ipod or any thing,but my self running against the water on the beach listening to the wave and I connect my mind and Body, I feel Like I could go on forever, but I have to stop as soon as the Sun comes up,keep up the good work,and thanks for Sharing. - 5/19/2011   11:34:58 AM
  • 27
    Thanks for the reflection, there have been times I have gotten to the gym to realize my nano is dead.. man that stinks. I don't really care for gym's music so I leave in my earbuds just to cushion out their noise and I begin to reflect on things or concentrate about my movements and make great effort to do moves correctly. It gives me a better workout and I do feel a bit more invigorated when I'm done. - 5/19/2011   11:34:18 AM
  • 26
    Such a wonderful article, makes me want to do my walk NOW. :) - 5/19/2011   11:26:57 AM
  • 25
    I LIKE YOUR STYLE! - 5/19/2011   11:11:21 AM
  • 24
    its amazing the soundtrack life can give us... the sounds and rhythms of nature and even traffic when outside, that 'white noise' sort of sound of the other machines when indoors... I never use anything else... - 5/19/2011   11:07:29 AM
  • 23
    Silence is definitely underrated. - 5/19/2011   10:54:46 AM
  • 22
    I was running on a pretty path the other day w/ my iPod on. I saw so many pretty birds and I was the only one on the trail so i popped out my earbuds to listen to the sounds of nature. It was very freeing. Great blog. Thanks for sharing! - 5/19/2011   10:42:48 AM
  • 21
    Love the blog thank you so much for sharing. I too enjoy to run & my body feels great after the run. - 5/19/2011   10:36:38 AM
    Great story, made get out and run today. - 5/19/2011   10:35:22 AM
  • SASSY183
    Thanks for sharing this with us. Usually when I run it's on the treadmill at the gym and I feel like I need that extra little oomf to get me through the monotony of it. I have said something to my husband about walking or running around the neighborhood, but it's not something he enjoys and he really doesn't want me to go by myself, especially as it starts getting darker. Thank you again so much. - 5/19/2011   10:31:33 AM
  • 18
    My Aha moment was last Sunday, May 15th to be exact. After years of running when I was in highschool and in the Army, I lost my running "ability". After 11 years of not running, I picked it back up and was struggling. Sunday I completed my first 4 mile run without having to stop. I felt great after and realized that I wanted more. I realized that day that I can do this and fell in love with running and with the freedom and clarity it once brought me in my teenage years. - 5/19/2011   10:31:20 AM
  • 17
    Good article- I always run naked! If I'm running outside, I hate missing out on the sounds of my neighborhood, plus, it's safer to be aware of your surroundings. - 5/19/2011   10:25:36 AM
  • 16
    This was great. I used to listen to music everytime, too. I find that at the gym, I need an external something, whether it's an ipod, magazine, or episode of real housewives (I don't have cable, so gym time is the only opportunity I have to watch mind-numbing trash). I've started running naked (or in my case walk/jogging naked) when I'm outside and it's soooo nice. I usually run in one of the historic districts of my area, and when it's just me and the road, I notice archetecture and plantings and the cobblestoned roads. I think crazy, drawn out thoughts. I daydream and plan. It's so relaxing. Glad you enjoyed your run! - 5/19/2011   10:07:06 AM
    I used to only exercise with music, but I just can't do it anymore. running, biking, working out is my time to center myself. There has gotten to be just too much "noise" in this world. My gosh, it wasn't that long ago that we didn't have cell phones and now I am nervous to leave home without it.

    Everyone should take some time to be free and "go naked" - 5/19/2011   9:46:39 AM

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