Running to music

I’m against it.

I’m not talking about people who like to listen to music and happen to run. I’m talking about people focused on running who think music will make them run better.

I have several reasons which I find compelling, but I can’t rule out an irrational dislike of music

  • When I’m running hard I have to concentrate intensely to continue to run that hard. It’s very easy to get distracted and slow down.
  • My body finds its own rhythms, and they seem fairly efficient rhythms. For instance, when my foot strikes the ground, I exhale, and the footstrike provides an extra push to the exhale. I worry that an imposed, external tempo would be less efficient.
  • I like the real world. I don’t want to be cut off from it. I like listening to the birds (if there are any), to the waves (if I’m at the beach) to the wind… I don’t exactly like, but I want to hear the cars behind me, or the bear in the woods.  And if someone greats me, I want to hear them.

So when a friend posted a link about a study looking at music and running, I read it with my own prejudices.

The first thing to grab my eye: “12 healthy male college students”. A sample size of 12? Just who are they kidding? Can they really make any claims when they have a sample size of only 12? And they all are “male college students”. That’s a rather specific population to be sampling.

If they want to find out something about exercise that’s going to be useful to me, I want them to sample athletes. People who can exercise well, not random college students. Even college athletes. Oh well.

(And why, if the study is about male students does the article have a picture of a scantily clad woman?)

Basically the study gets these 12 students to engage in moderate exercise and then plays music to them at varying tempi. It finds that the higher the tempo the higher the heart rate and power output.

A little further down, the article mentions another study which found that runs at 90% effort were not helped by music.

I look at this and think: I have no problem exercising hard. I don’t need help from an external source to exercise at a high heart rate. I ran for more than an hour today with a heart rate between 85-90% max. In fact usually I have the opposite problem, it is too easy to go faster than is good for me. True, sometimes, if I’m tired, it can be hard sustain exercise at a 90%+ level. But that’s just where music can’t help me.

So what I gather from the article, is that music is a crutch that can help people who have no will-power and don’t know how to train. It can help increase exercise intensity when training at a moderate level. But it is totally useless when racing, or even training for a race.

The author of the article seems to assume that no one will want to exercise hard and that music is a useful tool.

Some days I feel I live in a completely different world from everyone else.

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2 Responses to “Running to music”

  1. hazel Says:

    you do, you live in your world…

  2. Running with people « George’s Meanderings Says:

    […] Running with people By georgeruns A fortnight ago I tried to explain my objections to running to music: […]

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