With the bulk of the racing season over, it’s time to give yourself a running gift that doesn’t cost a thing. What is it? A naked run. No, not one that encourages frostbite on your most tender parts, and causes your neighbor to draw his blinds.
A naked run is one where you leave all your devices—music, GPS and anything else electronic that you don’t need for safety or communication—at home. If that sounds like torture to you (How will I know if I’m running a 9:45 mile, not a 9:30 or 10:00 one? How will I be motivated without Taylor Swift?), you owe it to yourself to try it.
Why? Because when you run naked, you tune into your body. Not into your music or your numbers, but into you, the complex machine that actually does the work. Your body actually talks to you during every step of the run, but more often than not, you’re too preoccupied to listen.
Without distractions, you notice your muscles that are firing, your breath that going in and out, your mind that is controlling the whole effort, your footfalls that become your rhythm.
You soak up and remember what an easy run truly feels like, and how labored your breath becomes during a tempo run. When it’s race time, knowledge can guide you much more capably than a GPS can.
Before you break out into a nervous sweat, here are a few ways to slowly step away from the gadgets:
—Lose one piece at a time. If you simply must have your newest playlist, take your tunes. But leave your GPS at home and notice how that feels.
—Run a familiar route to mitigate the data loss. You likely already know that your park loop, from beginning to end, is 3.7 miles. So you can still record your mileage manually.
—Downsize a bit. Use a stopwatch instead of a GPS. Take your music, but only listen for the second half of the run. Store your GPS in a pocket and don’t look at it until you’re done running.
—Run with a pal, and focus on being present in your conversation. Worst-case scenario: she can wear a GPS, and give you the readout at the end. (Do your best not to ask for any numbers mid-run!)
Aim to log at least five naked runs in December—and do more if you can handle it. Come January, when you load yourself up again, chances are, you’ll be so pleasantly surprised by your progress, you might just schedule a naked run weekly for all of 2015.
Sarah Bowen Shea and Dimity McDowell are the authors of Another Mother Runner and official contributors to runDisney.