Rules of triathlon racing dictate: Any participants who any time uses, wears or carries a headset, radio, headphones, personal audio device, or any other item shall be assessed a variable time penalty. Translation: no music allowed. Yet, does your training have to follow suit? Do you currently train with music or do you always play by the rules? For many, music has so many benefits to training, it’s truly a bummer when the times comes for those ear-buds to come off. And yet, let’s explore some pros and cons before making a decision.
Music not only livens up a workout but can actually boost your performance. Studies have shown that music can lower your perception of effort by as much as 10 percent (Karageorghis & Terry, 1999; Nethery, 2002; Szmedra & Bacharach, 1998). In effect, your mind is tricked into feeling less tired while at the same time experiencing a sort of workout ‘high’. Many people would argue that jogging or cycling to a musical beat makes the time go by quicker, as well as encourage a consistent level of effort that may be higher than exercising in silence.
Music can also be used in a different way. Sure, music with a quick tempo can certainly pump you up and get your adrenaline going. And yet, down tempo or slow music can also serve a purpose. Sometimes a slow song is needed to calm your nerves or help you find focus. Taking the time to craft a personal and appropriate play-list is what many people do when preparing for that long ride or run.
Ultimately, finding the right sort of music to motivate you is a personal choice. One should definitely experiment with all sorts of music genres in order to ascertain what motivates them and encourages a positive speed, comfort, or focus response.
So, obviously there is a flip-side to this music-loving argument. Ear buds these days are made with such amazing technology they virtually drown out any other sounds. And yet, being aware of traffic and/or other riders/pedestrians is of paramount importance when jogging or cycling. Blasting your music while in the ‘zone’ can create a very dangerous situation for yourself and those around you. Especially when riding in areas with high traffic, you want to actively eliminate any distractions. It’s very important to not only see but HEAR what’s going on around you. Ear-buds or mobile devices with the audio on is going to ultimately detract from that.
For others, training doesn’t always have to involve ‘improvement’ as the bottom line. Going out for a nice long run or road ride can also be for pure enjoyment. Music often serves as a distraction. People that don’t particularly enjoy an activity can use to music to ‘power through it’. Others enjoy being more connected to nature and/or use the time to explore what’s going on inside their heads. So, while music may inspire the majority of people to enjoy their workouts more, there is something to be said for the populace who actually prefer to workout in silence.
At the end of the day, training with music is a personal decision. If music is required to actually get the activity done, then by all means whip out the iPod and get to work. Additionally, if you are actively seeking to improve time and ability, music has been proven to do the job. Just remember, you must always train smart and safely. Keep the tunes at an appropriate level where you can still perceive all that’s going on around you.