Do serious runners listen to music?

I’ve often listened in as fellow runner’s debate the use of music in training and on race day, wondering who sets the rules for “real runners” and “serious runners”.

I don’t remember signing any agreements when I laced up my shoes and sweated through those first painful miles stating my allegiance to running only with nature.

Without music I would have stopped running before I’d started.  Not only was it a distraction, but soon it was my companion. I timed my weekly long runs around the American Country Music Top-40 Countdown—don’t judge, that was hard to admit!

Music allowed me at times to zone out and in other moments to fully connect with all of my emotions, pushing the pace or simply achieving a new distance. Later when that song came on the radio I was right back in that moment of pride.

Benefits of running with music:

— Distraction from discomfort

— Studies show it can reduce perceived effort

— Mood elevation

— Help maintaining a rhythm

Twelve years, many races, lots of traveling and a few moves around the country, I find my running has changed and thus has my use of music.

These days I spend about half my run in silence, though I still like to have my earphones in during this portion of the run. It allows me to block out the distractions and focus on my form, my breathing and, of course, the meaning of life. Haven’t you all solved this enigma on at least one run?

Benefits of running without music:

— Focusing on form and breathe

— Associating pace with feel

— Time to disconnect from the day

— Time to think

— Appreciation of the world around you

After the first half of the run, I pull up a podcast like Rich Roll, Runner Academy or Lewis Howes (Note: checkout my top 9 podcasts for runners). Each of these is dedicated to helping us become better athletes and people, which is exactly why I run.

Benefits of running with podcasts:

— Be inspired by other athletes

— Engage your brain when it’s open to learning

— Usually free and topics are endless

— Getting engrossed in a story can help you run farther

The pro and anti-music debate will continue right along with cushioned vs. barefoot. When my athletes ask me about training with music, I respond with these questions:

— Do you love it?

— Does it make you happy?

— Does it help you enjoy the run?

– Then absolutely!

From one serious runner to another, listen to music if it makes you happy and don’t be afraid to play a little air drum when the really great songs pop up.

For more on the Saucony 26 Strong program, which pairs up 13 coaches with 13 marathon rookies, visit