9 reasons why you should listen to music while running

When I first started running 6.5 years ago, I never listened to music while running. Even when my running friends listened to music through their iPod and smartphone while running, I was never influenced. 


Running outdoor allows me to be close with the nature, to listen to the sounds from the nature. I can listen to occasional wind blowing sound, bird chirping sound, frog croaking sound, chicken clucking sound and monkey ooh ahh sound as I run along the hilly roads of Bukit Tunku and Double Hill during Sunday long slow distance (LSD) run, or in one of those full marathons held in exotic islands (Bali, Langkawi marathons, etc) or outskirts of cities (Hulu Langat, Chiangmai, Hatyai, Perlis, Putrajaya marathons, etc).  I can also hear the cheers from the local supporters along the 42 km routes.

Also, I love to run light carrying as little as possible while running. Hence, I never like the ide of carrying smartphone to run, except few occasions when I want to take photos.

So you might ask, "When did you start listening to music while running and why?"

Four years ago, I was sidelined from running for about four (4) months due to knee and ITB band injuries. That prompted me to start paying more attention to running technique and form, including running cadence. In one of the articles I read, I could use music to help me increase my running cadence while running. That might prevent me from future running injury. 

Since then, I've got the habit of listening to music while running, especially the long distance running and full and ultra marathon races. 

I know, in the back of you head, you might still have some questions:

  • Should you listen to music while running? 
  • Does music help in running?
  • Is it safe to listen to music while running? 
  • Why elite runners are not allowed to listen to music while competing in races?
Based on my personal running experience with music, I would like to share with you 9 reasons why you should listen to music while running.

1. Music reduces your stress and anxiety

I don't know about you. I usually feel rather stressed one or two days before race day leading to the actual race day itself. The anxiety can be quite overwhelming at times, especially when standing at the start line of a race sandwiched by all the excited, fully-geared, and ready-to-set-personal-best runners.

Have you had the same experience before? If you have, then music can help.

You can then start playing your most favorite music on your smartphone, iPod or digital music player with your headphones on 5-10 minutes before the flag-off.

When you do that, you might find your stress and anxiety level reduced significantly helping you to prepare for the flag-off.

On that note, for stress reduction purpose, you can choose to listen to some slow relaxing song before flag-off. But for me, I prefer to listen straight to my favorite fast beat song helping me to prepare for the race mentally.

Even when listening to music during your weekend long distance running, the music can help to reduce all your work-related, family-related, relationship-related stress and anxiety encountered the week before. It gives you a chance to be recharged and refreshed for a new coming week.

2. Music helps you to focus

One of the reasons why I love listening to music while running is because it helps me to focus. 

During the weekend long distance running, as the music plays in the background, your mind is either empty or filled with some challenging thoughts. The challenging thoughts can be about life, a tough decision, a particular unsolved issue faced at workplace or at home the week before. 

Somehow with the help of music, you can then clearly analyse each situation, reflect on some unresolved issues, weigh the decision to be made in a very systematic and objective way. This is especially true when you run alone with music.

By the time you finish your weekend long distance running, you would have gone home with a very clear, refreshed mind with solutions and decisions to some unresolved matters.

It holds true during races too. Music helps you to shut everything else out from your mind and allows you to focus 100% on the race. Every single corner turn, every water station, when to go for mobile toilet, when to take power gel, etc need some focus and attention when you attempt to achieve your personal best records.

3. Music puts you in your zone quickly

What happens to your body when you hear the song "Eye of the tiger" by Survivor from the movie Rocky? Or another "Eye of the tiger" but by Katy Parry? How about "We are the champions" by Queen or "Empire state of mind" by Alicia Keys?

Everyone has that go-to song that gets you 'in the zone". It's a song (or songs) that helps you to recall your memories. It's a song (or songs) that can help to stir your emotions up quickly due to your personal connection to the song (or songs). What's yours? 

If you can find that go-to song and play it as the first song on your playlist, or during the hilly routes or when you "hit the wall" in a full marathon, you can probably improve your otherwise sluggish performance. Never under estimate the motivational power of go-to song!

4. Music helps you to be consistent and efficient

With the rhythm of music, your happy running feet will tend to follow the beat of music to run. Hence, it's recommended to have a song playlist with most songs if not all with more or less the same beat.

For example, if your running cadence is 180 steps per minute, it will be great if you can have a list of songs with about 180 beats per minute as well. This way, when you run uphill or are tired, your music beat serves as reminder for you to keep up with your pace and be consistent with your running cadence, regardless of any road or body condition. 

If your breathing can follow the music beat, it's even better. 

You will then find your running to be consistent and efficient. Thanks to the music!

5. Music makes you want to run more

I believe everyone can testify to this. Music make you want to move your body. 

Hence, if you are a runner, music makes you want to run! A rather natural reaction to music as a runner!

When music keeps your feet moving, the tendency is that you will end up running more. You might say, "Oh - the song hasn't finished yet. Let me finish the song first before I finish my run." Without you realizing it, you could have probably run extra 500 meters or so.

6. Music lifts you up

So many times I have encountered during my own full marathon running, music truly lifts a person up!

Of course, you don't want to choose slow, relaxing or sad songs that might affect your emotions negatively or slow you down (with the slow beat) while running a race. For weekend long run, I guess it's okay to listen to slow relaxing song. But preferably, still stay away from sad songs.

Music helps me most when I hit the wall at a full marathon around 30 km and beyond. The last 12 km is usually the toughest. It seems like a never ending journey. You can never turn back but the only direction is to move forward towards finish line. 

Besides power gel, bananas, isotonic drinks or whatever energy bar you can take, music plays a crucial psychological role in lifting you up, putting you back on your feet for the last 10-12 km. 

7. Music soothes your pain

Or shall I say, "Music numbs your pain"?

I believe many of us encounter the situations with leg soreness, knee pain, or ankle pain, or simply tiredness during our running journey.

Can music really soothe our pain?

According to some medial study, music is often used in hospitals for patients with critical illness to help soothe their pain. I am not a medical profession but I guess this has to do with how music helps to relax the muscle and nerves of patients. 

Hence, listening to music while running can hep soothe your pain should you encounter one in the long distance running besides deep heat application.

8. Music helps to pump more blood and oxygen to your heart

Researchers in the United States found that listening to joyful happy music can result in more flow of blood through the blood vessels. The diameter of blood vessels grew by 26 percent when a person listened to joyful happy music.

Please take note that researchers mentioned specifically "joyful happy music" and not sad music, which decreased blood vessel diameter by 6 person as a result. 

In non-medical interpretation, I would think that if a diameter of blood vessels is increased, it also means more oxygen can flow to the heart.

That's why I recommend not to listen to sad songs during run. You need the oxygen pumped through blood vessel to your heart so that you have more energy to last longer distance!

9. Music helps you to run faster 

There must be a reason why race organizers forbid elite runners who have the potential to be on the podium from listening to music while running. 

Indirectly, I would presume that music can potentially give slight advantage to those elite runners who might listen to music while running. It might help them to run faster, resulting in somewhat unfair finishing time.

If my hypothesis is true, then it means that music can potentially help you to run faster. For those of us who are passionate runners and not podium finishers, I guess the music serves more purposes than just to help us run faster. But if we can run faster with the aid of music, that's a bonus!

Personally, music has helped me to run faster indirectly. Well, it's not the direct result of music but more of how music has helped me improve my running cadence for more efficient running, better running form, hence better timing as the outcome.

There you go.

9 reasons why you should listen to music while running. 

Do give it a try if you haven't.

Written by Vincent Khor on August 18, 2017. 

Picture: Pexels


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