Run­ning De­bate

Why You Should Re­con­sider Run­ning with Mu­sic

Canadian Running - - FEATURES - By John Lofranco John Lofranco is the head of road run­ning for Ath­let­ics Canada, a coach at Ath­leti­cisme Ville-Marie, and a con­tribut­ing ed­i­tor of Cana­dian Run­ning.

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“It’s fright­en­ingly ironic that while we live in an age of so-called “so­cial” me­dia, the ex­pe­ri­ence of run­ning a road race is not so­cial at all.”

Mal­colm Glad­well is a po­lar­iz­ing dude. He’s ei­ther a great equal­izer, vul­gar­iz­ing com­plex sci­en­tif ic con­cepts for the com­mon reader, or he’s a snake oil sales­man who is dis­tort­ing the science for his own gain. His re­cent pro­nounce­ment that run­ners who lis­ten to mu­sic while they run are “soft” is less am­bigu­ous. If you do lis­ten, well, he’s rip­ping into you, it’s pretty ob­vi­ous. Glad­well’s way of putting it wasn’t very nice, but I do agree with him that there are more com­pelling rea­sons to run with­out mu­sic than with. The rea­sons to avoid lis­ten­ing to mu­sic (or pod­casts, ex­cept The Shake­out, of course) when you run are so­cial, safety- and train­ing-re­lated.

It’s fright­en­ingly ironic that while we live in an age of so-called “so­cial” me­dia, the ex­pe­ri­ence of run­ning a road race is not so­cial at all. I was stand­ing as a mar­shal at a half-marathon this sum­mer, cheer­ing peo­ple on as they passed – try­ing to be so­cial – and maybe one out of ten run­ners heard me say their name (it was help­fully printed on their bib, by a so­cially-minded race di­rec­tor). The rest had their ears plugged.

Sure they prob­a­bly “shared” their ex­pe­ri­ence with their friends on­line, but the ac­tual 21.1k was not so­cial at all. I do about half my runs with other peo­ple. It would be rude to lis­ten to mu­sic and ig­nore them. A race can be a slightly dif­fer­ent sce­nario, but con­sid­er­ing that the bulk of run­ners are work­ing to­wards com­plet­ing the course and sign up with friends to do it to­gether, why are they lis­ten­ing to mu­sic?

It is true, how­ever, that run­ning is used by many as pre­cious alone time. But if you re­ally want to ben­e­fit from be­ing alone, you need your mind clear. Some of the many ben­e­fits of run­ning can come from be­ing in na­ture. Block­ing out the sounds of the wind in the trees or the song of birds kind of ru­ins that mo­ment.

Of course, if you are in the city, you should keep your ears free for safety rea­sons. If you’ve got head­phones on, you are less aware of your sur­round­ings, not only au­rally, but your fo­cus can be pulled away from the task at hand: run­ning down a side­walk, trail or road. You may miss a pedes­trian, root or a car that ap­pears sud­denly in front of you. It’s not worth risk­ing an in­jury just to get mo­ti­vated by Bey’s new track. The idea that rock­ing out to some tunes can help you push far­ther and faster may be true, but the ques­tion you should ask your­self is: do you need to be push­ing your­self to run faster on your day-to-day runs? If you’re train­ing for a goal race, you prob­a­bly have work­outs to do, so your easy runs should be easy. You don’t want or need to go faster. Lis­ten­ing to mu­sic of­ten ac­tu­ally baits you into screw­ing up those pre­cious and all-im­por­tant easy days.

Now dur­ing your work­outs you might want to push, but you also want to be aware of your splits, and fo­cus on con­nect­ing the feel­ings you have to the pace you are run­ning. This is a vi­tal part of train­ing. More than t he phys­i­olog ical t rans­for­ma­tion that takes place, you are prac­tic­ing un­der­stand­ing your body and how to get it to do what you want it to do. If you are too busy zon­ing out to mu­sic, you won’t be ready to race. Don’t let mu­sic be­come the emo­tional crutch you re­quire just to get through a tough work­out or race. There may be some rare oc­ca­sions where run­ning with mu­sic is not a bad idea. The tread­mill is a good ex­am­ple. There’s no need to worry about safety, there’s usu­ally no one else around (I don’t know too many run­ning groups who meet up for tread­mill runs). And since your body runs a bit dif­fer­ently on the tread­mill any­way, it prob­a­bly doesn’t mat­ter if you aren’t lis­ten­ing to your foot falls on the belt.

Other than that, while I wouldn’t call run­ning with mu­sic “soft,” I would say it’s po­ten­tially dan­ger­ous, rude and in­ef­fi­cient. And that’s rea­son enough not to do it.

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