Of all the benefits of exercise, perhaps one of the most notable is that it’s a great way to productively work off stress and frustration. Something that often accompanies an intense workout? Some equally explosive music. Not only does this elevate your existing mood—it can also distract from the reality of a difficult workout, particularly when it comes to running.
But have you ever considered going out for a run without your headphones (yes, intentionally!). This is a concept called “running naked” and it’s actually not as crazy as it seems. On an episode of the mbg podcast, positive psychiatrist Samantha Boardman, M.D. discusses how she gets motivation to approach her workouts—and running “naked” happens to be one of her top tips.
Why should you try running “naked?”
It’s so easy to get lost in your head and become distracted from the scenery and the environment you’re running in, and exercising without headphones is a great way to ground yourself into a meditative state while you hit the pavement. “I really think that it helps to hear your footsteps,” explains Boardman. “If you’re running outside, you notice the world around you and [are] in that head space.”
Certainly music can help to hype you up while exercising, but really being able to harness motivation from within is a powerful thing. “There are many people who will tell you listening to music is a performance enhancing drug—like, really that is what gets people moving and past that wall that they might hit,” explains Boardman. “I think it’s such a powerful force when you’re doing it with a friend or you’ve got some kind of goal in mind that you set for yourself.”
Setting goals for your training, paired with running “naked” allows you to push through obstacles using your own resolve, meaning you’re relying less on outside sources and more on yourself for mental fortitude. “Even if you’re timing yourself, we can [employ] some of those mental contrasting techniques, thinking, ‘OK what exactly is the obstacle in front of me that I’m facing? And then what is the action? What is my plan that I’m going to take?,’” recommends Boardman of reframing your mindset.
Pairing that with a mantra.
If you’re running without headphones and are solely using your own mind to push you forward, Boardman notes that it can be helpful to focus on a positive mantra instead of getting stuck in the thought cycle that your run is too hard or you’re not going to be able to finish it.
She explains that she knows a woman who runs with the mantra “I am at peace” in order to create a state of calm that can then be leveraged into pushing through the workout. “Really [ask] people to tap into that if they’re making a mental health change,” she suggests of how to make the most of your workout both physically and mentally. “How do you tap into somebody’s true motivation?”
On some days it may feel essential to run with music (I know I certainly feel that way). However, next time you go for a run, consider going distraction-free. Allowing yourself to check in with nature and focus on your personal fitness goals can be an empowering way to recognize that you don’t need music—or really any outside motivation, to thrive.