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Music on the Run

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Updated: July 10, 2007

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To Listen or Not to Listen?

Listening to music while running has been a controversial topic in running culture since the first portable audio player was produced. However, with more options and technological advances coming out everyday, the topic seems hotter than ever. It seems that those who listen while they run tout its benefits and are not interested in running any other way. However, those that don't listen to music on the run adamantly oppose it. So why all the fuss?

To Listen

There are many benefits of listening to music while running. For some, it is a time to catch up on news or listen to the ballgame--a form of multitasking perhaps. For others, it is energizing to have certain songs to motivate them on in their run. Still for others, it just helps pass the time, especially on the long runs. Would you take a road trip in your car with no music? Well, then why take this road trip without music?

Listening to music may also help people get away from reality and calm themselves as they run, destressing from a hard day. By turning on their favorite tunes and turning off the conversations and noises around them, they can relax themselves and just give into the run. This can be especially useful for people running in urban areas after work.

I can picture it now: A nice running trail not far from a downtown metro area, runners getting off working their office jobs all day and coming down to the trail to relieve some stress and get their daily run in, too. It sounds like a wonderful scenario to me, but I know all to well how hard it can be to wind down during rush hour; the sounds of horns honking, construction crews demolishing a roadway, and sirens whizzing by aren't exactly my idea of relaxing sounds. After a bad day at the office, even a couple of dogs barking madly at each other can be annoying. But all it takes is a pair of headphones and some good tunes on my player (and perhaps some new batteries) to make this jumble of aggravation a peaceful and serene place to run anytime.

Listening to music while running can also help keep you going on those days that you feel like each footstep is a struggle. Whether you listen to hardcore rock, military cadences, or the Rocky theme on those extra hard days, having an extra push from music can help you bust through those slumps.

Even if there weren't actual benefits to listening to music on your run, why should other people care? No one's piping music out onto the running trails, right? If you want to listen to music, and do so at a reasonable decibel level, then you shouldn't let the naysayers bother you. However, you should take extra care to be safe and courteous.

Not To Listen

Some people strongly believe that if they listened to music on the run they would be, in essence, missing the point of running. For them, getting out into nature or into the neighborhood is part of the appeal of running. For them, running holds new sounds and experiences, new ways of seeing the world that get blocked out when you pipe in your own soundtrack. They may also think you miss out on being part of the running community, as other runners are unlikely to run up to you and chat, ask questions, or just say hello.

The determination it takes to get through the slumps, bumps, and hills without any extra help is definitely a huge perk to running without musical accompaniment. You gain the knowledge that you are strong and that you can beat the obstacles that are thrown at you on your own. That is a very valuable thing to have.

There is also the points of courtesy and safety. If you can't hear another runner coming up behind you, you seem uncourteous by making them go around you. But add a bike into that mix, and you've got a downright dangerous possibility. (I can tell you from experience, you don't want to tangle with a bike.) Runners listening to music are also less likely to hear a car coming; it has also been determined that criminals look for people who aren't paying attention to their surroundings, for example people talking on cell phones or people listening to music.

There are some real reasons why running au naturale (as far as music is concerned) is better than running with music. Then again, there are some real reasons why running with music is better. In the end, it comes down to personal preference. So for those who are interested in music on the run, let's check out the options available.

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