For many of us, music is an integral part of our workouts. Music energizes. It excites. It motivates. It inspires. Nevertheless, abstaining from listening to music while exercising has its benefits.
In 2011, I was nervously training for my first marathon – the granddaddy of them all – The Boston Marathon. I was anxious because it was to be my first ever 26.2-mile race, and I was rehabbing a lower back with two herniated discs. When I began my training, I carefully constructed a playlist that motivated me. My runs always included an iPod that served to pump a soundtrack into my ears to keep me inspired. It never occurred to me that abstaining from listening to music might be beneficial for me.
The Boston Athletic Association bans elite runners from using headphones during the race and "discourages the use of iPods and [similar devices]" for other participants. This is an effort to encourage runners to take in the sounds of the cheering crowds as well as improve safety. Boston isn't alone. Some courses have an all-out ban on listening to music.
Knowing that I would run 26.2 miles for the first time and that it would be Jay-Z and Kanye-free, I started running without my iPod. It sucked at first. I was used to the motivational rush that accompanied the upbeat songs on my playlist. Over time, however, I became used to it. And eventually, I developed a preference for running and working out without listening to music.
Here are 3 Benefits of Hitting Mute During Your Workout:
1. Helps You Listen to Your Body.
The best way to gauge how we are doing – better than a heart rate monitor, a GPS tracker, or counting reps – is to listen to our bodies. We receive signals from our bodies that help us adjust our intensity appropriately... whether it's to push harder or take it easy. The implications of not listening carefully range from performing in a sub-par manner to risking serious injury. Touting the benefits of listening to music while exercising, Gretchen Reynolds of the New York Times noted that in silence, "the noise of the body drowns all other considerations... [while] music can divert our attention." It's much easier to feel and hear our body's subtle sensations when that Ariana Grande song isn't blasting in our ears.
2. Allows Your Mind to Wander.
One of the things I love about exercising without music is how my mind goes on a little journey. This is especially true when I'm outside. I feel like my body is almost on auto-pilot and my mind can explore random paths. Very frequently, I return from a workout with a list of cool new ideas for work or play that organically emerged during my activity. I find that listening to music inhibits this result. The worst way to ideate is on the well-defined and all-too-predictable treadmill. We can call it the "dreadmill." Running in place with no change in scenery – even while heavily stimulated with music or TV – will guarantee that no new ideas will percolate from your workout. In addition to coming up with a new way to cook your post-workout meal or construct that presentation for next week's meeting, a sans-music workout will help you relax as your mind wanders from one topic to the next.
3. Improves Communication.
I've written in the past about preferences for working out alone, or in a social setting. Many of us enjoy exercising with others for added motivation, camaraderie, and feedback. It's tough to engage in even a brief conversation with a workout partner if you can't hear them over your Lady Gaga remix. Listening to music while exercising impairs your ability to communicate with your friends, trainers, and clients. A bunch of people walking from machine, to mat, to water fountain with loud headphones doesn't make for a very interactive and vibrant gym setting.
I hope you give the silent treatment a chance for a couple workouts, but do not cut out music entirely. As the British author Aldous Huxley said: “After silence, that which comes nearest to expressing the inexpressible is music.”
Give the mute button a shot... It may surprise you, as it did me. We'd love to hear about your experiences with music abstinence. Comment below, on our Facebook page at facebook.com/flytefitness, or tweet us at @flytefitness.
Be Flyte Fit,
Co-Founder & CEO