As an avid runner for most of my life, I cannot even begin to count the kilometres I’ve pounded out all over the world. On top of that is pretty much a daily routine of treadmill running at night to wind down from the day.
I’ve completed a bunch of 10km races and even a marathon, and running has become my athletic saviour after injuries have made playing contact sports almost impossible for my body to handle.
But lately I’m feeling attacked, vilified and even targeted: I am one of the many who runs with headphones.
Two recent high-profile pieces, one in GQ and one in The New York Times, have called out headphone running as a form of cheating. They state running au natural is the only way to go, and that with any other way you’re missing out on the full experience: nature, the trees, the birds, deep philosophical ruminations, et cetera.
Really? First off, treadmill running is boring, there is no way around that. I’d never be able to stomach my usual six to eight clicks each night without Spotify in my ears. And quite frankly, I wouldn’t want to either. I look forward to my nightly run because I know not only am I staying in shape, but I get to listen to some great tunes.
When I do run outside it is the same thing, while I enjoy the scenery and the dialogue in my head, having music just makes everything more enjoyable. The first thing I do when I get home at night is throw on some relaxing music.
It helps tell my body the rush of the day is over, and it’s time to decompress, relax and wind down. Music makes pretty much every part of life better, so why do so many people think it sullies running?
With running, my playlists are more up-tempo of course, and I cannot tell you how many times I’ve kicked it up a notch in the RPM department after a great song comes on. Or how many people have given me funky looks as I jog past singing along out loud – horribly off-key – to my tune of the day.
The benefits of music are scientifically proven and plenty. Music makes your brain release dopamine, decreases the amount of cortisol in your body, and can even help with depression. Running does the same thing, so this sounds like the perfect cocktail mix of amazingness.
Music has been the soundtrack of my life and, let’s face it, sometimes both my mind and body do not want to run. But with the added incentive that I’m going to experience some beautiful artistry, delivered straight to my ears, makes putting on those shoes and stretching the legs a little more bearable.
This idea that I’m missing stuff with the distraction of music is hogwash. Sure, I could see if I was listening to podcasts or an audiobook, my mind may be preoccupied. But then what’s the harm in turning your brain off for a half-hour or so and letting someone else’s outer dialogue drown out your internal one?
I think too much and I think a lot of people would agree with that assessment when describing themselves.
Technology has brought the world to our fingertips, and if you’re listening to your favourite podcast while you’re pounding out a 10km run trying to not think about your daily stresses, I say good on you for multi-tasking.
Of course, on occasion, I do run without headphones, sometimes during races, but mostly on holiday when I need to be more alert in a new, confusing environment.
And yes, it is harder, but I stomach through because I’ve put enough kilometres down in my life to be able to will my body into the mood consistently.
A recent Runner’s World survey found that just over half of regular runners listen to something during their trek, and more than 80 per cent of those who do, listen to music. Close to a third polled in that same study said running with headphones was not a good idea.
Call me sacrilegious, for I am not a purist.
Luckily, I cannot hear all the negative feedback, as I have my headphones in, jamming to another great tune while pounding out the clicks.