There’s no 12-Step group for my addiction: I can’t live five minutes without consulting my toys. They’re everywhere. A tablet for this. A wrist tracker for that. If my mobile goes missing, my blood pressure peaks and I’m not old enough to suffer from hypertension!
What’s a person to do when living a life so controlled by devices, just the thought of a satellite going down that interrupts my signal is enough to make me cry? Rehab, of course. My own rehab. I set a goal of spending two weeks without my electronics when I run.
The first few days were torture. I’m pretty sure I experienced withdrawal symptoms. Don’t ask how many times I looked at my naked wrist and freaked out. But on day three, something miraculous happened: I noticed a lovely lake in the woods for the first time. Who knew I passed so many people on my favourite running trail without knowing they existed?
I waved at a couple of them but they didn’t notice me because they were staring at their devices, of course. I took no offence. My eyes were opened and I’ve started urging others to follow in my footsteps. Do you think you could strip down to run and find out how it feels to run naked? I double dare you to do just that!
Lesson #1: I’m no longer running properly.
It’s not that I’ve forgotten the training I learned at university when I ran track and fell in love with this sport. It’s just that over time, I’ve gotten sloppy courtesy of my habit of listening to tunes, checking my wrist device to see if I’m meeting self-imposed goals and yes, stopping to grab a phone call for some unimportant chat that does nothing more than interrupt my stride.
Lesson #2: I’m not alone on the trail.
Having stuck my devices in a drawer, I was forced to acknowledge humanity—the men, women and even kids who I may run with or past every day since I’ve faithfully followed my routine over time. How is it that I haven’t literally run into one of them and been knocked down because my focus was diverted? I must have a running angel on my shoulder and I bet she’s working overtime.
Lesson #3: Missing out isn’t catastrophic.
On my first day of nude running, my anxiety levels soared and I felt like I couldn’t breathe. But I ran my circuit anyway and it seemed to take forever. The minute I finished (still sweating like a dog) I pulled my smartphone from my pocket convinced that the Singapore Exchange had crashed, my retirement fund was empty and I had missed my only chance to trade a bunch of loser stocks. In fact, these “urgent” messages could have waited hours for my attention:
- Mum wants me to get her favourite prawn noodles at the Hoe Nam Noodles House.
- My girlfriend needs to talk immediately; she has a quarrel with her boyfriend.
- The dog groomer reminds me to pick up my bestie puppy on time.
Lesson #4: It’s possible to run to the sounds of nature.
I figured I would miss my playlist like crazy and I did on day one, but soon I began focusing on life’s sounds: kids giggling, guys high-fiving each other, birds chirping and yes, the sound of music coming from the headsets of runners who must be eager to lose their hearing at young ages because the volume’s turned up so loud. At one point, I found myself singing along to a Lady Gaga song long after the runner blasting the tune into her earbuds had left me in her dust.
Lesson #5: I gained a new sense of awareness that felt especially pronounced when I run after sundown.
I feel safer during the day, but my nightmare work and travel schedule don’t allow me the luxury of throwing on my shoes any time the urge strikes. While I do wear reflective clothing, I came to realise how dependent I’ve become on knowing my routes—a habit that allows me to zone out so I’m not always as aware as I should be about taking safety precautions.
Lesson #6: Constant health monitoring needn’t steal my focus!
There’s a reason I spent a huge chunk of my salary on a wrist tracker that collects data: I can see which goals I reached after my run is done. Having got into the bad habit of checking my wrist so frequently, I used to trip often. Now I know that my heart rate read will wait—especially after my near-fatal collision with a tree a few days before I first ran nude. These days, I look upon my runs as more than a way to keep my body toned: by leaving those devices behind, I’m pretty sure I’m enhancing my mental health big time, too!
Try this exercise before you take the nude challenge: Can you make a list of the worst things that could happen to you if you leave your devices behind?