When was the last time you went for a ‘naked run’? It’s something someone asked me recently, and I was as surprised as you are. Of course, they didn’t mean a 5km jog in the buff, they meant when was the last time you ran without an app or tracking device. Basically, without any accountability to an app, other runners, or yourself. 

The true answer to that was that I couldn’t remember. For the past few years, I have become a slave to tracking my pace through Strava. I rarely leave the house for a run without recording it, and have become part of the ‘if it’s not on Strava, did it really happen?’ club. Sometimes that’s a really good thing, but sometimes it’s pretty demoralising and probably not very good for your mental health. When you see that you’re running slower than you normally would, not as far as you did last week, or not as consistently than the previous month, you inevitably start to lose motivation and can quickly find yourself in a downward spiral. Of course, that’s how the apps operate, they give you a target which makes you want to run more, and use the app more. 

So, I went for a long run without recording it. It shouldn’t have made as much of an impact as it did, but I felt the most free on a run than I have felt in a long time. The thought that I wouldn’t have to check my pace when I finished, or check how much I’d slowed down up the big hill to my house was liberating - the competition against the app was momentarily paused, and I really enjoyed it. It didn't matter the distance or the pace, I was just running for the joy of running again and for the mental wellbeing and freedom that exercise can bring. I have now continued to do at least one ‘naked’ run a week, and I’m fairly sure my running has benefitted from it.

The other side of that coin, is that recording your runs can have enormous benefits to your mental health. Being able to see tangible improvements is highly motivating, and when you’re running well it makes you feel like you’re on top of the world. A personal best is something to be celebrated and shouted about from the rooftops, and making yourself a ‘local legend’ over a specific stretch in your area does have some sort of kudos attached to it. Other runners acknowledging your achievement after a good run is encouraging, and it can help to push you to be a stronger runner. It has certainly helped me improve over the years. 

So, it’s a balance. Whether you run because you love the feeling of the kudos notifications coming in once you’ve finished, or you run because you like the feeling of being completely free from screens and technology, it doesn’t really matter. What matters is that you are getting the most out of your running, and that it’s making you feel good. If, like me, you’ve inadvertently become a slave to the apps and they’re making you feel demoralised – try running naked just once a week. Let your thoughts be free rather than battling with your app, not every run has to be a personal best. 

Trust me, give naked running a try. 

This blog post was contributed by Beth Henry, who works for This Is London Magazine. They are currently publishing online at www.til.com as well as through their social channels; 

Instagram: @thisislondonmag

Twitter: @thisislondonmag 


They have new active content each issue, with new running/cycling routes and information about all things active in London. The magazine makes sure that their readers are up to date with the latest information on all things London. 

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