True confessions: I like listening to music when I run. Even on the trails. I think part of it harkens back to running on the road, track or treadmill and feeling the need to compensate my brain for the rather numbing, uninspiring experience of putting one foot in front of the other (especially the treadmill or track).
But I think there’s something else. Sometimes, even if I’m out on the trail, my brain has a difficult time shutting off. It’s better than the road/treadmill/track, partly because of the more stimulating [and calming] environment and the need to pay greater attention [rocks, roots, trees, bears, bicycles, etc.].
But there’s still something that music does for me that I can’t always get from the sound of the wind, birds, occasional babbling brook and growls from large predators (kidding about the last one…so far).
My eclectic mix of songs from 70s rock bands to indie discoveries to Celtic-folk (obviously…look at my last name) would likely cause most people some form of mental anguish, but for me, the playlists motivate, soothe, transform, remind and comfort me at the same time I am soaking through my pores and senses the beauty and tranquility that nature gifts me each time I am in a forest.
However, I have also become aware that the music is sedating me somewhat, dulling the pangs of anxiety and stress that are clamoring for attention. And I’ve noticed that the longer the time between trail runs, the louder those pangs are, and the more I need the additional tools to quieten them.
Ideally, with more practice and time on the trails, the need for tuning out [stress and anxiety] by tuning in [music] will be replaced with the more meditative and probably rewarding practice of tuning in [the calming sounds of nature] by tuning out [stress and anxiety].
But, then again, some of those tunes really help me with running up that hill…