Running and Music: A Fresh Look

I was intrigued to read a new article in Scientific American about running with music called “Let’s Get Physical: The Psychology of Effective Workout Music.” I’m one of those runners who always runs with music, either on my ipod or my phone, and over the years I have read with interest the back and forth debate — often quite contentious — among runners about the merits of doing so.  It always feels like serious runners think those of us who run with music are somehow less — less serious, less committed, less able —  because of our tune fetish.  Various races ban headphones and there always seems to be the question “are they really banned, or are they just saying that on their website?”  And of course, there’s the safety issue, but I’m fortunate to run in an area that’s pretty safe and even with my tunes, I’m always on alert for suspicious cars.

I’ve tried running without music, and while it is certainly possible, I find it infinitely less enjoyable.  Music helps me stay focused, gives me a beat, and my favorite running songs always lift my spirits when I’m feeling tired in the middle of a run.  When I ran Hood to Coast in Oregon several years ago, race officials were serious about their headphone ban and I managed to find a small music player with a speaker good enough that it did the trick — but just barely.

According to Scientific American, “Music distracts people from pain and fatigue, elevates mood, increases endurance, reduces perceived effort and may even promote metabolic efficiency. When listening to music, people run farther, bike longer and swim faster than usual—often without realizing it.”  The article notes that synchrony between beats and steps may help the body run most efficiently and suggests that most people prefer running to songs with 160-180 beats per minute (bpm), but that anything above 145 bpm probably is sufficient.

For the most part, my running songs are tunes that I listen to only when running, and I’ve realized that I’ve missed them over the last month while recovering from my broken toe.  I’m always on the lookout for new songs to add to my playlist to keep things fresh and welcome your suggestions in the comments.   Ten of my favorite running songs from my ipod are listed below.

  1. Adele-Rolling in the Deep (warmup)
  2. Train – 50 Ways to Say Goodbye
  3. Adam Lambert – If I Had You
  4. Springsteen  – My Love Will Not Let You Down
  5. Nikki Minaj – Starships
  6. Flo Rida – Run
  7. The Wanted – Chasing the Sun
  8. Flo Rida – Good Feeling
  9. Cher – Believe
  10. Queen – Don’t Stop Me Now

Happy running!

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One response to “Running and Music: A Fresh Look

  1. An endless debate – It’s funny for me: when I run outside I can go for miles and miles with out a single song. I don’t even take my iPod with me. However, on the treadmill at the gym I’ve tried to go tunes free – but the quality of my run suffers greatly. Nicely written post – interesting and informative. 🙂

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