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What are the benefits of training to music?

Can listening to your favourite track benefit your performance? Vast amounts of scientific research says yes! James Witts explains further… 

Spain, Andalusia, cadiz, Jerez, Man running and listening to music with headphones in front of beige wall.

Running to music, a podcast or audiobook is something many of us do, enjoying the audio accompaniment and blocking out the urban hum. But are there performance benefits to training to the beat? According to myriad studies, yes.

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Improve your pacing 

Take research out of the Netherlands by Robert Jan Bood, who showed that triathletes and runners can enjoy better pacing strategies if they choose the right song at the right musical cadence to match their optimum striding cadence.

This sounds a deep-dig task to isolate songs that suit your specific cadence but it’s broader than that with songs exceeding 120 beats per minute (bpm) recommended for high-intensity workouts and less than that for lower, high-volume efforts.

Run legend Haile Gebrselassie famously synced his run pace to the ground-breaking Scatman by Scatman John.

Make exercise feel easier

Music’s also been linked with getting you pumped up, elevating your feelings of joy and sending you into an optimum mindset to run hard and strong. (Just don’t get too carried away by your big beats or you’ll hit the wall.)

Finally, there’s research that shows music makes exercise feel easier. That’s because music creates a mood of excitement and joy.

In turn, negative physical aspects of exertion, like fatigue and tension, are alleviated and you feel like you can keep going when normally you might not.

This distraction technique, of course, is a double-edged sword as that can raise safety issues.

That’s why it’s clearly hard to recommend listening to music while cycling, especially in the urban environment. Indoors, though, crank it up to 11 and pedal on.

Choose the right headphones

When it comes to running safely, there are several easy wins. The first is obvious: avoid noise-cancelling headphones.

A better option is something like the Aeropex headphones from Aftershokz, whose bone-conduction technology delivers music through your cheeks to keep your ears on alert for surrounding sounds.

That said, they’re not perfect as you have to raise the volume through heavy background noise, which can be distracting. They’re also not great for listening to the spoken word.

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Top image credit: Getty Images