The Risks of Running with Earbuds (aka How to Tune Into Yourself Without Tuning Out Everyone Else)

Hunky hubby took my earbuds to work today. We share (almost) everything and taking my earbuds was not a problem, but the moment of panic I felt when I realized that I might not have earbuds for my morning walk, was.

For years, I ran without earbuds. I didn’t want to disconnect from my environment, I reasoned. Besides I’ve got a voice in my head that talks to me the whole way through, it’s a good time to get that stuff out of my system. Most importantly, I felt safer being unplugged and aware of my surroundings.

Over the summer, however, I changed my tune and brought my playlist to the boardwalk. Now I can’t start my run without Macklemore urging me on. Soon I get sucked in: hips sway, shoulders bop and arms wave around to the beat. Once, I slapped a runner coming from behind; another time, I nicked a cyclist. Oops.

This is exactly what happens when I listen to other peoples’ advice. I am so taken by their insight, their wisdom, their experience, that I tend to push my own voice out of the way. Unintentionally, of course. I find myself rationalizing and reasoning my way out of my own instincts, trusting that their brilliance is better than my own. Not realizing how distracted or off-course I am until my inside voice insists on being heard.

That’s when I know it’s time to tune out the other voices and tune into my own (and stop reading Seth Godin’s blog).

Tuning people out to tune into yourself is a dangerous proposition. After all, there are professionals who have spent years researching what you are just looking into, experts whose experience can be incredibly helpful in guiding you on your journey, and people who have been where you are now and can offer you some life-saving (or at the very least, pain-saving) advice. It doesn’t make sense not to listen to them.

Except. That tuning yourself out in favor of listening to other people is an even more dangerous proposition. You get in the habit of shushing yourself and pushing your opinion down to the bottom. You fall out of practice of being able to slow down your thoughts so that you can figure out what you want and what your next steps will be.

Engaging the two is tricky. So I’ve taken a cue from my morning walks. I keep my earbuds in but lower the volume so that I can hear runners approaching from behind. When the coast is clear, I’ll pump up the volume and get my groove on. If needed, I will shut off my music so that I can focus on my breath or my body or whatever requires attention. It’s my way of navigating both worlds so that I can enjoy the sounds without ignoring my own needs.  

Of course, if Classic comes on, all bets are off. I am tuning in, tuning out and tearing up the road. (Riders and runners beware.)

OK, runners, I want to hear from you! Earbuds - pro or con?