Some super serious runners frown upon the practice of plugging in a pair of headphones before hitting the road. Their prejudices aren’t without reason, though. Running without music creates a greater opportunity for you to truly connect with the sport: you’ll pay more attention to your form, the beat of your foot strike, and best of all, the wonderful world around you. Not to mention, being more aware of your surroundings will better ensure your safety, too.
On the other hand, there’s a great deal of research that has shown how exercise, particularly running, can be optimized when a good beat is thrown into the mix. You know that surge of adrenaline you feel when your favorite song comes on and you can hardly resist belting it out like you’re Idina Menzel? Well, chances are it may make you more motivated.
One 2013 study that set out to analyze auditory-motor synchronization and the motivational impact of music found that music “with a very prominent and consistent beat” may encourage runners to move more quickly. “…acoustic stimuli may have enhanced running performance because runners worked harder as a result of motivational aspects,” the study’s author’s concluded.
The same study also suggests that running to a specific tempo, like by matching your pace to the beat of a song, may help improve running economy. “The beat of the stimuli -which was most salient during the metronome condition- helped runners to maintain a consistent pace by coupling cadence to the prescribed tempo,” the authors wrote.
In other words, if you’re aiming to hit a specific pace, you can use the beats of your favorite songs to help set and maintain your tempo. The match-up between a song's beats-per-minute (BPM) and mile pace will vary slightly from runner to runner, but general rule of thumb says that matching your cadence to a song of about 155 beats per minute would average out to approximately a 9:30 minutes/mile pace. Every increase or decrease of five beats per minute would subtract or add about 30 seconds to your mile time, respectively. You can use websites like Song BPM or jog.fm to figure out the BPM of your favorite songs.
So, depending on your goals and your level of fitness as a runner, you can create a carefully crafted playlist that will help you reach a perfect pace.
Check out the links below to take a look at some our favorite running songs and then leave a comment letting us know what your favorite workout songs are!