The running community seem very split on whether they run with or without music and the benefits to each side. A Runners’ World study showed 74% (11,328 asked) of runners think you should use music for training runs. I ran my own polls on Twitter and Instagram asking “Do you listen to music whilst running”
As of today I’ve had over 900 reactions – 67% of those use music. The reasoning behind why people use or don’t use music is so vast it really is different for every person and that’s the beauty of it…
There’s no right or wrong answer here but I do feel that when people start running they listen to music to help with the “boredom”, help motivation or to simply prevent them listening to their own breathing and footsteps. It almost seems natural to run with music ironically, and when I first started running I also couldn’t run without it. Eventually a friend said to try use no music, focus on breathing and cadence and see how that affects my pacing.
It really helped, initially running without music on shorter runs allowed time to focus on the actual running and what I was doing. I was marathon training and it helped me focus on pace and distance. Gradually taking this into longer runs I no longer needed music. In fact I now very rarely use music whilst running. The last few times I have used music was when the weather was crap, I was really tired and really needed that extra push to get out there for a long run. Even then I’d turn off the music after half an hour or so as I find it distracting.
Now although I said there’s no right or wrong answer I do believe you can become too reliant on music and then struggle when forced to run without it. More and more races are banning music and I think it really is beneficial to learn to run without it and actually enjoying running without music. I have found it easier to settle into a good rhythm, to control my breathing and ultimately know the feel of when I’m running well now that I do not use music. It also allows thinking space and time, whether you want to switch off completely, or in contrast, to focus your mind completely on the run. I find it much harder to do this whilst using music.
Running without music can seem daunting to those reliant on it, or those that hate the sound of their heavy breathing and heavy footsteps (I’ve never quite understood this issue); I’ve thought of some hopefully useful tips for those that want to try it, or the benefits that may come from occasionally not using music on every run;
The main benefit I have from running is time to clear my mind. Before, if I was stressed or angry or generally just having an off day I’d spend the day in bed eating crap, watching crap or on the playstation for too long, inevitably making me feel worse. I can now use running as a stress reliever for this. If I use music I don’t have time to think or reflect and finish the run still stressed. Not using music allows time to think about these things and usually helps put them into perspective. Usually things aren’t as bad as they seem and I tend to finish a long run especially in a much better frame of mind.
Music can be great to help pass the time on a long run or distract you from the actual “one foot in front of another” notion however not using music can help the opposite and take your mind elsewhere mid run. If you run the same route with the same music all the time you will get bored and lose mojo. If you mix things up then you can easily get distracted on runs and time will pass much quicker. Try trail running, road running, hills, canals or parks. Rather than using the music to take your mind off the repetitive strides, use the environment or the people around you to do the same. You’ll realise how much more you actually take in on your run and remember the parts you most enjoyed if you want another new route in the future.
An LSR might be the best time to use music as you have a distance in mind but may not necessarily focus on the pace. You can listen to music and run at your pace. However, I feel if you have a structured workout or goal then no music helps performance. A fartlek session for instance may be hard to incorporate if you’re listening to the same constant genre of music. If you have certain paces to hit for each mile then again it may be easier to do this without a music distraction.
Also, those that hate listening to their breathing and footsteps. Maybe try this on one of your shorter runs or for a few miles mid long run? Try to learn how you are breathing, how you are striding and whether your heart rate feels too high. This might help you decide whether you can up the pace or should be more in control.
Yeahhh not like that! Although this is specific to music I feel you can write the same article based on other parts of running. Do you always take gels on every run? Eat the exact same food the night before/ morning of a run? Do you always take your watch and record your run?
Sometimes just running without any of this is a great escape, a great way to enjoy a run and a great way to run because that’s what you enjoy to do. I am not a “if it’s not on Strava it doesn’t count” person. Running “naked” can really help with the mojo and takes all the pressure off that running can bring.
As mentioned, there’s no right or wrong answer to “should you run with music.” I also love the vast reasons people have for and against this. I just feel this is something I tried and worked well for me when I first started training for a specific goal. I feel this may help those that are solely reliant on music for every single run and would be great to hear any feedback.
Why do you use/not use music?
What benefits does it give you?
What music do you run with?