No Headphones Please

One of the many runner debates – to music or not to music? For me, there is no debate. No music. I was reading the Runners World post today on the topic (available here) and I got a little upset… Let me explain.

Costas Karageorghis, Ph.D., a sports psychologist was quoted as saying this: “An external stimulus such as music can actually block some of the internal stimuli trying to reach the brain—such as fatigue-related messages from muscles and organs. When these messages are blocked, this reduces a runner’s perception of effort, so you feel like you can run farther, faster.”

Um, seriously? As someone who is trying to kick butt and take names by working on form and listening to my body – this seems to be counter productive. Minimalist running is about being in tune with yourself, not trying to block that out. I listen to my strike and my breathing to gage how I’m feeling. If I’m tired I can turn home, if I feel revved up for more I can keep truckin. Without those cues I could fall to an overuse injury or even worse – bad form which causes more injuries down the road. If I’m blocking out my body how am I supposed to know what feels right for me?

Mr. Karageorghis then goes on to say “Then there are “dissociators.” Your average active person falls into this category. For these people, music can be a motivational force. Dissociators will seek it to distract them from the boredom often associated with exercise.”

If you don’t like exercise by running because it’s boring, really think about it before you get back on that path to log miles. If you need music as a motivator to do something good for yourself, I think you should take a long look inside and find something that makes you happy without being coerced into it. If it’s running, awesome, if it’s not, that’s fine too. Just find something that works for you.

Being in touch with what is going on around you is very peaceful and a learning experience. I’ve learned that running is great time for reflection on myself – sort of a check in. Am I happy with what is going on in my life? What should I change? What can I change? Am I happy with me? Or I love that good stressed out / angry run where I just want to run fast and hard and get it all out. The anger and the tears melt away and I come home refreshed, renewed and with a new outlook. I couldn’t do any of that with headphones and music tuning myself out.

Everything I’ve discussed has been about the internal experience, but as a runner and a cyclist having distracted runners around is also dangerous. More often than not, someone running with music has it cranked up so loud that when I announce and pass, they tend to jump, then glare at me. Um, I warned you, I can’t help if you are so tuned out that you didn’t hear me. If you do have to listen to music, please turn it down so we can all use the path together and get home safely.

What are your thoughts?

One Comment on “No Headphones Please

  1. I have mixed feelings. First, I agree with safety first and do not ride my bike with headphones EVER and also don’t run on busy streets zoned out listening to my tunes, but I do on occasion like to listen to music when I’m running. It’s become much more rare for me as I’ve matured as a runner. When I first began running many years ago, the thought of running without my walkman (yes, it was that long ago) would lead to a change of plans to another workout. Now, I can appreciate both sides of the argument. I have no issue with people that do or don’t use music as a motivator. I’m all for whatever gets you off the couch as long as it’s not unsafe to you or others.
    Good post – very thought provoking!

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