To earbud or not to earbud? That is the question.

To be honest, for me, it is not a question. I never run with earbuds. But so many do! Here are my thoughts, and I’m curious what you think, too.

Why I actively avoid wearing earbuds while running

Safety

This is probably not my primary reason, but maybe it should be! How do those of you with earbuds hear approaching cars, trains, bikers, other runners, etc.? I like to know what’s coming and prefer to continue my streak of never being hit by a car. There are plenty of articles that focus on why it’s safer to listen to your surroundings while running than closing off your hearing with music or a podcast.

high school female in white and blue marching band attire, standing on a podium in front of a field, with an audience in the stands in the background, cheerleaders sitting on a bench in the foreground
Drum major of the marching band

Keeping the beat

This is cheesy, but listening to music is an interactive activity for me. Maybe blame my stint in high school marching band, but I must keep the beat, when I hear one. When I first tried running, I downloaded several workout tracks that maintained specific bpm (beats per minute) throughout. And let me tell you – there is perhaps no greater pleasure than running to the beat of a continuous pump up song. However, every time I encountered a hill or got tired or just wanted to vary my pace a bit, the music threw me off. That frustrated me, and made me feel slow or incapable of keeping up. So, no more music while running for me!

What did they say?

I’m not hard of hearing. Ask my mom, the audiologist. However, I may have selective hearing. Ask my husband…

And it drives me bonkers when I can’t hear a portion of what’s being said, especially when I’m expected to respond. For that reason, listening to podcasts or talking on the phone while I run are strictly off limits. They don’t keep me entertained and they bother me more than help me run.

Why I actually love keeping my ears open while running

Reflection

As working parents, when do you take time to think? Maybe on the toilet, while showering (briefly), laying in bed before precious sleep time…

I take my running time as a chance to consider how I’m doing, what’s going well, what I could improve. Or I think forward by planing some creative activity or charting out how to accomplish a life goal or even considering how to respond to an email. These days, I occasionally outline a post for this blog, too! When else would I have time to think?

I also (maybe strangely), often count while I run. Every fourth step on my left foot (thank you again, marching band), to achieve something like a meditative state. It’s so peaceful!

Me time

I’m an introvert. With a family, friends, and a full-time job, there is little time to recharge on my own. Running provides that opportunity without mental distraction. It’s sometimes the only time to myself I get in an entire day!

Spontaneity

While running, I often seek out new places to explore (see my post on Routes), and to do that, I need to concentrate in order to find my way afterwards. I also frequently run into (no pun intended) neighbors, friends, and acquaintances in our small town of a city. I enjoy the ability to take a detour or pause for a chat without needing to deal with headphones, cords, and devices.

Do you run with headphones or earbuds? Why? Why not? How do you entertain yourself while running?

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Running Routes and Tracking

I don’t know about you, but it kills me to get in my car in order to run. Maybe that’s why I’ve always valued living close to running and biking trails. And when my total run is 4-5 miles, it better not take me 3 miles to get to the pretty park for running, or else I’ll never get there.

I tend to map out routes on MapMyRun in advance, and send the route to my phone, so I can track it in action. I don’t necessarily race against myself, but I am terrible with directions, so having a map in front of me is vital in order to end up where I intend to. Some of my favorite runs, though, and the best way to distract myself, are unplanned. If I don’t know the distance I’ve run so far or how fast I’ve been going, then I’m more likely to push through.

Either way, my favorite running routes include beautiful scenery, shade, a bike or running trail devoid of stop lights, not too many hills, and a bit of exploration or variation. From my house across one of Portland’s many bridges, and back is a 3-mile loop. It’s a perfect evening run because it’s not too crowded, includes minimal road crossings, and the Willamette River is a constantly changing and gorgeous thing to observe.

yellow grass in Tom McCall Park with toddler running ahead of woman pushing double running stroller, Hawthorne Bridge in the background
Walking with the running stroller in Tom McCall Park with the Hawthorne Bridge in the background

For every run and every long double stroller walk, I use MapMyRun on my phone to track my pace, time, and distance. It also syncs with MyFitnessPal, which means I can track how calories burned through my runs affect calories ingested through my meals. I keep my apps on private mode and don’t connect to friends through the app. I prefer my accountability structures to be in-person or more meaningful than through only an app.

Several of my friends use Strava, which allows competitions, racing, and tracking while you run. I can see how that would be valuable features for some!

How do you map out your routes, track your progress, share your successes?