Tunes Or No Tunes While Hitting The Trail?

Tunes Or No Tunes While Hitting The Trail?

With so many music “playlist” suggestions for runners looking to help catapult their energy, how do you know what works for you and gets you super motivated? Most runners already have their routine tracks ready to blast depending on how long they plan on trekking and others have diverse playlists for different races and types of runs. Yes, music is the ultimate ingredient that keeps the running flame ignited! The beats are pounding and the rhythms are giving you ammunition to push forward…

Wait – stop the music!

Have you ever thought about ditching that gadget on your next trek and simply running to the sounds of nature or your own rhythmic breaths? Have you ever considered leaving your ears open to your surroundings as you trek through a park or along a nature trail? It may seem out of sorts to try not listening to music at all during a run. Sure, most sentiments of the running community echo the same thoughts – running without music is like swimming without water!

Music certainly provides a distraction from the world around you, but some environments can provide a soothing alternative and listen to yourself can be a refreshing change as well. What’s the real difference between tuning in and tuning out during your run? Try it and you’ll see!

What Type Of Environment Are You Drowning Out?

When giving your ears a break from the beats while running, consider where you’re choosing to take in your environment.

  • The urban runner: You may not have the best time running through city streets with high decibel noises around you including traffic, people yelling, and the painful sounds of construction site machinery with its industrial clatter. When you don’t have a choice and can’t escape from running through busy city streets, music may save your ears from the stress of honking horns and foul-mouthed passersby.
  • The suburban runner: Plenty of small-town residential roads can be a peaceful place to run and, for the most part, aren’t harsh on the senses. One of the best places to try trekking without music could be the quiet streets of your neighborhood, as you may find yourself paying more attention to your surroundings and the sounds of nature (if it’s not frigid outside and the birds are still chirping). If you normally run along residential blocks and plug your ears in order to ignore what’s going on around you, this could be a chance to open your attention span and notice more details about your environments.
  • The waterfront/nature trail runner: Those lucky enough to live close to the shore – or even by a beach – may have the best background for tuneless runs! Many times when we put music on, we switch ourselves “off” from the world when we have the advantage of taking in the beautiful views and sounds right in front of us. Sometimes, listening to the waves crash in the distance or the lapping of water can be more therapeutic and cleansing than blasting music. Nature paths, if they aren’t crowded with other runners, can provide a sense of “zen running,” opening your ears to more peaceful sounds.

Listen To Yourself

How many times have you gone for a power run and heard that one song that sets the tone for your energy? Maybe you’re listening to angry rock music or you prefer “liberating” pop beats. Melodies play an important role in how our energy is focused, but when your ears are free of influential factors, you’re open to noticing more traits about yourself, your thought processes and your body.

Some studies note that listening to yourself breathe as you run can change your form and focus. When a runner feels like their cardio is “off,” it could be a good time to turn the music off too! Channeling each inhaled and exhaled breath allows you to keep a steady pace and fill your lungs with more a focused rhythm. If you’re getting into your favorite song and it “fires you up,” your breathing may not be on course with the pace of your movements.

Another way tuneless runs can get you to “listen to yourself” is by eliminating the mental distraction factor. Without the influence of music blasting in your headspace, you may be better able to talk to yourself, think about tasks you need to tend to and really have a focused conversation with yourself in an open environment. This method of running could help you achieve a sense of “self-therapy” along the way.

The Safety Factor

There are a lot of racing competitions where organizers prohibit runners from plugging up their ears during while trekking the course. The number 1 reason: safety! Whether those particular races loop into or around traffic – or through active neighborhoods  – their organizers harp on one major issue and that’s making sure runners are paying attention to their surroundings. Depending on which of the environments you love to train along, running on busy city streets should be one of the places you run without your tunes (despite the unpleasant industrial noises – better safe than sorry!).

For those of you who are night runners, the safety factor also plays a big part in tuning out. We’re less likely to be aware of what’s going on around us when it’s nearly – or completely – pitch black outside and our ears are distracted by music.

Music can distract you from seeing and hearing oncoming traffic as well as those running/biking etc behind you.

The biggest fear most female runners don’t want to face is being attacked when they’re alone on a run. While it’s safer and may seem obvious not to run in the dark when you’re alone altogether, if your run is ending just as the darkness takes over, you still may want to put away the earbuds and perk up at attention. The sooner you’re aware that something in your environment isn’t right or someone sketchy is in the vicinity, the faster you can try to escape a potentially dangerous situation.

Knowing when it’s safer to keep your ears open is key to enjoying that run and avoiding a dangerous situation. No matter what reason you have for attempting a “tuneless trek,” give it a test run and see – or hear rather – how you perform differently. Your environment could be music to your ears!


  1. Active: Why You Should Ditch the Tunes While Training
  2. Runner’s World: Should You Listen to Music While Running?
  3. Runner’s Connect: How to Breathe When Running