I am a runner. I can say that today with confidence, but it wasn’t always so.
When I started running just over a year ago, it was a struggle. I’ve always considered myself to be in relatively good health, but I wasn’t the most athletic person. I was active, but not an athlete. Plain and simple, in the beginning, each stride was painful. A fifteen minute light jog was nearly unbearable, torture even.
During those early days, when I was fighting hard to finish an exhausting three-mile run, my personal motivators were largely technology-based. I brought my phone along with me on those cold winter wars to fire music into my ears that powered my feet to keep moving, step after step, mile after mile. I tracked my progress with Runkeeper, a GPS-enabled application that measures mileage, pace, calories burned and a slew of additional metrics. Runkeeper’s sultry-voiced narrator would occasionally chirp distance and pace updates into my earbuds, letting me know just how far I had gone, and how much farther I had yet to go.
With consistency came comfort. As the runs became easier, I upped my distance to include one long run per week. This caused my outings to last longer, sometimes longer than 90 minutes. On these longer runs I listened to a regular rotation of technology podcasts from the 5×5 and 70 Decibels networks.
While the music, tech musings and automated metrics kept my mind from focussing on the discomfort my body was feeling, I also discovered that this constant connectivity (even while in the middle of the woods on a trail run) was keeping my mind from appreciating my surroundings in those moments, following an exploratory train-of-thought around professional ideas and concepts, or simply experiencing the silence and patterns in my breath.
The technology had created a barrier. I was distracted, no longer fully aware and I became more interested in outcomes, results and metrics, than process.
Realizing this, I made the decision several weeks ago to eliminate technology during my runs. No music, no podcasts and no Runkeeper updates. I would leave my phone at home and become one with my path and my thoughts.
On my first run without technology, I remember noticing the discomfort was gone. I was several miles into the run and feeling fine. I let my mind wander to any thought that entered it and I explored those thoughts without limits. I was aware of the nature surrounding me and I was in tune with my breathing.
Distance didn’t matter. Pacing didn’t matter. Alternatively, my experience during the journey mattered. Process mattered.
Since embracing the silence during my runs, I’ve had a lot of time to think about Static Made (as a whole) and specific client projects in a setting that’s completely removed from a display screen. Pondering technology in the absence of it is liberating. It’s been refreshing and has allowed me to develop creative ideas in a way not inherently tethered to technology.
The lesson for me here is this: technology should never be a tether, but rather the vehicle through which tethers are cut. Outcomes are definitely important, but the process of exploration should enjoy equal footing. The process is journey to the desired result and space in which you can create without limits.