Running & Music

The only time in my life that I have ever ran while listening to music has been while running on a treadmill.  This was more common during my college years since I lived with my parents and they owned a treadmill.  It was located in the basement which was unfinished, thus no TV, and playing music was the only way I could manage a few miles while facing a concrete wall.

There are a few reasons I do not run outside while listening to music:

Safety – Most of my runs are ran alone.  Even if Jason joins me like last week or this morning, at some point during the run he usually separates from me.  Unlike my dad, he tends not to circle back for me thus I’m basically running alone.  I know technology has come a long way and there are earbuds available that don’t even fit inside the ears, so that runners can hear outside noise around them.  I applaud those efforts, but still feel I am safer when I can hear everything without distraction.

Nature – I feel much more in tune with nature by leaving the tunes at home.  This is particularly true when I run on trails.  I enjoy listening to the various bird songs and chirps with the occasional chatter from a squirrel.  I engage my senses much more and feel more connected to the Earth.  It can become a spiritual time, a time to separate from the “real world” of day to day living.

Pacing – Over the past year or two, I have become rather decent at running by pace.  I still utilize my Garmin, but for instance this morning Jason wanted to wear it for our 6 miles so I let him.  I don’t know what my overall time was, but I knew I was running between 9:30 and 10 min pace.  Checking his mile splits upon my finish and knowing roughly how far ahead of me he was, I’m pretty confident I was correct.  If I were to run while listening to music I am almost certain I would struggle to maintain a consistent pace.  The increased tempo of some songs would likely quicken it while the slower ballads would decrease it.

Hassle – I know there are specific playlists designed for runners which would help control the pacing issue I just described.  However, to find the “right” music to use while running seems like an annoyance.  The times I ran on the treadmill and used music I would set my iPod to shuffle, but still found myself skipping songs if one wasn’t a good one to run to, or I wasn’t in the mood to listen to a certain one.  When I’m running I want to focus on my run, not be distracted by changing the music.  On a similar note, I hate ear buds.  I will forever be a fan of wrap around headphones though unfortunately the soft part of mine deteriorated awhile ago, and I have yet to replace them.  Finding a pair of headphones that don’t bounce while running, aren’t too bulky, etc. is just not something I have any interest in doing.

Challenge – I find that running without music is more challenging.  Running with music provides a mental distraction.  For me, forcing myself to be inside my head for 6, 8, 10 miles or more is sometimes as difficult as physically running the miles.  It can be a good thing when I have the creative vibes flowing, or if I need to work through a problem in my head.  Other times though it can be tedious when the head games begin and the mind wants to tell the body to stop.  I find these times to be the best mental training for a race.  If I were to block those thoughts by listening to music I’m not sure that I would come up with as many blog post ideas, sort through as many issues, or be able to challenge my body as much.

Do you run while listening to music?  If yes, what type of equipment do you use?

About Tracy

Runner. Writer. Reader. Environmental and Indigenous Peoples advocate. Work from home Workforce Specialist. NASM Certified Personal Trainer. Assistant Varsity Track Coach. Fascinated by the ocean, waterfalls and Christmas lights.
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19 Responses to Running & Music

  1. swosei12blog says:

    I ran my first race without music (my earbuds crapped out on me) and it was a bit tough. It probably was tough because I RARELY run without music. There have been a couple of times that my phone’s battery was at 15%, and I would wait to charge it for a few minutes before my run.

    My “equipment” – an iPhone and regular earbuds (the $10 iPhone knockoffs).

    I figure that people do what works for them.

    • TracyNicole says:

      Do you find the music affects your pace in the race at all? I think it would mine thus I’m hesitant to ever try it. I used to warm up before road races while listening to music to psych myself up, but I haven’t even done that lately, mostly because I’ve been racing with my dad and others so we chat while warming up.

      • swosei12blog says:

        I guess it does affect my pace because I don’t run without music. 😉 Seriously, I think that it’s more of a mental block. After my race on Saturday, I planned to do a 2.5mile recovery run back home. I made it one mile before hopping on a bike and riding the rest of the way. Had I had some tunes, I probably would have finished the run.

      • TracyNicole says:

        It sounds like music is a double edged sword for you. Great when you have it for motivation but puts you in a slump if something happens that you don’t!

  2. AJ says:

    All good points. I alternate between music and no music so I can enjoy the best of both worlds. It usually depends on when and where I’m running

  3. 40andfeelinit says:

    I am strictly music all the time, every run, no exception. I don’t know why I’m like this, lol. I find myself like you, getting into my own head, but probably not a thorough as I would without music. I do feel your pain with not finding the right song. I have airpods and the way to fast forward a song is to tap the right one twice quickly. I feel like I look like a freaking LUNATIC when I can’t find a song to get into, lol! Frantically tapping my ear several hundred times. Maybe it’s time to be inspired and try a run without it all after all, lol

    • TracyNicole says:

      I am so out of touch with most technology, I didn’t even know there were earbuds that allowed you to tap to skip songs – that is really neat! I’m sure it probably does look silly to an outsider though who doesn’t know what you’re doing!

      • 40andfeelinit says:

        Lol! They are super user-friendly though, wireless too which was a game changer for me.

  4. I rarely run with music but I do listen to podcasts on my long runs. I don’t listen to anything on the rest of my runs. AfterShokz headphones (bone-conducting so they don’t go in your ears) are truly amazing. I was skeptical before I got them too, but I can truly hear everything around me, even my footfalls and the podcast I’m listening to, all at the same time. It’s a bit strange at first but once you get over the fact of how well they really do work, by allowing you to hear both your music or podcast and everything around you, it’s a game-changer.

    • TracyNicole says:

      I feel like if I was ever to train for a marathon I would have to consider podcasts or audio books to get me through the super long miles as I couldn’t stay in my own head for that long. Those AfterShokz do sound like the best option to go with for safety reasons, it’s so strange to me that they can stay in place without being stuck in your ear!

      • Right. That’s why I really need to listen to something on my long runs. I can run 4 or 5 miles easily without anything but when I’m out there for an hour or more, it gets a bit tedious without something to listen to. They kind of loop over your ears and the rest goes behind your head so they never move around at all. There are a bunch of people on social media with codes to save money if you decide to buy some (I don’t have a code or I’d pass it along)!

  5. I always run with my ancient 2nd generation ipod. My only exception is if I run with someone else–my middle daughter just joined cross country this year and we ran together several times over spring break. It was different. I liked it!

    • TracyNicole says:

      I have a 2nd generation ipod as well! Unfortunately I don’t know how to add new music to it without wiping my old music out because I couldn’t transfer my music in my Apple library from my old computer to my new computer and my understanding is if I’d plug the ipod into the new computer it’d sync the ipod to that one. Therefore if I listen to my ipod it’s all my favorites from my high school/college years! That’s great your daughter joined cross country and you can run together, some of my favorite runs have been with my dad!

  6. Laurie says:

    I am absolutely with you. I never run with music for all the reasons you list. Plus, the conversation going on in my head is more amusing than any playlist! 🙂

    • TracyNicole says:

      I get a lot accomplished during some runs by leaving my mind free to think – I’ve written almost entire blog posts, created track workouts for my kids. etc!

  7. runeatralph says:

    When I’m alone, I almost always listen to music. I use Spotify on my phone and Aftershokz. Aftershokz are probably my favorite piece of gear that I’ve tried in recent memory.

    • TracyNicole says:

      Jason recently signed up for a free month of Hulu and it came with Spotify and we love it more than Iheartradio or Google music; we may keep the subscription more for that than even Hulu! I will keep your recommendation of Aftershokz in mind whenever I decide to invest in new headphones, thanks!

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