I used to think if I listened to music while running it would be a distraction, but was pleasantly surprised when it wasn’t. Not only did my pace not slow down while listening to my iPod, it made it easier to speed up. So I wasn’t surprised when I read that research confirmed the benefits of exercising to upbeat music. In a study by Porcai and colleagues, volunteers listened to music of varying tempos while working out on stationary bicycles.

The researchers found that the volunteer’s heart rates, pedaling speed and power outputs increased as the music tempo increased. (Porcai, J. “Effects of Music Tempo on Spontaneous Cycling Performance”, Meeting of the American Association of Cardiovascular and Pulmonary Rehabilitation, Kansas City, Usa/Missouri, October 16-19, 2003)

That being said, I tend to use my mp3 player when I am least motivated to lace up my shoes and head for the trails. Even just looking forward to listening to music or a podcast changes my attitude about the run. I can go from not feeling like running to being eager to get out the door.

It can become a habit

If you are not careful, your MP3 player can become a crutch. You can rely on it so much that your performance suffers without it. Several marathons don’t allow mp3 players during the race. And if you become used to listening to music while you run and all of a sudden you can’t, it can make that 26.2 miles seem even longer. To keep it from becoming a habit, avoid using your mp3 player on every run, especially your long runs if you are training for a marathon. The last thing you want is a 26.2 mile race to feel longer than it is.

You miss out on people

Although I enjoy running to the sounds of Beyonce and the talks various Buddhist monks, I find being plugged in a bit anti-social. Remember the days when you could run up to someone, strike up a conversation and have a running buddy for the day? Now, ear buds keep us from approaching others and others from approaching us. It is like wearing a big sign that says “I am busy.” Even when you go to the gym now, most people have buds in their ears. Try leaving your MP3 player at home for a run or two per week. It can open you up to the lost art of meeting new people.

Safety first

This is a bit of common sense. It can be dangerous to listen to music while running on the roads. You may not hear an approaching car, a speedy cyclist or some weirdo coming up behind you. But then again, weirdos are everywhere. So, wherever you are, if you plan to listen to your MP3 player, keep it at a volume that you can hear what is going on around you.

Listening to music and running has been around for a long time. With the advent of new technology, it has become easy to carry our tunes with us; so much so that MP3 capabilities have now been integrated into shoes.

What are your thoughts on listening to an MP3  player while running or racing?

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