Music or no music? That is the question in this weeks post, and it's a good one. There's more to it than you might think, so let me walk you through the pros and cons of taking the tunes with you out on the roads.
Disclaimer - Under no circumstance would listening to Justin Bieber constitute as music, and thus is not considered with the scope of this article. If you are running and listening to the Bieb's I wish you all the best in your recovery.
Ok.... let's get to it! For the record when anyone asks me my opinion on music or no music when I run, I have to respond with "Both"! Typically I will listen to music at times during my training (not always) and race without it. The reasons below are what I consider before rocking the tunes.
Pros of Listening To Music When Running
1 - Time Flies.
I hear a lot of people say that they can't imagine running for 2 hours without going crazy. I can definitely see their point even though I enjoy the quiet time to just think....or not. Either way, music is a great way to make the miles pass by quicker, especially on long runs or days when it really feels like a grind. I find changing up my playlists on a regular basis keeps it interesting and can really take my mind off things. If you run the same route on a regular basis, music can help distract you from the monotony.
2 - You Get A Boost
Like most people, I like to pick music that pumps me up, especially on tough workouts like tempo runs and intervals. I also look to some hard rock in the later stages of a long run when my legs start to go soft and I need a shot of adrenalin to keep me going. There is no denying the powerful impact music can have on your mind and ultimately how your body will respond. I find it interesting the huge variety of music genres that I can draw from that can get me psyched up. I've had both Johnny Cash and Stevie Wonder get me through some brutal runs.........don't judge me.
What music lights you up? (Comment Below)
3 - Cadence Control
When used properly, you can actually get your music to help you lock in your
cadence. I love using Spotify as my main music app for several reasons, but one, in particular, is their Running Playlists which let you either pre-set your tempo or it figures out the tempo to match your running speed. If you're looking to work on your cadence (and you should) you can program a goal such as 175 BPM and then try and match your foot strikes to the beat. It's a powerful and fun way to work on cadence.
Cons of Listening To Music When Running
1 - You're Oblivious
Music definitely helps you to zone out, but it can be dangerous if you get too emersed in the tunes. It might be that you're just not thinking much, or it might be that you've got the volume up so loud that you are not fully present. In a training situation, this can be dangerous as not paying attention can lead to a bunch of issues such as tripping over a curb, getting clipped by a car, and not being able to hear what's coming up behind you on the road.
In a race situation, music can be a hazard for the same issues above, and also because there is way more traffic and activity going on around you. Not being able to hear instructions from race officials could lead to missed turns or putting yourself in harm's way. I'm seeing more races now banning the use of music on the course, so it's important that you can run without it if needed.
I've had a few close calls that were 100% my fault, thanks to the distraction of the music I had blasting in my head.
2 - The Music Moves You....Too much!
On the flip side of using music as a cadence training tool, it can also get you into trouble, by sucking you into a much faster pace than desired.
It's just like when you're in your car and your favourite song comes on, and you look down at the speedometer to find you're way over the speed limit. A good running tune can get you the same way which is an issue.
On easy runs, this could sabotage your intended training effect, and in races it could come back to bite you in later stages of the race when you're out of gas. Subconsciously we tend to follow the beat when we run, so be careful not to let it dictate your pace.
3 - Shiny Key Syndrome
When it comes to running your best race, you need to focus! Your mind should be in tune with your body, your stride, and where you are at any given point on the course. You should be adapting to what's going on around you and really be dialled in and present if you want to perform in a race situation.
The downside of running in a race with music is that it can pull your attention away from being able to focus in on some of these important components. Especially as you start to fatigue and your mind starts to wander, music has a way of taking you even further into no man's land.
So there you go, the good and bad of listening to music when you run. I recommend you train yourself to be able to run without it from time to time so you can really focus on your stride. When you do reach for the earphones it will be a refreshing treat and a way to give yourself a little boost.