We have all been mid-run when our mind starts to think negative thoughts. And like a switch, suddenly our body starts to shut down. Our legs feel weighted, or stride shortens and feet dragging. Our breath gets heavier and we can’t stop to think that we can no longer go on. Then, that song comes on and it’s as if we are brought back to life. We perk up, pick up the pace, and are in a positive state of mind. We just can’t help but sing along in our heads and bop to the beat as we continue the run strong. Music can truly boost performance and be so motivational.
Some might think that it’s a random occurrence when the right song comes on at the right time to uplift our spirits. But there is real science to back the fact that music can enhance our athletic performance.
How Music Boosts Runner’s Performance
According to a study published in the journal Psychology of Sports and Exercise, music can be used as motivation for runners.
First off, music can take the attention away from a runner starting to get tired. A good song has us focusing on the lyrics and beat and not on our performance. Many might even drift off and be “in the zone.”
Another study found that music helps athletes mentally prepare before a competition in an organized sport like soccer or football. This is why queuing that half marathon playlist before the race starts might be a good idea. Just keep in mind that the USA Track and Field banned athletes from listening to music during competition back in 2007 since it does give runners who do a “competitive edge.” While that means music really is a powerful tool when it comes to boosting motivation, it also means runners should make sure they can wear headphones during their next race.
A study conducted at Brunel University found that music makes running feel more effortless, up to 12 percent to be exact. At the same time, the scientist found that music can enhance endurance by up to 15 percent.
And many can agree with this. Every so often we experience that moment when a song resonates deeply with us. Goosebumps form on our arms and a slight chill runs down our back. Our heart seems to fill up and legs extend for a more pronounced stride. A smile graces our face, determination in our eyes. We just seem to run better, strong, faster. Until that song is over at least.
The Best Motivational Music For Runners
When the beat increases, the runner speeds up their movements. The body naturally starts to run along with the beat that it hears. Many might notice this when taking a spin class like SoulCycle when the rider is instructed to pedal to the beat.
That means a high tempo song can help us sprint it out. The faster the song’s pace, the faster the runner’s pace will be when timing stride to the beat.
It’s recommended that for this, runners listen to music that has 150 to 180 BPM (beats per minute) for tempo runs. For most, running to a song with 145 BPM will be running this all the effort we can.
A good way to start a run is with songs that are around 120 BPM like Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” or Rihanna’s “We Found Love” that has 130 BPM for a warm up.
To find more songs that have 180 BPM, use music apps like Pandora, which allows users to enter a BPM into the search in its workout radio stations. Songs with 180 BPM include Jay-Z and Beyonce’s “’03 Bonnie & Clyde,” Imagine Dragon’s “Monster,” and Britney Spears “ I Love Rock ’N’ Roll.”
Using music can also help pace a long run. Runners should aim for songs at has 100 to 120 BPM to go a bit slower and steady.
When Not To Use Music
No matter how motivating music is, runners should not rely on it to be able to get through a run. Instead, it should be a used as a tool to help during speed sessions or when not really feeling up to lacing up. This is because many events do not allow music on the course. If the runner only runs with music, they can really struggle on race day.
Those running early morning or late a night might not want to be too distracted from their surroundings for safety reasons. Keep one earbud out if listening to music is a must. The same applies when the runner is exploring a new trail or somewhere they aren’t comfortable running. But safety should always be a priory no matter what time of the day or how many times the runner goes does the same paths.
Music can be the best medicine. It has the power to uplift us, inspire us, and make us feel good. There is something about a banging beat that makes us start nodding our heads to, tapping our feet, and shimmy and shaking. And when paired with running, you might just get your next PR.