What to listen to when running, if anything…

A common debate amongst runners, what to listen to. Personally, when training it is invariably a podcast, but looking at the results of our survey I am in the minority, so I’ll try and take an unbiased look at the results and latest facts out there on the matter…

By far the most popular thing to listen to is music (45%), which is of little surprise given the fantastic, lightweight technologies out there that also play music along with free services such as Spotify. Not only does it act as a distraction for those that need it in a long (or often short) run, but it can also help you subconsciously regulate your pace, if choosing songs with a particular amount of BPM. Many plot their route and playlist accordingly, with faster tracks coming on in likely moments of a speed increase/morale boost required.

It is worth following Livestrong’s advice here though, who advise that the upper limit of your safe heartbeat range, your maximum heart rate, can be easily approximated by deducting your age from the number 220. Still, common exercise guidelines don’t recommend that you exercise at your maximum possible rate, and this is of course a generalisation as everyone is different.

However, it can also be used to keep yourself running at a slower pace, as Dame Kelly Holmes commented after completing The Virgin London Marathon last year (2016 Running Awards Gold Marathon)

“At nine miles I had Purple Rain on, I was loving it. At nine miles I needed to calm. I felt so good and the crowd were brilliant.”

If in need of inspiration for your playlist, check out our playlist, like our nominees, shortlists and winners is completely selected and voted for by runners…

This was closely followed by listening to nothing (33%)! Or perhaps more accurately; the great outdoors. Having this conversation with my colleague in the office I was surprised when she said if running alone, nothing. She does have two small, and I’m guessing, noisy children, so think she enjoys the peace and quiet of it a lot more than myself! Quietness and nature can make it a very relaxing time whilst gaining the health benefits/training many also aim for.

It also allows the runner to focus on the running itself; their breathing, gait, speed, not to mention the common mental battle to keep going at certain stages. This can be important for runners of any level and definitely worth trying at least occasionally as it can improve such aspects of your running.

Breathing is also an important consideration when opting for the third most popular choice, chatting with a running buddy during the run. Typically, when you can hold a conversation during cardio exercise, you are still operating in the aerobic zones of cardio, meaning that your body is still utilizing fats as a primary fuel source. And typically, if you cannot maintain a normal conversation during cardio, you've crossed the anaerobic threshold, meaning that your body can no longer produce any extra energy from fats and sugar becomes the primary fuel source. Making chatting not just a useful morale boost but also a way to monitor your intensity.

It's not necessarily bad to train above your anaerobic threshold, as there is plenty of great cardiovascular adaption that occurs as a result of training at such a high intensity. Really though, how much time you spend above or below the anaerobic threshold depends on your training goals.

So, though it may not be the best way to train, or race, I would still recommend giving some podcasts a go, even if only 7% of runners agree with me. There’s a great variety out there including many that focus on running, including some of our Online Community 2017 nominees, such as Running Commentary Podcast, Marathon Talk, Bad Boy Running and Let’s Get Running.

Happy running!

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