December 15, 2018

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Should I Listen to Music While Running?

Music has always been a passion of mine.  It has a big impact on me.  It’s not just the beat, but sometimes the lyrics.  I bawl when I hear “Butterfly Kisses”  and “Wind Beneath My Wings.”  I feel empowered when I hear “One Moment in Time” or “Perfect.”  Running, however, has not always been a passion.  I started getting into running last year when I set a goal to run my first 5K. When I started running, I had one big question: should I listen to music?

I did a little research, and read that you can’t listen to music in the big races.  Someone made the point if you can’t listen to music in your races, why listen to them while you train?  So, I didn’t listen to music.  There were times I enjoyed the peace and quiet, but there were times it drove me crazy.  I could only handle telling myself “You can do it!” so many times as my distance increased.  I would sing songs in my mind, but this wasn’t always helpful either (especially when your a mom with potty-training songs stuck in your head).  Still, I persisted and did all of my races and training runs without any music.

Fast forward one year.  I went for a checkup with my family doctor, who also happens to be a runner, and told her about my horrible 8 mile run.  She gave me a some advice – including that it was ok to listen to music.  She had been in several races where other runners, herself included, had worn headphones.  Once I got home, I did some more research and found out that I had been wrong about headphones.  The people who produce the Boston Marathon – one of, if not the, top marathons in the country/world – don’t impose a ban on headphones or iPods “except for the elite men and women and all those eligible for prize money.”  I looked at other local races, and they said the same thing.  So, unless you are competing for medals/prize money, you can wear headphones and listen to music (though this can vary with each race).  For my next run (which would be 9 miles), I planned to use my iPod nano.

When I set out on my 9-mile run later that week, I felt ready.  I was wearing my new hydration belt, had a Gu in the front pocket, and my iPod in an arm cuff.  I hit “shuffle” on my iPod and headed out.  It was so nice listening to actual music!  I didn’t feel bored at all, the time seemed to go by faster, and I would get a second wind when some songs came on.  I did realize that I probably should create a playlist instead of hitting shuffle.  My pace was great when an upbeat song came on, but would tend to slow down when a Celine Dion ballad started playing.

Since then, I’ve created a playlist full of upbeat or empowering songs, and my runs have gotten a lot better.  I enjoy having my feet hit in rhythm with the music, or setting a goal to go a certain distance by the time a song is over.  And my speed/pace has increased on some of my runs, allowing me to finally get under a 9 minute mile on occasions.

There are some valid reasons given for not listening to music while running that I have read.  One reason involves safety.  Runners could be too focused on their music and not be alert of their surroundings – such as an oncoming car or fellow runner.  Another reason is that runners should be aware of themselves when it comes to running – their pace, breathing, cadence, form, etc.  Being aware of how you run can help you make improvements when it comes to your running, which leads to better time and form.

I have discovered some problems of my own with listening to music.  One is the kind of headphones.  I have simple earbuds, and I am sometimes more worried about keeping them in my ears rather than how fast I am going .  Another problem is the cord for my earbuds.  I am constantly adjusting it to make sure that it isn’t too loose or tight.  This again takes the focus off of my speed/form.

So, should you listen to music while running?  My answer: it’s up to you.  If you choose not to listen to music, that’s great!  If you choose to listen to music, that’s great. I’ve done both.  I’ve recently gone on some shorter runs, without music, where I focused more on my pace and set a personal record.  But I’ve also seen my long distance runs get more enjoyable when I have some good music to listen to.

If you choose to listen to music, I have a few suggestions:

  • Practice common safety when running in the city.  Stop at stoplights, make eye contact with a stopped car before running in front of them, etc.
  • Have the music low enough that you can listen to the outside world.
  • Wear headphones that can stick in your ears no matter how you move
  • Wear an arm cuff or something to hold your music device in
  • Take some time every now and then to be aware of and focus on how you run.

Every one is different when it comes to their running preferences.  My advice: find what works for you.

 

Sources

  1. “Frequently Asked Questions.”  Boston Athletic Association.  Retrieved on April 28, 2015.  http://www.runnersworld.com/workout-music/running-music-0
  2. “Running with Music.”  Runner’s World.  Retrieved on April 28, 2015.  http://www.runnersworld.com/workout-music/running-music-0
  3. “Why You Should Ditch the Tunes While Training.”  Active.com.  Retreived on April 27, 2015.  http://www.active.com/triathlon/articles/why-you-should-ditch-the-tunes-while-training
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