Runners are divided into two groups - those who can´t imagine putting on their running shoes without wearing their AirPods as well and those which find anything other than the surrounding noise disturbing. Just a few years a goa survey showed that around 62% of runners listen to something on their runs, while for 82% of them that something is their favorite music.
Which effects do runners contribute to music?
Some runners claim that listening to certain music motivates them to run faster and longer, supports them in the moment of crisis, and occupies their thoughts during very long runs. Some say that they don´t even actively listen to music, but that the background noise helps them concentrate better to push through.
There are those that say that this has become some sort of trend, running with all kind of accessorize just to look cool. Brands have seized the opportunity by launching specific lines of headphones, armbands, smartwatches, headlamps, etc. The latest Pro version of AirPods includes several new features meant just for runners, while runners can ensure their AirPods case is silicone protected to avoid damage in case it gets dropped.
On the other hand, many find music distracting, disallowing them to focus on the purpose of the training. Some think that listening to music disables the runner to focus 100% on the activity itself, thus losing many benefits that come from the training, stalling his/her progress.They warn about the dangers of blocking your surroundings, not being able to hear the traffic or people around you, especially on busy roads and streets.
Science takes the matter in its own hands
With this topic raising so many questions and enticing very heated discussion, all based on personal experiences and perspectives, science has decided to join in and provide some insightful data.
It seems that everyone is right. Music can be beneficial. But only to some extent.
All research has the same results – listening to music while running can have a significant effect on performance during a maximal 2,5 km or 5km according to other studies. But when it comes to long runs, the effect of music listening was null. The more effort you put into your run, the less effect the music has on your performance.
The reason for this seems to be that at the very beginning of the run the brain needs time to process all the new information and sensations, so the music provides the necessary support. The moment the brain realizes the intensity of the exercise and gets used to it music stops being useful and can even act as a distraction.
However, a different study showed that if you listen to music with the intention of setting up the proper pace by choosing the beat that matches your cadence, you might perform better than without the help of music.
Another benefit comes from listening to music post-run, which actually has the opposite effect of pre-run listening. The runner´s internal systems, such as heart rate, more quickly return to its pre-workout state, which is the goal of recovery measures. Next to proper nutrition, breathing, stretching, and hydration, listening to music can be included among them.
So what is the final takeaway?
If you are not a professional athlete or an amateur runner chasing results and PBs you should decide for the option you enjoy the most.
If you find that listening to music gives you more energy and motivation, there is no reason why you shouldn´t rock your favorite headphones and blast the music that keeps you going. You can always turn it off when you feel like it is distracting you and turn it back on when you need that extra push.
Maybe there are some songs that work the best for you while you´re on the run, so you can make separate playlists just for your runs. Furthermore, they can be divided into those intended for short power runs, featuring more explosive melodies, and those for longer, slower runs that would feature music which will drive your endurance.
In any case, running, even though tiresome, should be an enjoyable activity. If that means wearing AirPods because they are wireless and provide crystal clear sound for the most pleasurable experience, with assorted AirPod cases for a fashion touch, so be it!