The iPod debate

Today, the sun was shining, the air was cool and my new Road ID was in the mailbox.

Of course, I ripped the bag open and tried my new bracelet on.

The cool box it came in was just icing on the cake — for a dork like me, at least.

Tracker had an idea something was going on, too. I am convinced she has a sixth sense for when I’m thinking about going on a run.

I just couldn’t let her down. We had to go on a run.

There was just one problem. It wasn’t until my shoes were laced and Tracker’s leash was on that I had a terrible realization: My iPod battery was dead.

That left me with a dilemma.

Should I run without music? Or should I break Tracker’s little heart?

I went on the run. And, guess what? It was not awesome. In fact, it was really pretty pathetic. Even with the great weather and the extra incentive of wearing my Road ID (Although I hope it never has to be used for identification purposes, I still think it’s pretty cool. I’m a dork.), I just wasn’t feeling it.

That got me thinking, though. Some people are adamant about running without music, while others need to bring an iPod along. So, what are the arguments on both sides?

Running with music


According to a 2009 study, people who listen to upbeat music while working out ultimately perform better. This is largely attributed to the fact that music helps take attention away from the struggle of exercise while simultaneously pumping up the heart and muscles.

Personally, I find this to be true as I definitely get a little more pep in my step when a good song comes on my iPod. Music is also very valuable to me during long training runs, when my mind can be an enemy.

The songs keep me distracted from mental barriers such as, “I still have six miles? I don’t think I can do this…” When those thoughts pop up, I just flip through my iPod to one of my favorite songs and push on.


According to the same 2009 study, people who listen to music while exercising do not find the work out to be any easier. In fact, “their sense of how hard they were working rose 2.4 percent.” Music also appears to only improve performance during moderate workouts — there is no positive effect on more intense runs.

Additionally, many competitive runners argue that music is a detrimental distraction. Take one of my best friends for example. She runs cross-country and track at the college level, which, in my book, makes her a pro. For training, she frequently logs double-digit training runs, but she refuses to run with an iPod. That’s because, to her, it’s all about the goal.

Among the competitive running (as in, “going for the gold”) community, she’s not alone in her iPod boycott. In fact, it seems that the more competitive the runner, the less likely they are to wear headphones. In a recent, popular 4.2 mile race, only three of the first 50 finishers listened to music during the run. In contrast, the majority of the later finishers did turn on tunes.

In my case, I’ll continue to listen to music — if it helps motivate me to get out the door and be active, that’s good enough.

I’ll leave the gold medal to someone else.

Questions: Do you run with music? Why or why not?



3 responses to “The iPod debate

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