While the typical runner will throw on a pair of headphones and blast some bumping beats, does it actually help? Elite athletes use music before a competition to motivate and amp themselves up. Meanwhile, the regular runner might use music to pass the time or distract themselves as they run. At the same time, others might simply enjoy running with music and find it motivational as well.

In this article, we take a closer look at all of this. We’ll compare running with and without music. Then, we’ll look at which might be better for you. Let’s get straight to it.

Running With Music

A study in The Sport Journal reported that music had a significant impact on a runner’s performance during a 1.5-mile run, yet, the perceived exertion ratings were not impacted. In other words, these runners performed better but were equally as tired after their run. 

Other studies have also noted how music tends to increase running speed. However, this only happened during the first couple of laps for many runners. After the first two laps, the differences between performance and listening or not listening to music significantly decreased. 

So, what’s happening?

Generally, researchers have concluded that music can motivate you to run faster and improve your performance, at least at the start or for short distances. Once time had passed and the body took note of peripheral receptors, the body and brain quickly switched their attention to more important signals.

In other words, your body quickly catches on to the intensity you’re working at and actively strives to level this out. This means that at longer distances, music might not make a huge difference in performance. Instead, it can serve as a motivational factor to help you pass the time while you complete longer distances. 

Running Without Music

Evidently, we can quickly draw conclusions from what has been stated in the previous section of this article. We can assume that runners will run faster with music, specifically for shorter distances. 

This means that you can make a safe bet that you can improve your 5k time by running with music versus running without it.

And many runners do choose to run without it. 

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Interestingly, listening to music after your run has been shown to help reduce recovery time. If you choose not to listen to it as you run, you may want to blast some beats after you shower or stretch. 

Further, running without music is sometimes considered safer. For instance, running at night may prove less dangerous when you have all your senses at the ready.

Which Is Best?

Running with music offers motivation for many. Without it, some runners just feel insufficiently motivated, particularly when it comes to putting more effort. 

At the same time, running without music can help you become more in-tune with your body, as well as serve as a safety mechanism. You’re able to use your hearing to pay attention to things happening around you, which may be important, depending on where you’re running. 

Key Takeaways

Overall, the choice is really up to you. Where do you feel comfortable? Do you need that extra motivation? If you’re not sure – try both. See which one yields better performance. 

  • Running with music is proven to increase performance, specifically for short distances.
  • Running with music can provide many runners with the motivation they need to keep going.
  • Running without music may be safer, depending on your running route. It also may be a preferred choice by some. 
  • Listening to music after your run may help decrease your recovery time.
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Written by

Chris Zibutis

Chris Zibutis is the Head Running Coach and founder of Joggo – that one person on earth who loves interval runs.  He holds a degree from Copenhagen Business School and is an avid runner – having participated in numerous marathons and triathlons, Chris brings substantial fitness and running experience to the Joggo team.