Running Tip: The Power of Music

Most people run with music, but I didn’t for the first many years I began distance running.  For shorter runs by myself I’d turn my Pandora on and listen, but most of my long runs were with my running dad or groups and it was years before I realized how important what I was listening to really helped or hindered my running.

One of the many times I was out on a long run alone a song came on that simply cut too deep, I was already raw from the distance and the heat.  I was struggling.  Logic and rationality weren’t really in my favor.  I ended up on the side of the road crying, and fell to my knees in hysterics.  It wasn’t the only time I’d experienced this, but it was the first time I acknowledged something had to change.  I really started evaluating how my music was impacting my runs for positive and negative.  What I came up with is some suggestions and things to think about when you’re throwing together your run playlist.

Consider The Distance

This is the first one I consider before I plan a run.  I try to plan either a station or playlist that has no heavy bass, no increased tempo and nothing that’s going to send me into an emotional downward spiral.  If I’m heading out for a short 3 mile run I’ll throw on some heavy metal or something with a super fast tempo.

Consider The Content

Think about the lyrics to the music you have playing.  You don’t want anything depressing to bring you down while you’re running.  If angry works for you, go angry music.  If motivational “Eye of the Tiger” music works for you, go for it.  What you want is motivation and momentum, not anything to break your confidence.

Try Something New

For long runs I started listening to a dub-step station.  There were a lot of skips at first, but I discovered a TON of great music I would have never experienced before and not just on the dub-step station, but other various channels I experimented with.  Sometimes NOT having an actual playlist can lead you down a great path.

Leave the Lyrics

As I mentioned I experimented with dub-step and straight electronica sounds, which I’ve always been partial to in the past, but it is where I found my long-distance niche.  With nothing but occasional lyrics to hear, like “Drop It” (Sometimes I stop running and try to follow directions only to realize my hands are empty and I have nothing to drop.  Minor problem.) and often “Keep Breathing” or even “Run Don’t Walk” it keeps me focused without overthinking.


Mostly you have have the good ole trial and error and tweak things to your liking.  Try things out and see what works best for you and start narrowing it down.  I can tell you from experience that it didn’t happen over night, but it has changed my running considerably, and frankly I enjoy it a lot more.

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