Running with Music

When I was learning forefoot running by running barefoot, I was told to listen to my landings. This would mean no listening to music! I listened to music anyway and never got injured and I am now a seasoned forefoot runner. I am living proof that running with music does not make it hard to learn a new running style.

Running with Music

Running with Music

I love to listen to music while I run because I feel it pushes me to run longer and harder. So, in my opinion, listening to music while running, even when learning a new running technique does more good than harm.

  • According to Robert Zatorre, a neuropsychologists at McGill University, rhythm and physical action has mutual resonance in the nervous system; all sound is produced by movement.
  • When a sound is heard, its due to something that has moved.

From this, Zatorre explained that running, breathing, hearing your foot strike are natural rhythmic sounds that aren’t exactly musical, but the reason music is beneficial when running is that it works best when you hear a pattern -you organize your muscles to produce the sound you are hearing when you run with music.

  • Haile Gebrselassie who has smashed 27 world records, is a long distance runner from Ethiopia who likes to train while listening to upbeat, fast music.
  • Listening to such music is a great way to program a quicker pace in a runner — worked for Haile, just look at how gracefully he flows and how fast he runs.

Boost Confidence with Tunes

If you find running boring, there’s nothing wrong with listening to music to liven things up! In fact, music was found to prime physiological systems needed for high-energy movement.

  • Researchers have found that music wakes you up when you’re feeling tired and sluggish by creating a sense of excitement in any situation.

The right song can boost mood and increase adrenaline levels to not only make running more enjoyable, but gives you the edge to push harder.

Freeing Up the Mind when Running

If your get frustrated or stressed for whatever reason during a hard running session, music is an excellent mental distraction.

For example, learning the proper forefoot running depends on touch and feel, but runners may often over-analyze and over-control their technique, rather than letting the movements happen naturally. To make things easier, run barefoot or in barefoot running shoes as this will help your forefoot strike landing occur more naturally, allowing your mind to focus more on non-running related things, such as enjoying your favorite tune.

The Take Home Message

Many ‘serious’ runners believe that being fully in-tuned with your mechanics (internal focus of attention) while running is essential to performance, however research has found that runners were more efficient with using external focus of attention (i.e listening to music during running) because it distracted them from over-thinking about their movements. If you want recharge your time running, make it more enjoyable with music.

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Shrock, K. Why Music Moves Us. In: Scientific American MIND, Aug 2009. pp36.

Bretta Riches

"I believe the forefoot strike is the engine of endurance running..."

BSc Neurobiology; MSc Biomechanics candidate, ultra minimalist runner & founder of RunForefoot. I was a heel striker, always injured. I was inspired by the great Tirunesh Dibaba to try forefoot running. Now, I'm injury free. This is why I launched Run Forefoot, to advocate the health & performance benefits of forefoot running and to raise awareness on the dangers of heel striking, because the world needs to know.
Bretta Riches

P.S. Don't forget to check out the Run Forefoot Facebook Page, it's a terrific place to ask questions about forefoot running, barefoot running and injury. I'm always happy to help!

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