Music is a powerful tool. It can be an outlet for many, having our own soundtrack in our life movie. Certain lyrics may speak to us, a catchy beat may give us an extra push and it can cheer us up or calm us down.
Running with music is a personal preference: some love it and some hate it. From a performance point of view, there have been studies that show the power of music: increasing concentration, lowering perception of effort, providing ongoing stimulus and generally leaving you feeling more positive.
When I first began running, music was the tool I used to keep going. I started out on the treadmill, hit “play” and ran. It didn’t take me long to realize that I could actually use the music to improve my running. Not only did it give me the motivation and extra push that I needed, but it also gave me something to focus on. I started increasing the speed on the treadmill with each song and had the ability to run farther. Put on a pair of headphones, block out extra stimuli, stop thinking about what your legs are doing and it begins to feel easier and maybe even more enjoyable, so you get better at it.
Nowadays, I find it easier to run with my own thoughts than headphones. I take in more of what is around me, enjoy being in the present and notice what’s going on with the way my body is working. It is easier to notice if I am landing strangely when I run or if my breathing is tight. Running without music also allows me time to organize my thoughts. It helps me clear my mind and brainstorm ideas about anything from new topics to write about, meals to cook, what I want to accomplish the next day, gift ideas for relatives or friends. It gives me space to explore the world around me and to explore whatever is going on in my head. I think running without music actually helps me in that sense.
There are still certain days where the beat of music can definitely help me get moving. On those days, I grab my headphones, and resort to different playlists based on the run. I have a few different playlists on hand that include a lengthy playlist for the longer runs, and a mix of designated upbeat tracks for speed work. I am always looking for new songs to add to my running lists so that I always have variety.
At the end of the day, dance to the beat of your own drum. Figure out what works for you: if music helps motivate you, then use it! Find the joy in running and you will go far!