Music or Not?


There’s always a bit of controversy about running with headphones. Over be years, I never really gave much of a thought to it, however a recent incident caused me to rethink my decision. Here’s my take on running with headphones.

A few months ago, I was running on a local trail. It was one of the last great weekend mornings before the winter snows arrive, but there were plenty of people out and about. I never gave it a second thought as I put on the headphones and settled into an easy 6-mile run.

I had no sense that things were amiss. I didn’t feel anyone stalking me. I didn’t hear anything. In short, nothing seemed out of place.

Suddenly, a tall man was next to me. As I ran, he put his arm around me. I jumped. I turned and looked. I could see his lips moving but heard absolutely nothing with my phones on.

It was my friend Micah from the Harriers running club. We’ve been pretty friendly over the years and hung out a few times. He wasn’t trying to scare me. He didn’t grab me. And he has no interest in me – he bats for the other team.

But if Micah could get so close without me realizing, was I leaving myself open to attack?

Safety vs Boredom
Like nearly everyone I know, I wear headphones to break up the boredom of long runs. I do fine without tunes for 3-4 miles, but longer runs can be a real chore.

Music motivates me. Carries me through. Gives me something else to think about other than all of the miles.

Wake-Up Call
That morning on the Lake County trail was a wake-up call for me. I said a prayer of thanks that it was Micah, and not someone else. He doesn’t realize how much he scarred me, although he’ll probably read this at some point (hi, Micah!).

Finding Zen
I’ve recently started going for longer runs without headphones. In the process, I’ve realized there is a beauty in the stillness. Listening to the rhythm of my own breath, rather than the music. Hearing the birds call in the trees above my head. There’s a peacefulness out there on the trail that I hadn’t realized existed because I was into my music.

In the future, I’ll be doing more runs without music.

How about you? Do you listen to music while running? Do you unsafe?

Why Join a Running Club (My Top 10 Reasons!)

running people

The more I run, the more I realize that I know nothing about running. As a sport, it’s one of the simplest and purest that exists. It’s just you and your body (and a good pair of running shoes). And despite the marketing claims of companies, you really don’t need any specialized gear.

However, to be really good (or even just to improve), it can’t be a solitary endeavor. We all love that moment in Forrest Gump as he runs through Monument Valley in Arizona and stops to look out on the beautiful vastness that it is the American Southwest. But the loneliness of the long distance runner is really a myth.

I’ll admit to being a social creature. I like to get together with my girlfriends and I love going out on weekends (who doesn’t?). Chicago is such a great city and there are so many activities to enjoy (or sometimes over-enjoy!).

I’ve enjoyed running for a long time, but my running never really improved when I viewed it as a purely individual endeavor. My times (such as they are), stayed stagnant.

One Sunday I was talking with one of my girlfriends over brunch. We were on our second (or maybe our third) glass of champagne and she suggested that we run together and call ourselves the Boozy Babes. We laughed. It was funny. I didn’t take her seriously. Until she called me the next day to make a date for a short 3.5 mile training run. We did it. The Boozy Babes were born, but in the process, I learned something: I needed to be around other runners.

About six months later, my girlfriend Heather and her husband moved to Northwest Indiana (shudder to think about it) and we don’t get together much anymore. The Boozy Babes are no more. But I realized I still needed the support of other runners. For the first time in my life, I sought out a running club.

Joining a running club is a bit like dating. There’s the stage of mild interest (online research). There’s going to your first run (the blind date). There’s the period of realizing you really like it (the tease). And then the moment you realize you’re hooked (pure love). I’ll admit, I lead with my heart on this one.

synching time for run

But if you’re the kind of person who needs logical arguments, here are a few of my own:

Why Join A Running Club

Accountability. There. I said it. Chicago winters suck. I really don’t like getting out there in the cold and doing longer runs. Joining a running team keeps me on track. I can’t skip a long-run day if there are other people who are counting on me to be there.

Knowledge. I’ve been running a while, but still have a lot to learn. I’m always picking up new tips on gear, diet and nutrition, and even non-running workouts/exercises from fellow club members.

Motivation. I’m not talking about the kind of motivation to get out there and run. I’m talking about the motivation to keep going on the longer runs. When you hit mile 16 on your big training runs before the marathon. How do you push on? Having other runners out there with you who know your goals can be critical to staying on track.

Support. We’ve all done long runs and carried our own water and power gels. What if you didn’t have to do that? What if the running club had water stations and cool-down sponges for you? It’s possible. Running clubs provide great logistical support in training for big races.

Mentoring. Now that I’ve been running with a couple of different clubs for a few years, I’ve graduated. I still seek out motivation and knowledge from the more experienced runners, but I get to share my passion with other, newer runners. Recently a few young single ladies joined our group and the Boozey Babes has been re-formed!

Logistics. I love traveling to races as part of a group. Rolling up with our matching shirts and feeling like part of the group. It’s also really nice to have someone else take over the driving!

Cross Training. I hate cross training. I hate going to the gym for weights. Having someone else to keep me accountable and work with me has been incredibly valuable.

Referrals. Last year when I had my foot injury, I really didn’t know who to turn to. Rather than just turn to the list of doctors from my insurance company, I got a referral from a fellow member of the running club who knew a doctor specializing in helping runners recover.

Making Friends. In this era of social media isolation, meeting real people can be a challenge. The members of my running club have become fast friends – both on the track and trail, as well as in other aspects of our lives. I love them.

Fun. Finally, if you are still asking why join a running club, the answer is: it’s fun.

Why Running is the Perfect Sport

In life, one of the most important things we can do is stay in shape. The better shape we are in, broadly speaking, the higher quality of life (and longer lasting life) we will live. The problem that most of us find is that exercise is dull, and most sports are challenging enough to dissuade us from playing. I’ve been there myself—trying to work out the best way to stay in shape.

I suck at soccer, I’m too short for basketball, and I’m definitely not a good fighter, so the majority of sports I like, I cannot do. If you are in the same position, I have one simple alternative: running.

Running is the single most powerful sport for me, and I think it could be the same for you. What makes running the perfect sport, though? Why do I recommend it to anyone who asks me how to keep in shape to get into running?

Why is Running the Perfect Sport?

  • Well, for one, the only equipment you need is comfy clothing, a pair of bouncy running shoes, some terrain, and a pair of legs. If you have all of this, you can go out running more or less whenever you like.
  • While some might tell you that you need your smart watch and all the assets and analysis in the world, I don’t agree. Sure, you can make it even more professional and competitively intensive by treating running this way—but to start off with, just enjoy getting into the habit of going for a run first and foremost!
  • Running isn’t like other sports, either, where you need to stop at a decent age. You can run with just about any kind of body—prosthetics included—and you can enjoy running well into your senior years. Sure, you’ll slow down—I’m sure I will, too—but there is no limit as to when you can or cannot keep running. The days of being seen as a ‘youngster’ sport is long gone!
  • This removes that fear of contact sport doing damage that you cannot afford. I can’t afford to break my leg playing soccer and miss months of work, but I can afford to take the comparatively minimal risk of being hurt when out and about running. Any injuries sustained are often minor and easily avoided with a touch of extra concentration and situational awareness.
  • You’ll likely sleep better, you’ll find it easy to run with others and maintain social contact and you can easily competitive without it becoming petty or childish. As such, running is the perfect place to start for anyone looking to make the most of their needs for fitness.

I was lucky enough to get into running and soon found it to be the ideal sport for me. It never made me feel awful for not being pro-level good, and it’s intense enough to help me and my group of friends go out running together, have a good time, and feel the benefit of all that extra exercise we were doing.

If you are looking for a sport that you can enjoy, then, it’s running – believe me!