I love running to music, but I worry that I might be too reliant on it…


Q: I tried running with a friend for a while and we would chat almost the whole way – 10k would fly by. But I missed pounding along to my playlists and started making excuses not to meet up. I’m moving to a new area soon and would like to join a running club but I worry that without music to spur me on I will be too slow, or too shy. How can I beat my headphone addiction?!

Thanks, Rebecca Fairstone

A: This is a great question! Many of your fellow runners would, rest assured, be saying ‘what’s wrong with running to music – that’s normal isn’t it?’ and they’d be right. The power of sound is well documented as helping athletes prepare mentally for competition and studies have found that athletes who synchronise their pace with music tempo work harder and perform better. So it’s no wonder you love running to music!

That said, there are plenty of reasons to leave your iPod at home when you step out for a run and it sounds like you intuitively know this, as you’re starting to put more faith in your music than your running ability. The first good reason to leave your iPod at home when you step out, especially if you are fairly new to running or a particular distance (like 10k) is to get to know your body, your breathing, your cadence, how much effort you are putting in, and how fatigued you get and how quickly. In other words, there are no distractions and you can focus directly on how you run and how you feel when you run. You’ll generally start to feel more in control and more self aware. These two factors alone will build your confidence in your running ability.

The second issue is safety, particularly if you run in the city, at night, early mornings or in fairly secluded areas. Without being able to hear traffic, the polite warnings of a fellow runner moving past, or a defensive dog that might be up ahead, you risk injury and other potentially dangerous situations. And when running with music it’s a good idea to keep the volume down to a minimum so that you can hear surrounding sounds. The same applies if you run on a treadmill in the gym, out of courtesy and being aware of your surroundings/fellow gym-members.

Also, if you plan on entering some local/popular races, race rules often state that racing to music/with an iPod is banned during the actual race – again, due to safety reasons, particularly for routes that include road traffic and large numbers. So, to avoid developing over reliance on music I’d approach your love of music with an ‘everything in moderation’ attitude – develop confidence in your ability as a runner, then choose specific times and sessions where you run to music, such as in the gym, on your long run, for a tempo run with a friend.

Approach a local running club and find members who are at your level and/or run a similar pace – you’ll enjoy getting to know them and your local running routes, and your motivation will soon stem from running with others than listening to music.

It’s all about finding the right balance. Good luck.

Evie Serventi is deputy editor at Running Fitness magazine. She is a qualifi ed journalist, keen runner and triathlete, and health mentor. She is also studying sports psychology and has a dedicated interest in training your mind

Follow her on twitter @hotoffthepage or go to evieserventi.com