When I began running, over 3 years ago, I always listened to music. It was a crutch, and it eventually turned into a necessity that wasn’t doing me any favors. I had to have the distraction of music, and often, if I had to walk during a specific song during one run, if I would hear the same song during another run, it would be a mental cue to walk again. It turned into a cycle, run with music, walk with this song, etc.
After several months, maybe even a year into running, my sister told me I couldn’t run with music any more. WHAT? No music? I didn’t feel prepared to run without music, but I trust my sister, and gave it a shot. It was hard, but then it got better. For a very long time, I didn’t run with any music. I listened to my body, my breath, my footsteps. I didn’t have the distraction of the music, or the tempo to dictate my cadence. I got used to it, and was scared to run with music, because I’d been without for so long.
Recently, I’ve started using music for some of my longer solo runs. For short runs, 4ish miles or less, I don’t use music, and probably will continue not to use it. For longer runs, especially when I’m on my own, without the group or a running friend, I’ve started using music again periodically, as a tool. For example, Tuesday night, I ran 5 miles, and did not use music. Wednesday night, I also ran 5 miles, and did listen to music. My time was within 15 seconds from one day to the next, running the same route, with and without music.
I have several pros and many cons to using music while running. For some runners, it is a necessity, but for others, the thought of listening to music is foreign. I’ll share some of my pros and cons to listening to music while running. If you do listen to music while running, and you’re running outdoors, please be safe, and keep one earbud out, so you can hear your surroundings, be it vehicles, fellow runners, bikers, weather, or wildlife.
Pros to Running with Music:
-It can be a distraction, and make time/miles seem to go faster.
-The songs or beats can pump you up to run with more energy, especially with a faster beat.
-Many songs at a certain beat can help you increase your cadence. (170-180 beats per minute is a good running cadence to shoot for)
-You could also listen to a podcast or news show, or listen to a book, which can keep you entertained.
Cons to Running with Music:
-It can be a distraction, keeping you from listening to your body.
-The songs or beats can slow you down if it is a slower song, or a song with negative emotional ties.
-You may not hear your surroundings; it can reduce the level of safety.
-Many races do not allow you to use headphones or earbuds during a race, so training exclusively with music could negatively impact you during a race.
-It can take you out of the run; you may not fully experience the run.
-You build mental strength by having just yourself and your run.
-You have to have extra stuff, headphones, an armband or pouch, and you have to carry your phone or iPod with you, when you might not have your phone, normally.
So, should you run with music? It’s up to you! I’ve read that about 75% of runners run with music. That seems about right, from what I see when I’m out running, but I would say, personally, I run with music about 15-20% of the time recently. It is neither good nor bad to run with or without music. If you use it correctly, it can be a tool to help you, but it can also be a hinderance, so it’s definitely worth trying both ways during training runs.
If you run with music all the time, I challenge you to run without music for several runs, see what you think, see if you notice anything different about the run, or your body while you are running. Likewise, if you never run with music, try it a few times, and see how your runs are; perhaps the miles will go by faster. Let me know if you run with our without music, and whether or not you’ve tried it the other way.