For most of us, music is part of our workout. A playlist can make or break a workout: a good song will increase your pace or help you bust out an extra rep. It motivates you, gives you adrenaline, and helps pass the time on a long run. It’s a distraction that makes a workout seem less like a chore. But working out, particularly running, without music definitely has its benefits. There are certainly benefits like helping you concentrate on your form or your breathing; you’re definitely less likely to be blindsided by a car or bike. But I believe there is another huge benefit that some might not have discovered: you can do your best thinking while running.
Running can be one of the most powerful brainstorming tools at your disposal. I don’t have a scientific explanation for it. There is lots of information out there about endorphin release and metaphysical things that occur while exercising. My theory is based purely on anecdotal evidence. But I wouldn’t bother writing about it if I wasn’t confident there was some truth to it. We all have problems, work or personal, good or bad. But rarely are we in a state where we can completely immerse ourselves in thought.
Especially in this day and age, we have constant distractions. If you’re sitting on your couch, you probably have your phone and television. If you’re driving, you have your phone, music, and of course driving. But when you’re running you have two things going for you: first, your blood is pumping and your mind is alert—no matter how tired you were, once you get into your workout your fatigue fades; second, you have no distractions but putting one foot in front of the other. Running is such a routine movement that your mind can wander, and for many of us it’s a rare time we’re not focused on a screen, document, or other people.
If you’re stuck on a problem, use running as a tool. Take a break and go for a run. I can’t quantify the number of times I’ve had a great idea while running, but there have definitely been a few. Try focusing on a problem that you need to solve during a run. You’ll be surprised how fast the miles pass once you have an idea and your mind starts going down rabbit holes. You’ll not only have the benefit exercise, but also clarity of mind and thought.