To run or not to run, that is never the question! To run with or without music for company is often a question I seem to ask myself.
I can see the allure of running with music for a distraction – it takes your mind away from the pain associated with a hard training session such as a tempo run or hill session, but is this necessarily a good thing?
I’ve come to the conclusion that, no, it is a not all that much of a great thing. If you’re training to race then you should try to simulate race conditions during a good portion of your training – run along the intended course if you can (and if you can’t then run along similar terrain), train at your race pace a couple of times a week and learn to listen to what your body is telling you. This last piece of advice is vital when it comes to training with music; it is the opinion of this author that it is very difficult to connect with the ‘self’ if you have music blaring into your ears.
I like to be able to hear my footfall, my breathing and sometimes the blood rushing around my veins as these sounds can give vital indicators of how a session is going and where it may end up! This is also true during races – once you’ve learned the signs and learned to listen out for them it becomes far easier to control your pace, cadence and breathing without relying too heavily on a Garmin or other such device (although I would still recommend racing and training with such a device if you have the option).
As well as increasing your understanding of your own bodily rhythms and what these are telling you, running without music plugged in to your brain also helps you to appreciate your surroundings – even if you’re running in an urban or built up area!
I’ve found that during my longer road runs in town I seem to notice more than I normally do when travelling at pedestrian speed, often with headphones plugged in and music or a podcast obscuring my senses. I’ve noticed the kindness of others, I’ve noticed little pieces of graffiti art here and there, I’ve noticed some interesting altercations between people and between people and dogs and I’ve also noticed that sometimes people actually give you encouragement (and, on occasion, abuse) as you run past.
Whilst running out on the trails or cross country I’ve noticed the changing of the seasons and the proliferation of wildlife – birds, small mammals, trees, streams and cattle – all sorts that had previously gone unnoticed when I ran the same route with headphones in. Nature also seems to provide so many different smells that I feel I missed out on when I ran through with headphones in – you can literally smell the earth and the air if you allow your senses to come alive!
The world can provide you with its own soundtrack and you don’t have to listen too closely for it to seep into your soul like a decent song would! So, save your music for commuting, the gym or relaxing at home – get out there and enjoy learning about yourself and the world you are running in!
(Addendum: I am not totally against running with music. If a run is not part of your training regime or is simply an easy recovery run then, by all means, stick those headphones in and rock out while you run!)