running: with or without music?

girls-running-music-headphonesFor GEC educator Laura, motivation comes in listening to her body being pushed beyond its limits. For her colleague Tess, nothing takes her beyond mile 22 like the sound of a solid beat that’s about to drop.

running: with or without music?

laura runs to the beat of her heart

My life is noisy. I’ve got people talking, phones ringing, dogs barking and neighbours who think that karaoke at midnight on a weekday with the windows open is a good idea. There’s very little quiet in my life. So, when I run, I choose to do so sans music. Now, don’t get me wrong – I love a good tune and when I started running, music was my motivator. But as running became easier and part of my regular routine, I discovered that I preferred quiet over music every time. I say quiet rather than silent because running is not a silent activity. I love hearing the subtle sounds of my feet hitting the pavement; my heart beating in my chest; my breath steadily inhaling and exhaling. These are the sounds that motivate me now.

run without music to:

  • appreciate the sound of your body working hard to keep you going – breathing never sounded so good.
  • be alone with your thoughts - you two could use some alone time.

tess runs to the beat of music

When I first started running, I swore two things: I would never run with other people and I would never run without music. These rules served me well for the first seven years of my running career. However, when I joined a running group in 2010 while training for the Paris Marathon, I broke rule number one and, with it, cast aside rule two since it felt anti-social to run with my headphones. In 2011, I was the only one on my team training for a full (marathon) and I found myself spending a lot of lonely kilometres out on the seawall. It was time to dust off the old mp3 tracks and turn back to my beloved playlists. Running with music not only keeps me company but helps me to escape my head. For the same reason I love listening to music during savasana, I love to have tunes act as “white noise” while I melt into my run.

run with music to:

  • keep your pace and motivation steady.
  • fall in love with albums all over again – Beck’s “Guero”, anyone?

but of course, safety first

Only use your headphones during daylight hours and when running in traffic-calmed areas. Make sure to keep the decibel level reasonable so you’re still in tune with your surroundings. If you do a lot of trail running, put the headphones away so you can hear Mr. Grizzly Bear coming before you end up nose to nose.

The great question remains: with or without music? Do you swear by your prized playlists or get carried away in the quiet of running? Join the conversation on Facebook.

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No music for me! Running is my zen time. I know a lot of people who can’t imagine running without music but for me, it’s the only way to go!

Comment by Carolyn — September 6, 2011 @ 7:29 am

Another important safety idea is to run with just one earbud in. I learned the hard way after having a biker yell “on your left” to me at least 3 times then when she finally passed me she scared the pants off me… well not quite off but it was close! From then on I realized even with the music at an average volume I wasn’t able to hear someone shouting at me, or I was too tuned out to notice. Just a hint – one ear plugged in at a time!

Comment by Janine — September 6, 2011 @ 9:21 am

No music for me, it was never allowed at high school or college practice, only good conversations or quiet! Now as an “older” runner, I really need the quiet, mind clearing time away, those four kids at home are loud!!

Comment by Tracy — September 6, 2011 @ 9:54 am

Gotta have music. When I make a new playlist the night before it gets me motivated to run.

Comment by holly — September 6, 2011 @ 11:42 am

Running with music, but only in one ear!

Comment by One Good Earbud — September 6, 2011 @ 12:35 pm

i have never been able to run w/ music – those buds hurt my ears. and i wouldn’t feel safe…

Comment by stefanie — September 6, 2011 @ 1:34 pm

I love music. I train with specially-chosen music, because it helps me to keep a consistently fast run cadence, which really helps with the bike-to-run transition.

Comment by Darryl — September 6, 2011 @ 1:34 pm

I love you ladies!

Comment by Jill — September 6, 2011 @ 1:38 pm

Music… run without music….

Comment by Marie-Josee Durand — September 6, 2011 @ 2:03 pm

Interesting – a friend just ripped on runners who run in a park with music. I go both ways – music distracts me from discomfort when I am alone and it also tends to make me work harder if the music is faster (and it helps me keep a gentle pace if I am working distance). But I also run with people and I love the sound of foot on earth and nature. I really had no idea it was such an issue.

Comment by Lulu — September 6, 2011 @ 2:28 pm

No music for me unless I’m on a treadmill. I used to run outside with music, but I stopped a few years ago. Now, I’m happy without it, and I get frustrated if a song doesn’t match my mood.

Comment by Meghan — September 6, 2011 @ 2:49 pm

If you can run without music…great! I learned the hard way a year half ago I almost collided with a biker on the trails because I had my earphones on full blast. Another tip if you are trail running during the summer the rattle snakes become your enemy and they sliver so fast in front of you!! Always be cautious.

Comment by Kellie — September 6, 2011 @ 3:23 pm

When I started running, music was a necessity. Now I enjoy the downtime and quiet of a run without music. Running gives me time to think, organize my thoughts and recharge my batteries. No more music for me.

Comment by Stephanie — September 6, 2011 @ 4:00 pm

Great article and I love lululemon! Definitely no music for me too –

Comment by Martin — September 6, 2011 @ 5:54 pm

No music for me,
Heartbeat and to feel the wind!

Comment by reco — September 6, 2011 @ 6:04 pm

I usually train and race with my ipod — it’s a huge motivator — but I actually ran the Boston Marathon without music. It might have been nice to have music, but I was much more aware of the scenery, the crowds…. and my hamstrings!

Comment by Run Fast Travel Slow — September 6, 2011 @ 7:12 pm

Dear Tess, can we offer you some of our music – custom composed with a beat to match and drive your stride – to try out. We combine it with voice coaching to create bespoke training programmes: interval training, long runs, timed sessions, etc. We’re the official music resource for the Virgin London Marathon ( Have a look in our shop and let me know what you’d like to try. Cheers, Clare

Comment by Clare — September 6, 2011 @ 10:57 pm

I know a few people who do long runs listening to podcasts… I guess it’s a good opportunity for your brain to focus on something while your body works out!

Comment by Alana — September 7, 2011 @ 9:06 am

It’s all about the music! Nothing is more motivating than some kick-butt tracks. We have a DJ spin mixes just for our fitness classes–visit Fuse Pilates on Facebook to download and listen during your next run.

Comment by KristinFuse — September 7, 2011 @ 1:07 pm

I LOVE to run with music…it quiets my mind from thinking about work and makes me smile. It also helps get me up that last hill when my legs are screaming at me!

Comment by Michelle — September 7, 2011 @ 3:46 pm

music might mean motivation but, the idea of a run especially at 6am w/ me and nature and the sounds of the earth is amazing! Just my thoughts and the earth is so inspiring.

Comment by grace n lasala — September 7, 2011 @ 5:49 pm

I’m not a very big fan of running, but good music always makes me feel like jumping and running, so with music, definitely.

Comment by Brian — September 9, 2011 @ 4:41 am

Well, I am not sure if I can play basketball while listening to the music. Running is another matter. However, in general listening to music while exercising is not my thing, especially when I am doing yoga and meditation. I need total concentration.


Comment by Matt Ovens — September 27, 2011 @ 9:36 pm

without the use love fancy and expensive headphones running with music is more like running with noise in the background

Comment by Talk to Write Software — November 18, 2011 @ 9:13 am

I am fascinated by this dilemma. Just wrote a bit about it on my site…depends on the run, mood, setting, etc. I suppose. It also changes for me when it comes to racing—have to start with an upbeat anthem!

Comment by Robyn — November 30, 2011 @ 4:40 pm

I run to the sound of music. Music keeps my adrenalin pumping and i can run faster and longer. Thus the headphones while i run or jog. I could probably do a marathon if my batteries last that long. LOL

Comment by Man and Van — July 22, 2013 @ 1:44 pm

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