More and more, runners are using headphones to drown out the distractions in their heads to push them through a run. That’s according to a 2016 survey conducted by Runner’s World, with 61 percent of runners polled saying they listen to something while on the run, and 82 percent of those runners jamming to their favorite music.
Those numbers were similar in 2017, according to a 2017 Running USA trends study. With more than half of runners saying they love to plug in with a playlist or podcast, it’s clear that the trend isn’t going anywhere.
Over time, research and experience has been able to piece together some positives and negatives of running with headphones that may help you decide whether to tune in or tune out. Here are three reasons you may want to put some earbuds in for your next run, and three arguments against cranking up the volume.
ARGUMENT 1 FOR LISTENING TO MUSIC: You get pumped up for runs
Every runner experiences a day (or many days) where training is the last thing you want to do. For those days when you need a little extra motivation, your favorite playlist may be exactly what you need. Costas Karageorghis, Ph.D., a sports psychologist who studies music’s positive influence on athletes, agrees that compelling tunes can help get runners into an optimal mindset to tackle that dreaded training run. “Music elevates positive aspects of mood such as excitement and happiness, and reduces negative aspects such as tension, fatigue, and confusion,” Karageorghis said in a Runner’s World Running With Music debate.
Research from The Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research backs this up, finding that listening to music before a training run or 5K will help get you fired up and better prepare you for what’s ahead.
Tip: Listening to the right music while you are running is important: the last thing you want is for a slow song to come on right when you start trudging up a hill!
ARGUMENT 2 FOR LISTENING TO MUSIC: You learn to keep a consistent pace
Many runners prefer to run without music so they can focus on essential cues, such as their breathing and foot strikes to help them control their pace. Music or podcasts distract from that, right? Not necessarily.
If done correctly, music can actually help runners with pacing while training. In a recent study conducted by PLOS One, runners performed better when the beat of the music matched their cadence than when they ran without music.
Karageorghis suggests listening to fast-tempo sounds exceeding 120 beats per minute (BPM) for high-intensity workouts and music with less than 120 BPM for workouts requiring less effort—like your weekend long run. (Another bonus: The right music can actually help you recover from a hard workout.)
ARGUMENT 3 FOR LISTENING TO MUSIC: Your runs could feel easier
Training for any race is difficult enough as it is, so why not make it a little bit easier on yourself if you can. According to a study conducted at Keele University in England, playing your favorite tunes while you are running reduces exertion levels and increases your sense of “being in the zone.”
How it works: The external stimulus of music is actually able to block your internal stimuli like fatigue, which is trying to tell your brain how tired you are starting to get in the middle of a run. When a runner’s perception of how hard they are running is reduced, they feel like they can run faster for longer. Maybe they’ll even better find that coveted runner’s high.
ARGUMENT 1 AGAINST LISTENING TO MUSIC: You’re blocking out your surroundings
One of the main reasons to leave your headphones at home is for your own safety. Even around Runner’s World headquarters, there’s barely a run we don’t come across distracted drivers, cyclists, or oblivious walkers (sometimes with their own headphones in). If you are consumed in your music on a run, you might not be able to hear approaching cars, people trying to communicate with you, or even bad weather in the distance.
If you know you’ll be on a busy road or packed towpath, it might be best to ignore the headphones for one run.
ARGUMENT 2 AGAINST LISTENING TO MUSIC: You could throw off your race pace
While training with music has been proven to be a valuable tool, it isn’t something you want to bring with you on every training run. You don’t want to become dependent on music to get you through a run because on race day, you might have to be your own inspiration.
U.S. Track & Field (USATF) originally banned the use of portable devices for all runners in its sanctioned events in 2007. It later amended the ban to only apply to “those competing in Championships for awards, medals, or prize money.” It is always a good idea to check the rules and regulations associated with each race in the early stages of your training. Even though the original ban has been relaxed, some race directors still strongly discourage the use of portable music devices, especially in crowded fields.
In addition to potentially becoming reliant on music to get you through a run, it can also throw off your pace during a race. Jim Denison, Ph.D., who is a sports sociologist and coach, used the example of a runner surging up a hill because they passed a band during a race. “It is inefficient to run a race unevenly like this, and it will come back to haunt you,” Denison told Runner’s World.
ARGUMENT 3 AGAINST LISTENING TO MUSIC: You impair the running experience
In today’s society, distractions from technology are everywhere, and a person without a phone in their hand is a rare site. Running is a way for many to clear their heads and get away from these distractions, and Denison believes music negatively effects that experience.
“The ability to be at peace and be calm is something we’ve lost in our culture; we’ve lost it in favor of multitasking. I would argue that listening to music—or podcasts or audio books—while running is a form of multitasking,” Denison said. “It keeps us too plugged in and prevents us from enjoying the running experience.”
While there are days you might feel like you need the extra motivational boost from your favorite tunes, there is something special about being alone and running with only your thoughts and nature.
Tip: Unplug those earbuds every now and then and listen to the world around. It’s good for your soul.
Article Credit – www.runnersworld.com/gear/a20799208/should-you-listen-to-music-while-running