People running with headphones on is an increasingly common sight. In fact, more than half of runners say they wear them as they go (61 percent, according to Runner’s World magazine). Many swear by them, saying they improve their enjoyment and performance, but others say it can be dangerous. Here are the main pros and cons…
Many runners say listening to music helps push them along, and researchers are inclined to agree, saying it triggers positivity and can reduce tension and tiredness. And this is all before considering the benefits of listening to a song where the lyrics themselves can pump you up.
Filtering out distractions
Part of pushing yourself as a long-distance runner is about staying focused. And it’s easy to lose concentration when passing screaming kids, barking dogs and throaty trucks. Those going for personal bests need to stay in the zone, and listening to music allows you to zone out from everything around you.
Some who run find listening to songs where the beat matches their running steps can help them keep a consistent pace. They’re less inclined to drop their speed and they say it increases their overall time.
There’s a wealth of evidence to say that listening to loud music in headphones for too long can cause irreversible damage to your ears. The most harmful of all are earbuds that can increase the volume of a sound from six to nine decibels. Experts suggest you should ensure your volume is at no more than 60 percent and that you shouldn’t listen for more than 60 minutes. And if you’re concerned about your hearing, an online hearing test could tell you how well you can detect sound.
You can’t hear nature
For runners who love the great outdoors – and all its sights, sounds and smells – the idea of having music on while they go defeats the object of the whole exercise.
You can’t hear danger
Filtering out distractions is one thing, but being unable to hear traffic, cyclists and people trying to communicate with you can be dangerous. And that’s before we’ve got to the threat of wild animals. Bears, coyotes, feral dogs, mountain lions and bees might all give audible warnings of their presence that you could miss if you have Motorhead blaring in your ears.
It’s clearly a polarizing subject, and different people are motivated by different things. But the best advice would be that if you do benefit from listening to music as you run, it’s best to do so at a reasonable volume for a short stretch of time.