For some, running without music is a way to leave the tech at home and completely immerse themselves in their surroundings. Others love to pop their earbuds in and cruise along to their favourite tunes. Of course, there are benefits to both, but if you’re part of the first group you may want to give listening to music a try. Check out these seven reasons why listening to music can improve your run.
Music keeps your brain young
Running in and of itself already provides a host of benefits for your brain, including helping to produce new brain cells, a process called neurogenesis, which slows down age-related cognitive decline. Add music into the mix, and you’re essentially giving your brain a workout, too. Research has shown that listening to music can improve your mental alertness and memory, and even jump-start creativity. Adding the two together, then, is a no-brainer (pun intended).
It can improve your endurance
Listening to music while you run can actually help you run longer. In his book Inside Sports Psychology, Dr. Coastas Karageoghis says having some tunes to rock out to as you run can increase your endurance by up to 15 per cent.
Music makes solo long runs less monotonous
Yes, we all love running, but we’d be lying to ourselves if those long, solo training runs didn’t sometimes get a little boring. When you’re heading out without a running buddy, a playlist of some of your favourite tracks can keep your mind occupied while the kilometres slip away.
It boosts your mood
A happy runner is a successful runner, and listening to music can improve your mood so that you’re less likely to cave in to your inner demons and quit. Queue the Rocky theme.
Music reduces stress
After a stressful day at work, a nice run to clear your head can be the best antidote. Listening to music while you run is a great way to decrease your stress even further. Music influences the areas of your brain that are related to your emotions, which can help you to relax. You’ll come in from your run refreshed, happier and ready to handle whatever the rest of your day has to throw at you.
It enhances your runner’s high
When you listen to music you love, it triggers the release of the feel-good neurotransmitter dopamine. Running already has mood-boosting effects on its own, so listening to your favourite songs while you run can bolster that effect and make you feel lighter, happier and calmer.
It makes you run faster
Scientists used to think that our muscles fatigued once we reached our physiological limit, but we now know that’s not true. Instead, our brains tell us that we’re tired in order to prevent us from damaging our bodies. This means that if you’re highly motivated, your brain will be willing to risk getting a little bit closer to that limit. Research has found that music can alter your perception of effort and fatigue and effort by up to 12 percent, allowing you to trick your brain into pushing a little bit harder for better performance. So what’s the best music for improving performance? According to Karageoghis, songs that have a tempo range of 120 to 140 BPM are best for helping you run faster.
When you should ditch the tunes
That being said, there are a few circumstances when you should leave the headphones at home. Dr. Karageoghis says that the faster you run, the less effect the music has. This could be because elite athletes tend to be associators (meaning they typically focus inwardly when they’re running) while most other runners are disassociators, and prefer focus outward and distract themselves from what they’re doing. For this reason, you may be better off without the music when you’re planning a hard speed session.
You may also want to ditch the headphones when you’re coming back from an injury because music can distract you from listening to your body’s signals, and you may end up pushing yourself harder than you should.
Finally, many race officials request that participants forgo music for safety reasons since it can make it hard for you to hear directions from course marshals and security – triathletes should note that wearing earphones is banned during races.
Still, for most of us, music is an excellent motivational tool to get us out the door, and our favourite songs can boost our mood, improve our performance and turn a good run into a great run.