Do you run with headphones?
This was one of the most debated topics that we discussed in the RRCA training. I’ll be the first to admit that there used to be a time when I refused to go running without headphones. About a year ago I tried to stop using them as often for safety reasons and to try to get more out of my running. For awhile I only used them to get through long runs and occasionally during races.
Since the training I haven’t used headphones at all. Before that I was only using them on the weekends when I would be out running later in the morning, and I kept the music really low.
The RRCA as an organization does not promote the use of headphones while running outdoors. This was covered in the training but is also stated in their general safety guidelines here:
- DON’T WEAR HEADPHONES. Use your ears to be aware of your surroundings. Your ears may help you avoid dangers your eyes may miss during evening or early morning runs.
Some of the participants in our course had rebuttals for why it can be okay to wear headphones. Here are some of the points shared by our instructor:
- Listening to headphones will prevent you from being able to hear cars, other people, or animals approaching. The biggest reason to ditch the headphones is to keep yourself safe.
It’s better running etiquette to be able to hear things around you such as other runners approaching. You may be safer on a track but if there are other people sharing the track with you, you won’t be able to hear them if you are listening to music.
You can be more in tune with your body and your mind if you leave the headphones at home. Create your own music and stories in your head!
Races generally discourage the use of headphones.
In some cases maybe it’s not as problematic to wear headphones- maybe if you are running on a track and you are with someone else and there are no other runners to be aware of. But in general it’s better to run without them.
One participant in our course felt strongly that there are cases where its ok to wear them. For example, if someone is a new runner and they will either run with headphones or not run at all, is it worth giving up running completely? I would say there are probably ways for the person to learn to run without headphones- maybe by running with a friend or sticking to the treadmill until they are ready to give them up.
I’m not sure what I will do when I get back to doing really long runs for my next marathon. Now that I am used to running without music I don’t even miss it most days, but I think its just the fear of knowing I will be out running for 3 hours with nothing but my own thoughts that makes me question it.
If you are really going to insist on running with headphones, try to only use one and keep the volume really low! And for more ideas about how to stay entertained without headphones check out Michele’s post!
Do you run with headphones?
How do you feel about this topic? Are you trying to ditch the headphones?
Michele @paleorunningmomma.com says
I never ran with headphones until marathon training and even then it was long runs only. But they can be so addicting once you start! I don’t use them loud but I notice I can’t hear cars as well with them on. Since the training I’ve gone without and it’s fine. Listening to music would sometimes irritate me too and I’d go back to not using. But I agree, it’s the 3 hour runs that intimidate me and with nothing to listen to its a little scary!
Its funny because sometimes even when I would run with music I wasn’t even “listening” to it. I’ll probably try to avoid using them at all this training cycle, but if I really need them I’ll do the one ear thing for only part of my run. Or maybe I’ll need to start doing parts of my runs with other people so they can distract me from my own thoughts for a bit!
Chrissy @Pink Polish and Running Shoes says
I use headphones when I run and it does me make me a little nervous when I’m on the road because I know once I hit my groove I’m a lot less aware of my surroundings. It’s funny because in college I ran a lot and I didn’t always use headphones, but now I can’t imagine running without them. Back then, (I was an English major) I used to start writing papers in my head during longer runs. Weird…but it kept me entertained.
Haha that’s a good idea to start writing papers while you run! I definitely do a lot of thinking and planning while I run. Maybe you can try turning off your music in the beginning of your run and see how long you can last without it?! You would be surprised by how it easy it can be to entertain yourself:)
Susie @ SuzLyfe says
I think that it truly does depend on the circumstances, whether or not I run with headphones. I ran without them for the long run Sunday because I thought that there would be entertainment (lie) and the course was so boring that I don’t think I would have made it through had it not been a race (ie someone telling me exactly where to go). Especially as I get further into training, I try to run more frequently without them, but it really is an if the mood strikes me kind of thing. That said, if I am running super early, I will run without so that I can hear what is going on around me and also to enjoy the quiet of the early morning.
I feel pretty similar about it- and I actually really prefer the quiet of the early mornings without music. Its usually when I am unmotivated to get out the door for a weekend long run that I bribe myself with it- or download a few new songs to make it more exciting. I’m hoping to continue running without them even as I move back into my long runs, but I know some days it will be harder than others.
Alexis @ Run Crush says
I’ve never run with headphones except on the treadmill. I started running as part of a cross-country team, so we couldn’t wear them then anyway. I just got used to never wearing them. My dad also lectured me about being able to hear cars and dogs, so there’s always been an element of fear, too 🙂 My mom started running recently, and she’ll only run with headphones. I think it’s OK because for her, that’s what gets her out the door.
It’s great that you never got into that habit. I think its just better to not take them but if you MUST then its important to keep them low and still pay attention to your surroundings.
Kristina @ Blog About Running says
I go in phases with headphones. I trained for and ran my first half marathon completely without headphones and I ran my second half without them too. I think on race day it’s nice to take in your surroundings. On the treadmill I can’t imagine not watching TV or using headphones, and on some of my outdoor training runs I will use them too (but I keep one earbud out) that way I can still hear cars/people/etc.
Kristina @ Blog About Running says
Or sometimes I tie my earbuds onto my shirt and just crank up the volume. That way they are more like personal speakers but I can still hear what’s going on around me 🙂
Yea as far as the treadmill goes I absolutely need distractions like music or TV! Its good that you keep one ear bud out or tie them to your shirt!
Kirtley Freckleton @ The Gist of Fit says
I’ve always been careful not to get addicted to headphones..
Because of that I rotate with and without. I have found that there are a bunch of things to think about and figure out when you run–and places to notice more distinctly.
I don’t listen to music, but mostly just podcasts. For my marathon you bet I listened to pump up music when my body hurt. That helped a ton. Headphones are awesome–I just use them at specific times.
Great points- music can be helpful at certain times but its also so important to be able to run without it!
I run with headphones sometimes. I do not use them when I am running with people from my club or for races. I listen to a lot of audiobooks. I find that they aren’t as loud as music and that I can still hear my surroundings.
I’ve only done the audiobook thing once but it does seem like a much better option than music. I think people can just get really dependent on music while running and end up blasting it- sometimes I run past people who are wearing headphones and I can hear they music loudly so I know they can’t hear anything else!
Natalie @ Never Serious Blog says
This is so hard for me! I hate to run in the silence, and I’m much more likely to quit if I do. I would say about half the time I’m running with friends though, and none of us wear headphones. For the other half, I try to stay on designated running/walking trails that are a little safer (no cars) and keep my music or podcasts down low so I’m still aware of whats around me. I’m NEVER blaring my music.
Its good that you run with friends alot and dont wear headphones during those runs! And it sounds like you are also really aware of the safety concerns around headphones. Maybe you can try just turning off the music for part of your run so you can slowly adjust to getting used to the silence? (I actually never feel like there is silence because my brain is always telling me a millions things!)
Sarah @pickyrunner says
I actually hate listening to music when I run so I never wear headphones. It’s one of the few times of the day that I’m not totally unplugged and I like it that way. It is a safety thing of course, but I also think it’s important for us to take in our surroundings every so often. I’ve also never run a marathon though, and I think that may be too many hours in my own head… I’d probably drive myself crazy!
That’s awesome that you never use headphones and have made that your time to unplug. I think I am getting to that point too but I am still worried about the long runs for marathon training!
I’ve gotten a lot more used to running without them and typically only use them for track work or a solo run. I don’t race with them anymore, at least up to half marathon distance, but I am planning on running my full with them. Everything on my running Playlist has a meaning to me, which I use to help push through tougher portions when I need to. I do like running without it, though, especially when I’m on the trails in the early morning. Peaceful that way 🙂
I can definitely relate to using music with meaning to push through a tough part of a race! I think its great to be able to appreciate the runs without them, and not “rely” on them, while also taking safety into consideration.
. I used to always run with headphones and I felt like it was a handicap. I just did my last two races without it and my Wednesday training runs without it and I survived! But I keep using it as I guess a security blanket when it comes to my long runs since I still take my music with me.
Way to go! I think most people think that they need music but once they start running without it they realize its ok. I think its just something about the long runs that makes it hard for us to deal with our own thoughts the whole time:)
Jukka Salonen says
I have to say that I just prefer to run with headphones. I have runned a couple times without them but it didn’t feel too comfortable.
I know its really hard for some people to run without them. I’m glad that you gave it a try!
All great points but I still don’t think I could go for a run without my music. The only time I do run without it is when I am running with someone.
I definitely understand that some people just love having their music to run with. Its great that you also run with other people, as a way to do something besides listening to music. Maybe you can try to turn it off for a few minutes of your run or something, just to give it a try?;)
Michael Anderson says
I have never, ever, EVER run with headphones (OK, not true, I ran *once* to test a product that was supposed to amplify external noise to make it safer to run with headphones … piece of crap called ‘Fuser’ – do not buy).
Anyway … I know some people love running with headphones, and everyone is entitled to their own choices, but not their own facts. And the fact is:
– Wearing headphones diminishes your sensory capability and therefore is inherently less safe.
If you still choose to wear them, fine – again it is your choice … but there is no ‘rebutting’ the core safety issue. I totally get that for some people they won’t stick with running if done in silence – that is a separate issue.
I have to agree with you. I feel like when I was running with them I didn’t think about the safety issues. Once I started realizing things that could happen I started making the change. As someone who used to rely on them, I can see why some people feel like they can’t run without them.
And that “Fuser” thing sounds like a ridiculous product!
The times when I’ve actually be able to get out for a short run, I’ve mostly been ditching the headphones because I’ve been running with Betty in the stroller. That has actually been a really great way to get accustomed to not running with them! I’d like to start making the transition to longer runs without them once I can actually do a longer run. 🙂
You’ll be doing long runs before you know it! And that is my plan too. Since I’ve been comfortable running without them for some time now I’m hoping the transition won’t be too hard!
Sue @ This Mama Runs for Cupcakes says
All very good points. I typcially DO run with headphones. BUT…. I only wear one in my ear. I leave the one closest to the road or where runners are passing out of my ears. If I’m running with friends though I don’t wear them. I do clip my shuffle on my shirt just in case. Sometimes you just need that extra push from a fun song to get you through the tough miles of your run.
I have always felt like I needed that extra push from a good song to get motivated! But since I’ve stopped bringing music I’ve found ways to push through without it. Running with friends is definitely a great way to stay entertained without headphones!
Amanda - RunToTheFinish says
I totally get all the logic and what’s interesting is I run with them, but often don’t have anything turned on at all…something about having them in helps me focus and be in my world.
That is interesting! Maybe wearing them just symbolizes blocking out the rest of the world for you!
The only time I run with headphones is if I’m on the treadmill. I rarely run on it, but if I do, I absolutely have to have music. I once forgot my iPod when I using our school’s anti-gravity treadmill that my college kept in a big storage closet outside. It was the hottest and worst run ever just staring at the wall haha. I’ve tried running with music outside only a handful of times and just didn’t like it for whatever reason. I think that’s just when I do my best thinking/relaxing at times so music sometimes distracts me from that. Now if a race has it playing on the course…I’m all about that! 🙂
I used an alter G when I was in physical therapy a few years ago and I remember how hot it got in there! And since I was in PT I didn’t have music.
I always feel like I need something to distract me while I’m on a treadmill, too. Even the best songs can’t make treadmill runs go fast enough.
Sam @ The Running Graduate says
I think all of your points are valid, and I agree with all of them. It’s hard to say one shouldn’t run with headphones when it does really benefit some people. However the safety reasons almost outweigh those for me. I can definitely see the benefits during marathon training. If doing long runs alone, it can definitely get lonely!
I rarely use headphones when I run. Right now, I only use them for the rare occasion that I run on the treadmill and watch Netflix at the same time. I love hearing the sounds of my feet hitting the ground, and listening to my breathing helps keep me in control of my pace/effort. I may start wearing headphones more often – I want to try to record lectures and listen to them on long runs (yup…nerd life).
Haha well at least the lectures would probably be quiet enough that it wouldn’t interfere with hearing noise around you. While I can see how it helps people get through a run, I’m really gonna be doing my best to just run without them from now on.