I started my journey with running back in 1998, yes there was a hiatus thrown in there, but that is a story for another time. When I was in college I was a walker which I continued off an on until I started running – y’all seeing a pattern here? One of my go to tools in running or walking has been my music. From Walkman to IPOD, my music providing device has always been a necessary piece of equipment. With a walker recently attacked at 5pm on a popular trail just outside of Atlanta, I have been wondering about my running with music, specifically is it safe?
Some running purists scoff at runners in headphones. Not only for safety reasons, the thought is you are not truly running if you have to listen to music – you are separating yourself from the act of running. Not focusing on your body and form as you work out can lead to injury and prohibit improvement. Studies have shown elite athletes perform better without the distraction of music however for the everyday athlete, there can be benefits to music.
Both the Pro’s and Con’s were presented in an article here from Runners World by Adam Bean dated December 1, 2014. I tend to relate with the Pro’s presented.
A fan of all genres, music has always helped motivate me. Both the beat and the lyrics can be such powerful tools. I can be bored out of my mind or want to stop then I hear John Williams Olympic Fanfare playing on my IPod and I notice I am straightening up my my posture and thinking about my breathing and form as I envision myself running under those Olympic rings a the finish. My pace can definitely be picked up without me even thinking about it. At the Ga Publix Half Marathon, a race where I was struggling one line from Erasure’s Respect truly impacted me positively – both in spirit and in finishing strong.
Truth be told for me, if I didn’t have my music, I wouldn’t be running, especially long distance races. Yet, ask most running experts on the safety of running with music, the answer is overwhelmingly do not do it especially if you are running outside since you need to be completely aware of what is around you.
While I can’t see myself going music free, I can offer a few tips for those of us who like our music to try to keep us as safe as possible. Here are 5 safety tips I use.
1. Turn The Volume Down Low
Yes, you might need the motivation, but you need to be present in the now and on your surroundings. You need to be able to hear cars, people, animals and so much more that is outside our music.
2. Leave One Ear Bud In and Take One Ear Bud Out
I typically run with my left ear bud out for the passing that happens when I hear “On Your Left…..” which is standard running etiquette. I know, I love hearing the music cranked, but this is a trail and not the club. Again, it helps you be aware of surroundings.
3. In High Traffic or Congested Area, Leave the Music Off
When in an area with lots of cars, bicycles or runners that is crowded, best to play it safe and run without distraction. If I am NOT on a sidewalk or path, I will not wear my ear buds, and yes, I don’t like running on the road for that very reason. I also worry about getting hit by a car or bike which adds to my non enjoyment.
4. In Desolate or Secluded Area, Leave the Music Off
I prefer running alone, but I know when I am somewhere and can’t see another runner or a car on the road, I get nervous. I need all my “Spidey Senses” active, and sacrifice my comforting music. Bonus: I find when this happens I have gone faster with no music just to get done, or to be able to turn it back on. Really ANY time you get a weird vibe, turn off the music and head back to where you feel safe.
5. Consider the Treadmill To “Get Your Tune-age”
The treadmill is great for speed work and well when going to “bust it out”, music can pump me up. I find the treadmill extremely monotonous and can’t handle long runs on one, so music helps. Its pretty safe to say on most treadmills you don’t need to worry about factors on the road like cars, other runners passing you, animals chasing you.
Look, I realize running without music is not ideal for many, but we must keep the safety of ourselves and the others on the road on our minds. Most races state they do not allow headphones on the race course, however I have not seen any “everyday athletes” get pulled or disqualified. Just be prepared to sacrifice this for your safety and the safety of those around you at times.
For the good of everyone….
Do you prefer to run with music? How do you stay safe?
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