More and more, runners are using headphones to drown out the distractions in their heads to push them through a run. That’s according to a 2016 survey conducted by Runner’s World, with 61 percent of runners polled saying they listen to something while on the run, and 82 percent of those runners jamming to their favorite music.
Those numbers were similar in 2017, according to a 2017 Running USA trends study. With more than half of runners saying they love to plug in with a playlist or podcast, it’s clear that the trend isn’t going anywhere.
Still, some purists consider running with something in your ears sacrilege. This conversation has been happening since the invention of the Walkman.
Over time, research and experience have been able to piece together some positives and negatives of running with headphones that may help you decide whether to tune in or tune out. Here are three reasons you may want to put some earbuds in for your next run, and three arguments against cranking up the volume.
Pro: You get pumped up for runs
Every runner experiences a day (or many days) where training for that 5K, 10K, half, or marathon is the last thing you want to do. For those days when you need a little extra motivation, your favorite playlist may be exactly what you need.
Pro: You learn to keep a consistent pace
Many runners prefer to run without music so they can focus on essential cues, such as their breathing and foot strikes to help them control their pace. Music or podcasts distract from that, right? Not necessarily.
If done correctly, music can actually help runners with pacing while training.
Pro: Your runs could feel easier
Training for any race is difficult enough as it is, so why not make it a little bit easier on yourself if you can.
According to a study conducted at Keele University in England, playing your favorite tunes while you are running reduces exertion levels and increases your sense of “being in the zone.”
Con: You’re blocking out your surroundings
One of the main reasons to leave your headphones at home is for your own safety. Even around Runner’s World headquarters, there’s barely a run we don’t come across distracted drivers, cyclists, or oblivious walkers (sometimes with their own headphones in). If you are consumed in your music on a run, you might not be able to hear approaching cars, people trying to communicate with you, or even bad weather in the distance.
Con: You could throw off your race pace
While training with music has been proven to be a valuable tool, it isn’t something you want to bring with you on every training run. You don’t want to become dependent on music to get you through a run because on race day, you might have to be your own inspiration.
Cons: You impair the running experience
In today’s society, distractions from technology are everywhere, and a person without a phone in their hand is a rare sight.
Running is a way for many to clear their heads and get away from these distractions, and Denison believes music negatively affects that experience.