How to Get Out of Your Head While Running

Ominous sky over St Michael’s Cemetery

I forget what it is I would rather be doing.

Floral and verbal, I am in the thick

of what I would rather be doing, jumping off a cliff,

rousing subordinates. There are just so many things

one would rather be caught out doing, like measuring the tree,

the swift shadow of which menaces us and bluebirds.

–John Ashbery, “The Perfect Hat,” A Worldly Country

Today, as I set out for my run late in afternoon after my cranky five year old went down for her nap, the humidity was oppressive, which was fitting. The world is a heavy place right now, both personally and culturally. Between a worldwide pandemic, protests over racial injustice, massive unemployment, we’re all feeling stress. For many of us, running is that release valve, but it’s not always that easy. 

Like many of us, I usually start my morning with an early run, setting the tone for my day. But family health issues and my daughter’s nightmares have led to sleepless nights and a lack of motivation to get up and get out the door. We’re all still out of normal routines right now, and that is really throwing me for a loop. My writing routine is off, I’m between courses teaching, and my running routine is all over the place.

I usually run with some close friends in the morning, venting and laughing, but now it’s solo, fitting it in when I can. It’s easy to get out of your head with others, the support and distraction is like a lifeline in tough times. 

It’s definitely harder alone, and we often end up just running hard to get the stress out, but you can’t do that every day and stay injury-free. I’m going to share two things that help me get out of head while running easy that I’ve turned to this past week. They are also great ways to get out of writer’s block by letting your subconscious work for you.

Sing Out Loud

I know this one sounds a little crazy, but hear me out. If you’re truly running easy, you should be able to talk and sing. Load up your favorite musical you know by heart or your favorite full album and belt it out as you run. Concept albums, if you’re so inclined, can be fantastic. I could probably run to Yes’ “Roundabout” on its own for hours! Your stress levels will decrease, you’ll quit thinking, and the miles will fly by. 

My favorites right now are Hamilton, The Who’s Quadrophenia, and Rick Astley’s 50 (judge me). Let me tell you, there’s no better feeling than belting “Here comes the General! Rise up!” when hitting a feel-good stride or finishing a run to the chorus of “Love Reign O’er Me” and singing along with Roger Daltrey. 

Run in the Rain

(I’ll start this one with a caveat: this is a warm weather tip. Running in the cold weather just usually ends up with me focusing on how miserable I am!) In warmer weather, embrace the rain. The sound of rain can help reduce anxiety and alleviate stress. Forget the rain jackets and gear and just throw on a visor or hat to keep the water out of your eyes if you want and lube your toes and/or wear toe socks to avoid blisters and get out in that cool or warm rain. 

Six miles into my 8 miler today, the wind picked up, the sky turned dark in places and looked outright ominous. I had hoped to beat the rain, but when it started pouring, I embraced the cooldown, stretching out my bare arms to welcome the sensation on my skin, taking out my ear bud and tilting my head back, letting the sound of the rain drown out the noise in my head. I didn’t know how much I needed that. 

Rain beading on my sunscreen.


Be kind to your body. Try to get out of your head without running hard. Put everything else out of your head when you head out the door to run. Give yourself some grace and that time, whether it’s 30 minutes or 90 minutes or more, to get out of your head and reset. What are your favorite ways to get your of your head when you run? 

Published by Sarah White-Thielmeier

Writer and college writing teacher who runs, a lot, offering writing services via blogging, copywriting, and content strategy.

2 thoughts on “How to Get Out of Your Head While Running

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