Sometimes it’s better to hit the trail without the distraction of gadgets.
Most runners make their strides weighed down by watches, cellphones, iPods, and a whole assemblage of other smart wearables. While there are immense benefits to using technology to enhance your training, there’s also something to be said for unplugging and simply heading out “naked.”
We spoke with Alison Williams-Morris — a licensed physical therapist and longtime runner — and Olympic marathoner Carey May to find out how and why “running naked” can benefit your long-term running goals.
Data Tracking and Overtraining
As a competitive and endurance runner, I’m all too familiar with the drive to continually push harder and run faster with the hopes of improving.
I regularly train with a smartwatch and love how it tracks my pace, splits, elevation, and heart rate. It helps me plan workouts and challenge myself during runs. But I’m also guilty of pushing beyond my workout plans and overtraining. As a result, I’ve sustained several injuries throughout my running career.
“Running dynamics and biomechanics are a very important part of being a distance runner because you’re doing the same thing over and over for many miles,” Williams-Morris said.
“If you’re listening to loud music and checking your pace/distance on your smartwatch every quarter-mile, it’s easy to lose touch with your form. This may push you to get in the habit of running too fast, which can cause deviations in running mechanics and eventually lead to overuse and, in turn, injury.”
Running Naked: Get in Tune With Your Breathing
In addition to regular stretching and strength training, Williams-Morris is a big advocate for running naked. She recommends running naked for roughly 15-25% of your mileage. So if you run regularly, leave the gadgets behind for at least one run per week.
Additionally, she said that running sans technology gives your mind a break and allows you to be in tune with your body and breathing, which prompts you to focus on your form and how you’re feeling overall.
“Running naked is like taking the static out of a run — a time to clear your head, listen to your body, pay attention to aches and pains,” May advised. “It’s a time to look around and appreciate your environment, nod acknowledgment to a fellow runner, and run for the pure joy of running.”
“Pay attention to your body, not statistics and data,” she added. “Running is such a pure sport with such therapeutic benefits but can get complicated with technology overuse. For all the amazing benefits brought about by the latest technology, the benefits from taking a time out from it should never be underestimated.”
Slow Down and Enjoy Your Run
As an overly competitive person, I’m constantly trying to push the limits. During my high school and collegiate running career, each practice was about outpacing my teammates, crushing my splits, and hitting personal bests. It was a lot of pressure, much of it unnecessary, and running with a smartwatch only fueled my fire.
When I graduated, I began running longer distances and found myself leaving my watch and phone at home. Instead, I simply chatted with a friend or enjoyed the beauty of the trails. And much to my surprise, my injuries weren’t as frequent, and my running improved alongside my happiness.
Like so many things in life, it can be easy to forget why we run. We focus on the miles logged, calories burned, pace, and heart rate instead of the way it makes us feel. In a society where life moves a thousand miles a minute, it’s more important than ever to set aside some time each day and be alone with your thoughts.
Running naked allows us to slow down and appreciate the moments when we feel good and celebrate the challenges we overcome. And should you ever find yourself short for a topic of conversation, simply tell your friends about the time you ran naked.