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Is It a Good Idea to Run With Music?

Updated on September 15, 2012

To Run with Music or Not?

Since the development and widespread use of the classic MP3 player and various iPods, the question has been asked, "is it a good idea to use headphones and listen to music while running?" There certainly seem to be advantages and disadvantages to running with music. On one hand listening to music while running can make a person less aware. This could be dangerous, (if running on roads) or just plain rude (if in the gym and others are in conversation). However, music has an incredible ability to motivate people and push them to achieve more, especially when going hard in a workout.

How About You

Do You Run With Music?

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Music Can Fuel the Mind

About three years ago I was ready to quit running. I had been running for seven to eight years prior, but I was finding it difficult to continue getting out every day to run. I was not motivated and I did not know how I would get through the summer months of my training. That's when I thought, "why not start listening to music when I run?" The idea captivated me and after considering it briefly, I purchased an iPod Shuffle. Because of its size and simplicity, the Shuffle is perfect for running. I was able to load roughly 250 of my favorite songs on my 1gb Shuffle, which was plenty for me (I could change the songs as often as I wanted).

I quickly found that listening to music made a huge difference in my running. I started to look forward to the chance I would have to hear some of my favorite tunes. Running was still work, but music made the work fun. As I have listened to music over the years, especially when running, I have come to realize that music has the ability to influence the human mind. Think about the last time you heard a very sad song or a song that was upbeat and cheerful. Did the song have any influence over your emotions or state of mind? I believe that the right music can help fuel our minds when we run and help us perform at a higher level.

In regards to safety and attentiveness, I try to always keep the volume low enough so I can hear and have a good level of awareness when running. I always want to be able to hear traffic when running on the road. Safety is my number one priority.

While I do enjoy music, I do have a few "rules" for myself. First, I will never run with music when I am running with others. This is very important to me. Having headphones while being around others can appear quite rude and can take away from valuable time for relationship building. Second, I like to set aside certain runs where I do not listen to music. I have found that on occasion it is good to just unplug and enjoy the quiet or take time to listen to God while running. Third, I never listen to music while racing. A race should be motivating in and of itself and there is somewhat of an unwritten rule among many runners to leave the headphones at the starting line. Finally, if I feel that listening to music is jeopardizing my safety or simply "getting in the way," I make an effort to cut it off. While music and the related technology can be an incredible tool, I believe it is critical not to let it control my life.

In conclusion, running with music can be amazing, but be sure to keep everything in perspective. Always consider your safely first and have respect for those around you. Remember that a run without music can still be amazing, so don't let it be a bad day because your MP3 battery is dead!


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    • aud99 profile image

      Audrey 4 years ago

      As long as you are running in a park, I think having music on is fine. I go for brisk walking on most mornings, and I can tell you that music can make a difference. Time seems to pass by faster and easier when you are listening to music when you are exercising.

    • Linden Mazurka profile image

      Linden Mazurka 5 years ago from Greensboro

      I share some of the same rules for ipod running: never with a group and never in a race. That being said, I don't think I could run on a treadmill without my ipod. One other danger that I'm not sure if anyone has mentioned is the volume that headphones can reach. The increased circulation in our heads while exercising can lead to louder volumes than are necessary for sedentary listening, and that can be a problem. Just ask Pete Townshend! He has gone practically deaf from overexposure to loud music and is pretty outspoken about the dangers of earbud microphones.

    • MsDora profile image

      Dora Weithers 5 years ago from The Caribbean

      Thanks for sharing your experience. I don't run but music gives me energy when I've lots to do and feel sluggish. Thanks also to include a reminder for safety first.

    • help101 profile image

      help101 5 years ago

      I run without music because I use running as a way to clear my mind, or think a problem through.

      Running without music is very difficult at first. However, when you suddenly let go the urge to think right, it becomes miraculously marvelous.

      Music cannot beat the mind. Its like lucid dreaming whatever you want to, while at the same time, being 100 percent connect with your immediate surrounding.

      I encourage everyone who gets a chance to read this hub, to immediately give up music while running for a week, and then judge from the results.

      It will be easy, after a week, you can go back to music, or donate your iPod.

      Thanks for reading through, and thank you Jason for bringing this up.

    • Jason Matthews profile image

      Jason Matthews 5 years ago from North Carolina

      What a great idea! That's very funny, but it sounds like it works well. Good way to have a healthy balance with music and running. Thanks for your comment!

    • Natashalh profile image

      Natasha 5 years ago from Hawaii

      I have a pair of headphones that isn't a pair at all! The left wire and ear bud are totally missing, but the right ear bud works fine. I use these while jogging so I can have music and maintain situational awareness. I'm not advocating for people to cut their headphones up, but only using one of a pair could be worth a try.

    • Jason Matthews profile image

      Jason Matthews 5 years ago from North Carolina

      @ LauraGT: I always try to have a balanced outlook on issues and that includes music while running. The motivation is a big plus, but safely must always be considered.

      @ hot dorkage: Thanks for your comment. One thing I typically do is a have a playlist with a bunch of different songs. Most of my songs have a varied beat and tempo which helps to shake things up a bit as I'm running. Sometimes I will listen to a song I really like and up my pace just a bit!

      @ Danette: Thanks for sharing...and no, you weren't rambling. I enjoy hearing from my readers. I am glad that you are now more motivated to run. I am sorry to hear about your torn meniscus...that's never fun. I hope you are able to recover quickly!

    • Danette Watt profile image

      Danette Watt 5 years ago from Illinois

      As someone who is trying to develop a running habit, the title of your hub caught my attention. I voted "never" in your poll because I have only run with music 1 time.

      As I said, I've been trying to develop a running habit and was feeling unmotivated, bored with the same route (no one to run with) and finally decided to try running with an iPod my son gave me. It made a difference! I felt more energized and "peppy." Unfortunately, I now have a torn meniscus so am back to not running for a while.

      I do agree with you on 2 things you mentioned here. Safety -- when I used my iPod, I only had one ear bud in. I want to be aware of anyone who might be coming up behind me on the street. I was out walking a couple years ago and came up behind a woman who had earbuds in. They were so loud, she had no idea I was behind her.

      The other comment is about being "plugged in" all the time. I agree it's important to run without music sometimes and I hope I don't get to dependent on music that I can't run without it. And I agree with hot dorkage. Even though I haven't been running long, I can see how it could be a problem to start running to a beat,especially if that's a pace that isn't good for you.

      Sorry to ramble....:)

    • hot dorkage profile image

      hot dorkage 5 years ago from Oregon, USA

      One problem is that you might lock in your pace to the beat and end up on gait that isn't what you really want to do. There are sites that have specific music at specific BPM's of course this requires programming and I just love the random button and try deliberately not to run with the beat.

    • LauraGT profile image

      LauraGT 5 years ago from MA

      I love running to music. It motivates me and keeps me going! Research even backs up the idea that it includes performance. But... thanks for pointing out some of the safety issues.

    • Jason Matthews profile image

      Jason Matthews 5 years ago from North Carolina

      There is certainly a beauty in running and just enjoying the natural sounds. As I mentioned, I enjoy doing running without time from time to time. Because I am currently running on a team (and thus running with others frequently), I might listen to music once every five runs or so.

      Unfortunately, we live in a "plugged-in" world. So many people feel that they have to be listening to something everywhere they go and at all times. These folks are really missing out on experiencing the fulness that comes from "non digital" material!

      Thanks for your comment! I always love good feedback and discussion.

    • GusTheRedneck profile image

      Gustave Kilthau 5 years ago from USA

      Jason - Not being an iPod person myself, I would ordinarily run without the earpieces trying to substitute for the rythms of the scenes and sounds along the pathways. All the same, music while running on a boring treadmill would be more than justified. One more thought - some "music" is so bad that running away from it might make for good training, particularly if it is glued to your ear and continues to chase you no matter how long and how hard you run.

      Gus :-)))

    • Jason Matthews profile image

      Jason Matthews 5 years ago from North Carolina

      Tony, thanks for your comment. As I said in the hub, music can influence us, but I think some people let it control them. They couldn't imagine working out with their headphones in. I love music, but there certainly has to be balance!

    • Tony Flanigan profile image

      Tony Flanigan 5 years ago from East London, South Africa

      When I read the title of your hub, I thought to myself the hub would be all about protecting your habit of running while plugged in to music. I am pleased that it wasn't. I recently started running a bit more seriously, and I am shocked at how many people feel they cannot run without their iPod - while training and while racing.

      Especially when road running this can be a hazardous practice - and I'm pleased your music while running mind-set is centered around safety first. Thank you for a responsible and uplifting Hub!