It’s become pretty common practice to listen to music while running. A killer playlist can make the miles melt away and help you find your rhythm. So, is it better to run with music or without?
The main upside of running with music is that it can make your run feel easier. When you’re focusing solely on your pace and technique it can lead to mental fatigue. The Public Library of Science published a study showing the negative impact mental fatigue has on physical performance. Music acts as a distraction. A study conducted by Keele University found that listening to your favourite music whilst running reduces exertion levels and brings on that feeling of ‘being in the zone.’ The external stimulus of music blocks your internal stimuli fatigue.
Music also helps you to keep a consistent pace. It can feel great running in time to the beat of the music. Fast tempo songs over 120 BPM are better for high-intensity workouts and songs with a BPM of less than 120 are better for lower intensity workouts or runs. However, you don’t want to become reliant on music to keep pace.
One downside of running with music is that you’re less aware of your surroundings, which can be dangerous. If you’re listening to a song, you may not hear a car or bike approaching. Moreover, many races do not permit headphones for safety reason, as it can be difficult to hear direction from the course marshals. So, if you’re training for an upcoming race you may want to practice running without music as an aid.
Supposedly, the faster you run the less effect music has. This may be down to the fact that elite athletes are often associators, meaning they focus inward when they’re running, whereas most casual runners are disassociators, meaning they focus outwards when running. So, if you’re planning a sprint session you can probably ditch the music.
Some believe that music detracts from the running experience, as it offers the chance to step away from technology and focus your mind. It can be therapeutic to experience nature and the sounds of your surroundings. Nonetheless, music is a brilliant motivator, especially on the days when you don’t feel like donning your running shoes.
If you enjoyed this, check out our post on why your running shoes matter.