Running Without Music: Making A Case For It

When it comes to contemplating if a runner should use music or not, there are three schools of thought. That might sound crazy because you might think this is an all or nothing concept. Actually, it is not quite as black and white as one might think.

There are people who religiously listen to music when they run. Many of these athletes can not imagine logging miles without music. Whether it is because the music acts as a distraction or they carefully choose their music based on the type of workout they are doing, these runners typically are plugged in during a run.

Another school of thought is that if you are listening to music when you run, you are missing out on other things. This can be referring to everything from the sounds of nature to staying in tune with your own body.

Is Running Without Music Better?

Define better. Better for what? When asking a group of runners if they listen to music when they run, there are a multitude of different answers. Common reasons given for running without music:

Mindfulness: Some people will argue that running without music helps you to be mindful. These people use running for relaxation and see it as a sort of meditation.

Staying In Tune With Your Body: Runners who choose not to use music feel that they are more in tune with their bodies. More apt to notice a twinge or difference in breathing, these runners feel they are at an advantage.

Enjoying Nature: Athletes who love to see and enjoy the world around them think that headphones and music leave them missing out. With your eyes and ears open to everything around you, you are more likely to take note of the bubbling brook, birds soaring above your head and the scamper of a squirrel jumping from one branch to another.

Safety: Being alert and aware of everything around you can be essential to staying safe. Especially for runners who are out at dawn, dusk or in darkness, hearing a wild animal or car approaching can be a life or death matter.

Interrupts Heart Rate Training: An interesting aspect to consider is how running to music might interrupt heart rate training. If you are trying to stay within a certain zone if a very up tempo song might come on, you could find yourself running quicker than you should be to hit the target rate.

Does Running With Music Help?

Running with music can, and does, help many people. Music can be a very welcome distraction from the pain and discomfort of running. Proponents will tell you that listening to music can help you run faster and longer.

running with headphones 2

Have you ever taken a cardio class at a local gym? If you do you will find that the music is very strategically chosen to have a beat that is most likely to keep everyone moving at the right tempo. If you choose music with a faster beat you are likely to move quicker.

Some runners change up their music specifically based on the type of workout they are about to do. Speed or tempo work might be done to rock music and an easy run could be paired with something slower.

Is Listening To Music Bad For Running?

Is it bad? Compared to what? Truly, it seems that whether or not you should listen to music is a very personal decision. Some people adamantly feel that listening to music on a run is not something you could do.

Whether they think it messes with your tempo or they are worried about safety, there are strong feelings.

Music Based On The Workout

Interestingly enough, some athletes choose whether or not they will listen to music based on the workout on the schedule. Many athletes will find that during a track speed workout they leave the music at home so they can focus on the workout. These same athletes might choose to have music for an easy workout.

running with or without music

If you choose to workout to music, pay attention to beats per minute and be sure that it matches up with the type of workout you want to have.

Why Do Some Elite Runners Not Listen To Music?

For many years it has been the practice not to allow music by elite runners. In 2008, U.S.A. Track and Field Association relaxed the rules about music. Having said that, many elites still choose not to use music for the same reasons mentioned above.

Running without music is not only an accepted practice, it is required not to wear headphones at some races.

Other Ways to Engage the Brain

  • Podcasts: Some runners listen to podcasts while running. This is a manner to engage the brain and keep their thoughts rolling. You can find anything from running podcasts to true crime series.
  • Audio Books: Another common engagement activity for runners is listening to audiobooks.
  • Singing Out Loud: Believe it or not, some interviewed runners state that they sing out loud while they run.
  • Talking To Other Runners: People who enjoy running with a group report that they chat, laugh and visit when they run. Whether you are in a group or just with a running buddy, working out with a friend has many benefits.

Quotes From Runners

Honore MacCoy-Patty said, “The trail is my church, my meditation, my nature walk, my animal preserve. I listen to the rhythm of my footsteps, breathing and heart rate mixed with the sounds of the birds, breeze and it is so much more calming than any music.”

Jeff Loeb, “I don’t want my brain engaged. I run to disengage.”

Jessica Rupp stated, “I always go out with the intention to pray, but some of the best runs have no words. I assume that my brain isn’t being silent, but listening. Some of the best runs have no recognizable thoughts.”

Like many things the choice of listening to music or not is really a personal preference. We at Rockay just hope that if you choose to enjoy music or a podcast through headphones, you keep your volume down low enough to keep yourself safe. Our Rockay family is important to us. Run safe!

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