Running while listening to music is a controversial topic. Most of the controversy is around listening to music in race conditions, when runners less able to hear what is going around them impede the progress of other participants, and are unaware of the instructions of race marshals.  The use of headphones is banned in many races for these health and safety reasons whilst others, with UKA backing, only allow the use of bone conductor headphones which in theory allow you to hear ambient noise as well as music.

Some runners are anti-music whether racing or training because they prefer to hear the sounds of nature or find it a distraction from concentrating on physiological processes such as breathing or foot fall. It really is a very personal preference.

However, whether or not you choose to listen to music, research has found that it can help to improve running performance. Professor Costas Karageorghis from Brunel University suggests that the right music could improve performance by up to 15%. It is a little known fact that Haile Gebrselassie, one of the world’s greatest distance runners, listened to the Scatman song when he broke the 10,000 world record in 1998.

Apart from the obvious – that the tempo and volume of the music can influence pace (although apparently the beat of most mainstream music is too slow at 120bpm when something more like 160-180 is required) –  other factors, such as the emotion that the music or lyrics evoke or its associations with positive situations, are also influential. The overall effect is to reduce perceived effort making exercise seem easier. It is for this reason that the NHS promotes the use of music during exercise in the hope that it will encourage more people to take part.

Other research has indicated that listening to music before a race can prepare you for the task by increasing arousal, and after a race soothing music can aid recovery – the heart rate returning to normal more quickly. In newer developments smart music devices are apparently able to analyse body movements and select appropriate music in real time to enhance performance. Not sure about this – sounds very controlling.

We both enjoy running with music at times.  We usually listen to it during training runs unless we are running with friend or have another good reason not to. Before races we always check what the rules are of that particular event before making a decision whether to take music or not and if we do we always use bone conductor headphones. If a race director does decide that listening to music is not appropriate for a particular race we are more than happy to go along with this, but we are of the opinion that if music is banned then RDs should do more to ensure that their rules are followed by everyone.

Although aware of the research behind listening to the right kind of music to improve performance we, like I imagine most runners, tend to just listen to what we like rather than try to match the music to the pace we are running.

We do find it helps to change what we listen to on a regular basis and Cam tends to take the lead in creating new playlists. We thought we would share some of our choices with you. So, if you are interested in listening to music when you run here is Cam’s current top 10. You can hear our current favourite by clicking ‘song of the month’ in the sidebar on our home page.

  1. Photographs – Professor Green
  2. Thursday – Jess Glynne
  3. Happier – Marshmello Ft. Bastille
  4. Be Alright – Dean Lewis
  5. Love Me Now – John Legend
  6. Always Remember Us This Way – Lady Gaga
  7. Let Me Live – Rudimental
  8. Nobody To Love – Sigma
  9. Want To Want Me – Jason Derulo
  10. Scatman – Scatman John (Recommended by Haile Gebrselassie for world record attempts!)
  11. You Can’t Hurry Love – The Supremes (Bonus track for Ray!)

Hope you find something here you like. Do you have any recommendations?

If you want to read further on several aspects of running with music, here are some more useful links –

Audiofuel – provides ready made music to suit your running needs

Professor Costas Karageorghis – gives his expert opinion on running in music