Music: A Legal and Healthy Performance Enhancer

Music: A Legal and Healthy Performance Enhancer
Do you run with or without tunes?

I spun the click wheel of my old iPod until I found the song I wanted: “Farewell” by Kamelot, a power metal assault on the senses, fueled by multi-layered guitars, furious keyboards and a galloping double-kick bass beat.  By all accounts, it would be the perfect song to fuel several laps around the track.  I hit “Play” and took off, each step hitting the track as if it were a giant snare drum.  However, this was 2004 and I still had a second-generation iPod that would look like a shiny microwave by today’s standards.  So two laps into the run, the constant shaking had caused the tin can to panic and shut itself down.

It wouldn’t be until eight years later that I would go out on another run while listening to music.  My reasons for eschewing an mp3 player in those early days as a nascent distance runner were twofold.  Normal headphones fall out of my ears with just a gentle nudge and I was too lazy to buy specialty sports earbuds.  Secondly, there might be a scientific explanation for this, but covering my ears with anything warms me up considerably.  As someone who sweats just thinking about the sun, I opted to keep my ears well ventilated.

Of course, that doesn’t mean that my head is a quiet echo chamber when I lace up.  I always manage to find the right song from the mental jukebox, but it can’t just be any enjoyable tune.  There are two characteristics it must have.  It has to be good enough that I can listen to it on repeat for an hour and its tempo has to line up with my gait so that each footstrike is a (half/quarter or full) beat.  For example, “The Takedown” by Yellowcard could get me to conquer a small country but my feet can’t sync with its beat.  Similarly, “Tucked Away” by the Goo Goo Dolls might not rile up a Viking horde into battle, but it matches my cadence perfectly.

(It only sounds OCD when I spell it out because I’m pretty sure this is how most runners behave … right?)

Motorola MOTOACTV Fitness Tracker and Music Player

Motorola MOTOACTV Fitness Tracker and Music Player

Eventually, I started using an mp3 player for the stationary bike at the gym but it got to the point where I would simply not exercise if the device was out of power.  My running buddy at the time would also completely forego runs if his Nano were out of juice, which led me to believe that it was possible to become so attached to running with music that the two could become indivisible.  The idea of being so dependent on a shiny box of circuits, which could literally decide whether or not to run, was so crazy, that I almost felt indignant toward those who behaved in such a way (and we can ignore that this describes exactly how I am about my Garmin).

But my sneer wouldn’t have very much company.  A quick glance at the treadmills of any gym will show that pretty much everyone is listening to something while they run.  Nine out of ten runners that I see on Chicago’s lake front path have a pair of colorful cables wired into their ears, feeding them whatever catalytic melody gets them moving.  On a few occasions last year, I took a shiny new MOTOACTV player to the lake to try it out and write a review.  For those select runs, I was part of the music movement, experiencing firsthand what the vast majority of runners do every time they lace up.  The results were remarkable.

Evidence From People More Reputable Than I

It didn’t surprise me to learn that the scientific studies on the issue almost universally support music’s positive effects on athletic performance.  A simple study out of the University of Texas A&M had students running a maximal 1.5-mile run with and without music.  Not only did they find that they finished the run faster while listening to music, but their level of perceived exertion was kept constant.  In other words, they didn’t notice how much faster they were, most likely because their brains weren’t focusing on the body’s natural feedback.  This latter finding intrigued me because the fact that they were faster shouldn’t surprise anyone.  But in knowing that the students themselves didn’t feel like they were running faster lies the real potential for performance enhancement.

The 2012 Garmin Marathon, the race where I easily carried the most STUFF with me while running, but a portable music player was not one of them

The 2013 Garmin Marathon, the race where I easily carried the most STUFF with me while running, but a portable music player was not one of them

But perceived exertion is so subjective.  Although the students ran the course faster, it’s possible that they had higher heart- and sweat rates while listening to music but simply didn’t know it because they were being distracted by the tunes.  A study by Brian Matesic and Fred Cromartie published in the Sport Journal in 2002 has compelling evidence against this claim.  In their study, they actually measured trained and untrained students’ heart rates as they completed laps around a track both with and without music.  Predictably, lap times were faster while music was playing.  But even more fascinating was the effect it had on their heart rates.  “Among the untrained runners … a significant relationship was found, namely that average heart rate fell by almost six beats per 2.5-min interval when music was played.”  Trained runners also exhibited a drop in heart rate, but only by less than 3 beats per interval.

These findings therefore suggest that music has not only a psychosomatic effect on the subjective experience of running, but can provide an actual physiological advantage that can improve performance.  As I ran on the lake path with my MOTOACTV blaring fast songs into my head, I was experiencing this boost in real time.  I felt like I was out for an easy run, barely breaking a sweat, only to realize I was flirting with the 7-minute pace barrier, which is usually reserved for intense tempo runs.  The chorus to a mosh-worthy song would kick in and I would find myself running 6:40 splits as easily as ordering a milkshake.  Not only was I faster, but I felt like I was barely trying.  Why wasn’t I doing this all the time?

After all, the effects were real and significant.  During the course of my research, I noticed that many authors were citing Brunel University’s Dr. Costas Karageorghis, a leading researcher in sports psychology with a keen interest in the effects of music on performance.  In one of his many studies, he notes that music “promote[s] an ergogenic (work-enhancing) effect.  This occurs when music improves exercise performance by either reducing perceptions of fatigue or increasing work capacity. Typically, this results in higher-than-expected levels of endurance, power, productivity or strength.”  Earlier I noted that I only run to songs that match my gait.  Karageorghis goes on to explain that “[s]ynchronous music use (i.e., when an exerciser consciously moves in time with a musical beat) has been shown to provide ergogenic and psychological benefits in repetitive endurance activities.”  In other words, matching music to your gait can improve your endurance.  In his studies, this can mean a difference of 15%.  It can also make your movements feel more natural, thus increasing your efficiency and delay fatigue.

So music not only has the potential to make you faster and lower your heart rate, but it can control you like a witch doctor and improve your form?  That’s perhaps taking it a bit too far.  But the idea that your body can latch onto a beat, run consistently to it and thereby increase its biomechanical efficiency is fascinating.

Of course, not all studies show the same results.  In a widely cited 2010 study from John Moores University in Liverpool, cyclists exercised while listening to pop songs at varying tempos.  Some listened to the songs in unaltered states, while others listened to the same song but sped up or slowed down by 10%.  Predictably, they found that those who listened to the “fast version” cycled faster and enjoyed the exercise more than those who were subjected to the slower version.  “Paradoxically,” experimenters noted, “[participants] did not find the workout easier … but [the up-tempo music] seemed to motivate them to push themselves.”  This goes a bit against the earlier studies on perceived effort being lowered by music.  In this case, having fast music made the athletes accept an increased level of effort and discomfort in exchange for a more enjoyable exercise session.

But what if we were to knock up the tempo more than just 10%?  Does this boost still apply in the upper echelons of training?

Karageorghis’ studies focused primarily on what he called “exercise participants” rather than elite or professional athletes.  However, the many benefits of music are not strictly reserved for mortals.  Matt Fitzgerald, a prolific runner, correspondent for Active and Competitor, and author of many books on running, met with US 50k record holder Josh Cox and Olympian Kara Goucher to learn that they too need an extra jolt now and then to get through particularly brutal workouts.  In a very revealing moment during a 15-mile tempo run, he witnessed as Cox turned on an mp3 player midway through the run, as if asking for a stamina-boosting fix.  Fitzgerald did the same at his next marathon, where he noted that “[i]t made a difference. The pain I experienced in the last 5 miles was no less severe than in any other marathon I’ve run. But the music made the pain more bearable … I’m convinced I wouldn’t have finished as strongly as I did without the iPod.”

Even the king himself listens to music while he trains.

Even the king himself listens to music while he trains.

Even the great Haile Gebrselassie, the Emperor of Distance Running, the Smiling Assassin, says he listens to the late Scatman John’s eponymous hit “Scatman (Ski-Ba-Bop-ba-dop-Bop)” for intense runs because it puts him in the kind of mindset that grants him access to new gears.

“Especially in harder workouts,” Fitzgerald writes, “like Josh Cox’s epic tempo run, the right music almost seemed to act like a (fair, safe, and legal) performance-enhancing drug.”  It’s no wonder then that mp3 players are banned for runners competing for prizes in all major US marathons (though that has more to do with the USATF ban on two-way communication between athlete and coach, which could be done through a cleverly re-engineered iPod … and literally as I type that, I realize that I just described an iPhone).

It really makes you wonder whether Gebrselassie or world-record holder Patrick Makau could run a marathon under 2:03 if they were allowed a Nano with their favorite pump-up jam blaring from mile 20 onward.

Science says: unlikely.

According to Karageorghis, “the benefits of listening to music decrease with the level of intensity of the running. The faster you run, the less effect the music has.”  While music can serve as an effective distraction for those of us on a long run or during those middle miles of the marathon, elite athletes run at such an unfathomably intense level that anything shy of complete focus would prove deleterious.  Citing Karageorghis’ 2009 study, the New York Times notes that “when you increase the speed and intensity of a workout, ‘perceptions of fatigue override the impact of music, because attentional processes are dominated by physiological feedback.’”  In other words, no amount of Blink 182 can get Dathan Ritzenheim’s mind off the strains of running a 4:53 pace for over two hours.

So why do I still, in spite of all the studies, insist on running without music?  What kind of idiot would forego such a simple, free and amazingly potent enhancement?  With the ever-growing catalog of fast, heart pounding songs out there, why bother sticking to just the sound of wind, breath and cars?

The Verdict

“Music is a legal drug for athletes [and like] any drug, if you use it too much, it begins to have less effect.”  Like Fitzgerald, Karageorghis uses the uses the word “drug” liberally – and not altogether jokingly – when describing the effect of music on the run.

All serious runners are intimately familiar with the body’s remarkable ability to condition itself to increasingly tougher training loads.  It’s therefore not a stretch to say that listening to music during every single run will eventually attenuate its jolting effects.  In fact, it might even make it so running without music would have negative effects both psychologically and physiologically.  After all, if the cyclists in the Liverpool study came up short in performance and enjoyment when the music was slow, what if the tunes were shut down completely?

That question will be left to other studies to explore.  As for me, I could say that I’m perfectly content with the sounds of my body, the pavement and the world around me.  Like journalist Matt Kurton, I could take the free-spirited approach that tends to characterize the stereotypical trailhead and say that “listening to birdsong and rainfall rather than Bill Withers and Radiohead, I don’t feel like I’m missing out.”  But that’s only half the story.  I run without music because, so far, I actually enjoy just running.  I fear that if I were to start adding fast songs to my weekly mileage, no matter how much faster they make me, I would risk eventually losing the enjoyment of plodding along to my own beat.

It’s very easy to talk about this topic and divide people into those who leave the tunes at home and everyone else.  Karageorghis has his own categories for it: associators, who focus inwardly and dial into their exertion; and dissociators, who look for external stimuli and distractions to get through the activity.  Given the vast wealth of runners out there, I think this black and white sorting is too simple.  After all, even the most insistent purist will probably find themselves kicking a little harder as they pass a rock band playing their favorite song near the end of a marathon.

But if it were completely up to me?

Where It Gets a Little Wacky

One day ...

One day …

I would want a music player to seamlessly gel with my body, wires and hard drives meshing in perfect symbiosis with my neural circuitry.  In the last third of a long race, I would turn it on with simple taps to my palm (or temple or shoulders, naturally I would know the best spot after several weeks of beta testing) and I would instantly hear songs playing in my head in beautiful high fidelity.  The device would know the tempo of each song and calibrate each selection according to my cadence.  Changes in speed would result in real-time changes in song.  As I ramp up, 311’s “Down” would lose its zip, prompting the device to intuitively segue into Yellowcard’s “Breathing.”  Once the effects of the SoCal quintet’s infectious pop-rock have been exhausted, the player would kick it into high gear with Amon Amarth’s “Live for the Kill” because nothing lights a fire under my ass like Nordic death metal.

Finally, when there’s only five minutes left until the finish line, the iDan would unleash its wild card, the song that I only play in a car if I have a wide open road ahead of me.  Sure, it’s a frontrunner for the dorkiest song you’ve ever heard and the band likely met while LARPing in an open field, but on the run it’s like an injection of ox blood and shark teeth:

(Only partly ashamed to admit that I love, love this song)

Once this musical singularity happens, I’m pretty sure you’ll see me destroying PRs left and right.  My blood would be tested by anti-doping officials, displayed prominently in museums of human achievement and used to make redwoods reach maximum height in just weeks.  But as long as man and machine remain separate, I’m happy just listening to the sounds of a person putting one foot in front of the other.  There may come a day where I’ll channel my favorite metal gods for the last haul of a marathon, dialing down my perception of pain while putting a little more spring in my step.  Only time will tell.

Do you listen to music while you run?  Do you do it because it helps you pass the time?  Or because it makes you feel like a demigod?  Are you as OCD as I am or can you run to any beat?  What song makes you want to start a bar fight with a wolf?  Did you know that “Bye Bye Bye” perfectly [N]syncs with my cadence?  Might sound crazy, but it ain’t no lie.

About Dan
Running a marathon in all 50 states because there's no better way to explore the world around you than on your own two feet, for as long as you can, until you hate yourself and everything around you. Then you stop, get a medal, and start over.

33 Responses to Music: A Legal and Healthy Performance Enhancer

  1. tootallfritz says:

    Ah, the music debate. Love it! I very rarely use music. I ran most of my life without music because we couldn’t have it in school events and it just kinda carried over. As an adult, I have used it on occasion. I always use it when I go out to run in the early morning (4am). The coyotes are still “busy” hunting at that hour and it freaks me out a bit hearing their activity. So I use music to keep my heart rate at a normal level and keep me sane enough to stay out long enough to get in a good run.

    Otherwise I don’t use it. Safety is one issue. Plus when I run long, I can get irritated by anything really. I’ve been known to toss arm warmers, sunglasses, various clothing items to the way side out of irritation, so a music device with wires is irksome. Plus, if it’s a race, I get distracted in the music and don’t stay on pace or even in the game.

    • Dan says:

      Were I to write a list of pros and cons, I think I would just copy and paste your entire comment. It’s crazy that there’s so much to consider for the simple choice of whether to listen to music. Though you’d think that you’d WANT to hear coyote noises just to make sure you don’t accidentally trespass on their turf right?

      • tootallfritz says:

        I had one bark at me from the side of the road before. I didn’t know coyotes actually barked. I was too close to it’s breakfast. #AbsoluteParalyzingFear

  2. Devil's Chasin Me says:

    Awesome post, Dan, on such a hot topic! I love music, generally, but have started to do some of my runs without. I’ve also started listening to audio books to shake things up a bit. When I do listen to music, though, I just put my entire catalog (which is enormous) on shuffle and let fly. I have noticed that I run faster to some songs, but not the ones with certain tempos: usually ones that remind me of people or events that are significant. Thank you for this post today 🙂

    • Dan says:

      I have friends who run with audiobooks and I find that very interesting. In that case, it’s not a matter of maintaining a tempo or even motivation, but simply something else to do while running. I wonder if it’s because it makes the run seem shorter or if it’s to simply kill two birds with one stone — maintain fitness AND learn something new. If it were me, I think my reason would be the latter. It’s prime book-reading time but good luck doing that while bouncing up and down, swinging your arms back and forth.

      Thanks for reading and participating 🙂

  3. Pingback: Music: A Legal and Healthy Performance Enhancer | PerformanceVertical Perspectives

  4. G-Tang says:

    I find it too challenging to run or do any sort of exercise without music. To complete a marathon without it is beyond me.

  5. Like you, I’m a no-music runner. It’s too distracting to me. I feel much better if I’m listening and paying attention to my body, environment, etc. The only time I listen to music when I’m running is when I’m on a treadmill, because I despise treadmills and the only way to get through those runs, for me, is to have the distraction of music.

    Pretty interesting information here though otherwise, as I didn’t know the elites used music in training. I just always assumed they were perfectly in tune already and wouldn’t want the distraction it brings but I learned something new! Now I’m going to hear Haile the next time I hear the Scatman song.

    • Dan says:

      Yeah, I think many of us tend to assume that elites have their regimen so perfectly fine-tuned that they would need any additional bells and whistles to spring their steps. But even they at some point need to find some sort of mental outlet. And I guess it makes sense — they can run up to a hundred miles a week. With that much time on your feet, I wouldn’t blame them for wanting to switch things up here and there.

  6. Natalie Cobb says:

    I’m an aerobics instructor, so using music to work out is on a whole ‘nother level for me.

    I’m not sure if music is just a motivator for me, or a security blanket too. Every time I see a race that says no headphones, I always rethink if I want to do it. This logic always seems silly to me, because I shouldn’t need music to be able to finish a race if I trained correctly!! But all the same, I usually shy away from those races.

    But, a while back when I discovered (post registration) that the du I committed to didn’t allow music at all, what I thought was going to be a huge deal ended up not being a non-issue. In fact, at that race, I ran my fastest mile ever. I haven’t hit that pace since.

    Ever since then, sometimes I feel like I just need to ditch the tunes on a run. There’s something about turning off the distraction of music that forces me into the moment… I notice what my body’s doing more, and appreciate the scenery more too.

    However, I can only skip music on a short run, or on a new (to me) race course. Stick me on my standard 60 minute run route with no music, and it feels like an eternity without music. And, I can’t imagine getting through a full marathon with out something playing.

    Running in Cheetah Leggings,

    • Dan says:

      I find it funny that you ran your fastest mile WITHOUT music, because research and personal experience suggests the opposite! But then again, everyone is different and what motivates one person to kick harder might not work for everyone else. So maybe having a clear mind and an acute awareness to the world around you and your body’s natural feedback was the necessary jolt YOU needed at that particular time. Thanks for the comment!

  7. nolan says:

    I started out with music exclusively, and called off several runs when my Nano was dead. As I got to be a better, stronger runner, I relied less and less on music to motivate and like many here became increasingly comfortable sans headphones. Having read the same study about frequency of music during runs, I use my iPod sparingly during training but will always use it for half or full marathons. And I try to use it strategically: during my last marathon, I kept it off for the first 2 miles then listened to an episode of This American Life before switching to music. For future reference, please note that Taylor Swift is sonically perfect and her music has the same resonant frequency as the human soul, and so is best suited for running to and/or discovering the true nature of being.

    • G-Tang says:

      Whether it’s Back to December, Innocent, Teardrops on my Guitar, White Horse or Tim McGraw, Taylor pushes human achievement to its pinnacle. Thank you for understanding.

      • Dan says:

        So what you’re both saying is, listening to “22” right at that mile marker will make you an indefatigable running god?

  8. runninginnj says:

    I never run with music. I never gave it much thought but I think it would bother me. I enjoy being lost in my own thoughts while I run.

  9. runninginnj says:

    I have never run with music. When I started running I don’t think it even occurred to me that it might help but I guess it wasn’t necessary. Now I think it would bother me – I enjoy getting lost in my thoughts and my surroundings.

    Also, I run for our club and you would be disqualified from gaining team points (or individual) if you wear headphones.

    • Dan says:

      It does beg the question: does listening to music make you more or less likely to sort out your own personal thoughts during a run? I tend to find that running is a great time to think about what’s going on in my life and to work out certain issues. But if I had a favorite album playing in my head, I might not be as likely to sift through life situations because I’d be too busy rocking out.

      Thanks for chiming in.

  10. Mike says:

    I’m sorry, could you repeat the part after your 2004 iPod shut itself down? I had my earbuds in and was listening to my Slayer catalogue on shuffle.

    Nicely researched and highly entertaining read, Dan… though the rest of us blogging types might appreciate your not raising the bar for supporting evidence quite so high.

    I find it interesting that, after all your research, you came around to the same conclusion with which you’d started: no music for you while running. I agree with you that sorting people as either associators or dissociators is an oversimplification, in the same way that calling someone an “introvert” or “extrovert” is… the importance of context can’t be denied, though categorizing people binarily at least offers a starting point for more detailed discussions. Not having read through all the studies you reference, I’d be interested to know whether type of music matters – is performance equally affected while listening to the Dropkick Murphys vs. the London Philharmonic? And is the effect similar in more outgoing (i.e. extroverted) vs. more introspective (i.e. introverted) runners? Questions like these should keep Dr. Karageorghis funded for a while longer.

    Sometimes I listen to music (Nightwish and Delain are particular good for tempo runs) – more often in the urbs than out on the trails, where there might actually be sounds worth hearing. Recently I’ve transitioned to audiobooks, so that I can learn something while I’m running, without falling asleep on my feet to NPR. And more often than I’d care to admit, I start my run with earbuds in and iPod at the ready, only to finish without ever having turned it on. Often, getting lost in my own thoughts provides a more compelling diversion than any iPod. In any case, that incident right up the street here in Venice Beach over the weekend will no doubt leave me a bit more wary about plugging in while I run.

    Good thing the iDan is still a few years off, though… my guess is that you try to finish the last 5 minutes of a marathon to that Rhapsody of Fire song, and you’re more likely to end up with a EMT bent over you trying to resuscitate you 100 yards from the finish line. For a driving beat that’s less likely to triple-dog-dare your heart out of your chest, I’d recommend “N.W.O.” by Ministry.

    Can’t wait for your thoroughly researched post on whether we’ll see a sub-2:00 marathoner in our lifetime! You know you want to…

    • Dan says:

      I mentioned my curiosity about audiobooks in a previous comment because I’d struggle to think of a way in which a spoken narrative can make you run faster – to say nothing of how it’d even be possible to run to its “beat.” At that point, it’s easy to declare it’s not about moving faster, but about getting your mind off the workout. The bonus being that you’re learning something, so it’s also making the most out of the session. Still, I wonder whether it would change how I run …

      I like your idea of “suiting up” with the iPod but never turning it on. It sounds like the way I’d venture into the music-while-running world — keeping it on reserve until the moment I need it most, if that moment ever comes.

      And as for that final article recommendation, that’s actually not a terrible idea. I’ve thought about that (and read extensively on it) so it would be a very fitting thought bubble to translate to paper. Or whatever we call the internet page space.

  11. Jen says:

    I started off running with music, but got really sick of the same playlist. Around that same time, I began to enjoy running for running’s sake, so I became less dependent on the music to carry me through. These days, I listen to podcasts and the occasional audio book, but, like Mike, I will often end up running with my earbuds in, listening to nothing. For my first marathon (CIM last year), I actually made a playlist for the last 1.5 hours of the race, in case I was really flailing. It ended up raining so hard that I was completely drenched and didn’t want to subject my ziploc-sealed iPhone to any moisture, so I ended up not using it. Who knows if I would’ve done better, but I survived without it, and I like the feeling of being independent of devices/aids. (Though my Garmin is another story…)

    • Dan says:

      You know, I hadn’t even thought about that, but SWEAT is a huge consideration for me. I feel like a sponge just 20 minutes into a run, so any listening device I bring with me would definitely short circuit a few songs into a workout. The necessary water-proofing I’d have to do in order to keep it safe from the saline torrent would probably be more trouble than it’s worth.

      Thanks for your thoughts!

      • Jen says:

        Sweat has definitely been an issue for me! My iPhone earbud controller thingee (I don’t know what that’s called, but the device that controls volume and start/stop on the wire) — anyway, that thing always short circuits with a particular running top that gets soaked with sweat.

  12. I used to HAVE to have my music. Recently, I’ve been forgetting it. Which is super weird for me, I think it’s my super stressed brain. Then once I remembered that I owned an iPod, I noticed that one of my ear buds is broken. so now, I run with just one ear bud in, but it’s super beneficial: I still get my music and I still get to hear the sounds of nature around me (oh yeah, I’ve been doing most of my runs on the trails).

    • Dan says:

      I love reading these comments because it makes me realize how much I forgot to write about. I have noticed that trail runners by and large avoid listening to music, while road runners are always hooked to their devices. You could go into generalizations and assume trail runners are more in tune (no pun intended) with nature, like to avoid the big-city hustle and bustle, etc. But is it that? Trail runners are also more likely to be ultramarathoners, who run for LONGER than their road counterparts, so wouldn’t they be MORE likely to want a song here and there to switch it up?

      Interesting tangent … thanks again for participating 🙂

  13. Patty says:

    I don’t usually listen to music while I run because I normally run with a group; I enjoy conversation.
    If I’m doing a solitary run, I’ll take it with me and sometimes I’ll use it and sometimes I won’t (it can get annoying). I do, however, always have my iPod with me during a marathon, half or any other race, but I only use it when I need it. During a marathon it’s my reward for getting to mile 18 or 20 or 22 and it helps me get through the last tough miles. I also use it for speed work, and the songs definitely have to be energetic (no slow songs on my shuffle).

  14. MedalSlut says:

    I used to listen to music on every run, without fail, but then stopped when I began running with friends. Now, it is rare for me to listen to music, but for everything over a half marathon distance, the ipod shuffle gets tucked into the sports bra as my ‘crutch’ for when things get grim.

    Also, I remember reading somewhere that the elevating effects of music on performance last for about 5 minutes before everything goes back to normal, which is why I tend to carry it as a last resort. Reading the comments so far, it seems I’m not the only one that can’t quite kick the drug!

    • Dan says:

      I have friends that listen to music on the run, and whenever I run with them, it does get just a little annoying to have to repeat myself after they remove their earbuds. Maybe running in a group should have an all-or-nothing rule about that to avoid sounding like a broken record.

      Sometimes, five minutes is all it takes to zap you back into a groove. But in the grand scheme of things (aka, while running a friggin’ MARATHON) five minutes is also a drop in the bucket. If that’s the case, then maybe we should delay the tunes until mile 25.8.

  15. Jason says:

    Great article. I really appreciate your in depth research and contrasting points of view. I love music and I get supercharged listening to my tunes during the warmup before a race, but I don’t like having the earbuds in during training runs and races. It blocks my ability to read my body’s signals- breathing, footfalls, etc. Another reason I run without music is to escape the constant noise of the day. Running is a time of purity and introspect for me. That’s what keeps me sane.

    • Dan says:

      Your wording is very interesting — I’ve heard many people might say that because running is a time of purity and introspection, that they don’t want anything clouding their thoughts, particularly music. For many (though not necessarily myself), running is a sacrosanct part of their day where they can escape their hectic lives and bask in the simplicity of a hard effort. Music would definitely take away from that experience, even if the songs are slow, synth-y New Age ballads.

      Thanks for your thoughts!

  16. Pingback: The 2-Hour Marathon: Running’s Great Debate | Dan's Marathon

  17. Pingback: Coach Dan (2014 Rock ‘n Roll Chicago Half Marathon) | Dan's Marathon

  18. Pingback: What’s Your Power Song? | Starter Steps

And then you said ...

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: