Saturday, March 21, 2015

MUSIC & RUNNING

"Don’t listen to music while I run? I respect your right not to, but I can’t hear your argument why. Music’s too loud.  Sorry." 
~ garbonzo a gogo


On Thursday, I was getting my teeth cleaned and the dentist noticed that I was sporting my running clothes.  She asked me if I had just gone for a run or if I was headed out after our appointment.  I told her I'd just gone, but I did not tell her that I basically wear my running clothes all the time.  Why go into detail?  She then proceeded to let me know that she prefers to work out at the gym versus running solo.  She told me that she likes to surround herself with others who are sweating like crazy and working their asses off because it makes her want to do the same thing.  It inspires her, if you will.  "I get that," I told her, "I just put music on when I run and it motivates me in the same way."  "No!" she said, as she shook her head back and forth adamantly.  "Music is not enough.  I like it, but it doesn't do the trick."  Ummmmm.  Okay.  I didn't really have anything else to add after that.  So, we moved on in our conversation, suction and all.  Ironically, the good folks of at FEETURES just asked me to write a post about running and music, including my best running playlist.  Oh man.  Where to begin?  And, is there really a "best" playlist for running?  My own taste in music changes often and the music I listen to while I'm running changes daily.  How can I possibly determine the best playlist and whether running with music is the right choice at all?  Turns out, I can't.  Basically, what it comes down to is this - we all do what works for us.  For some, it's necessary to be alone and silent with their thoughts as they run.  For others, it's better to be surrounded by their fellow gym goers, working out to the pulsing pop music that's blaring over the loud speakers.  For me, it's somewhere between these two scenarios.  I'm happy to run solo, enjoy it even, but I never head out without my iPod.  Ever.  Music has a multifaceted impact on my running; often enhancing my mood, increasing my motivation and providing a welcome distraction from the pain of a workout or the tedium of a long run.  As I laid it out in writing, I thought back on my conversation with my dentist.  If I had written this post before my appointment, I might have shared it with her.  Not to change her mind.  Just so she could get a better sense of why music works for me.  When I sent it over to FEETURES, I asked if I could also share it here.  Not to change your mind, of course.  Simply to provide my own perspective, which happens to be the basis for this blog.  So, here's what I had to say:

When I run, I run with music.  When I’m getting ready to head out, no matter what, the minute I start my music, I am ready to roll.  With each song that comes on, I am taken to a whole new level, both physically and mentally.  The faster the beat, the faster my pace.  On the flip side, when I run, I hear and appreciate the music I’m listening to in a whole new way.  For me, as a runner and a music lover, it’s a win-win.  I understand that running with music is not for everyone and I totally respect that.  But, there have been several studies done on the impact of music in running and research suggests that it truly does boost athletic performance.  I won’t go into the details, but this article, Can Music Make You a Better Runner? by Matt Fitzgerald sums it up nicely.

In a nutshell:
Because the brain essentially chooses to impose fatigue based on a prediction of where the body's true physiological limits lie, the brain has some flexibility in setting performance limits. When an athlete is highly motivated, the brain will risk a bit more and allow the body to come a little closer to the point of self-harm in pursuit of better performance. All kinds of factors may influence an athlete's level of motivation, and music appears to be one of them.

I don’t know about self harm. But, I do know that running is hard.  For many of us, music makes it more bearable.  And for some of us, music is a pleasant and much needed distraction.  For me, the music I listen to on the road enhances my overall experience like nothing else can.  Does it make me faster? The jury is still out on that.  Does it matter?  Nope.  Running and music make me happy.  These days, that’s about all I need.

Listen to this:
Let It Happen - Tame Impala

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