One of the latest crazes in exercise is music. There are Zumba classes, where participants have a ‘dance party’ to Latin and international music. There’s Jazzercise, where workouts are coordinated with popular songs on the radio. People like working out to music, because it provides a distraction and can add a dimension of fun and excitement to exercise! But where does the music-exercise craze come into play with running? It seems like lately, 70% of the people I see running are plugged in to an iPod or mp3 device. I usually don’t run with music, but I can see the pros and cons.
Music definitely can provide a distraction, and especially on long, hard runs, a distraction may be the only thing that keeps me picking up my feet! I often let my mind wander while I run, thinking about school, friends, boys, whatever. Or if I’m running with someone, we talk about whatever’s going on in our lives. This usually provides enough of a distraction for 80% of my run, but when the going gets tough and I’ve reached a point of near exhaustion, I stop thinking or talking and start singing in my head! I don’t sing the typical “workout” songs that are super upbeat. Instead I sing songs that have a steady yet bouncy rhythm, such as music we’re singing in choir, a country song I heard on the radio that morning, or the state song I learned in 4th Grade…I had no clue why I choose those songs to sing until I talked to friends that run with iPods. They told me they don’t run to just any songs, but instead have specialized playlists geared to their running rhythm. So I guess the songs that I sing match my natural running pace! I sing them because they help me keep pace and not slow down even when I’m exhausted. Running with an iPod can provide that same advantage!
In my opinion, however, there are cons to running with music. I’ve tried both, and after a run where I’m constantly listening to my iPod, I don’t feel as content or peaceful as I do when I run in silence. Running has a meditative quality. When my mind is free to wander and it’s not being bombarded by music, my worries and stresses fall away with each step I take, and I’m able to appreciate the beauty that surrounds me on a beautiful day. When I run with constant music, however, my mind because it’s focused on the music, so I don’t feel stress relief and become oblivious to my surroundings. I’ve asked friends to go on a run before and they’ve spent the entire time listening to music, completely ignoring me. When I’m running and I pass a fellow jogger, I always give them the courtesy of a smile or hello. Joggers listening to music, however, more often than not remain unaware of my friendly greeting and pass by without a glance. It would be a lie to say I’m not offended.
To run with music, or to run in silence. That is the question. Try both and see what works for you!