A view from behind of a woman wearing headphones and looking into the distance

Running with Music

The Question

This question is from Mistick. Mistick is a listener:


“What's the consensus on running with music? I quite like it, but see that a lot of races ban it now. Is it frowned upon in the running community?”

Our Coach's Answer

Simon - running coach
Simon Loughran - Middle-distance runner and UK Athletics Coach in Running Fitness (CiRF) and Athletics Coach

“Running with music is very common, and a lot of new runners find it provides a useful distraction in the early days when running feels a lot tougher.

Certainly, there are a few running snobs who might view running with music as "impure", but I think most of us just ignore those. Most runners and running coaches that I know just love the fact that people are getting out there running, and it doesn't matter how often they do it, how fast they are, or how they motivate themselves.

The only problem with running with music is when it interferes with other runners. This is the basis for the ban in races, where it could prove dangerous. I've come across it myself and it's remarkable how unaware runners with headphones can be.

Do check the rules before you race, because increasingly races are placing a total ban on headphones (including bone conduction headphones) and many of them will disqualify runners without question.

This has disappointed many runners, who argue that music helps them perform better in a race. If you find yourself in this category, then it's definitely worth doing some of your training without music, so that it doesn't become a necessary crutch and limit your ability to perform well on the big day.

Personal safety is an issue as well - it's important to be able to hear traffic and other potential dangers. Bone conduction headphones are getting more and more popular and mean you can enjoy your sounds withou being completely blocked off from the outside world. Alternatives are to turn the sound down or run with a single headphone.

Even if you're not racing, if you've never really tried running without music or podcasts then I would thoroughly recommend ditching the headphones now and again and seeing how you get on with it. Running gives us an excellent chance to get our thoughts in order, and having an audio distraction can make that more difficult. If you don't like it, then stick them back in.”

Our Member's Answer

Matt who does a bit of both:

Matt - Best of Both Worlds

“Not a fan of running with music, but I love using the time to listen to podcasts. For long runs and recovery runs I always have the headphones on, but for hard workours I like to just focus on the running. It's too easy to get distracted otherwise.”

Thanks, Matt. Sounds like a good balance.

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