iPods While Working Out or Racing?

>> Monday, October 26, 2009

It’s Monday. Let’s get the blood flowing. I know a good way to do that: bring up the “iPod issue.”

I’ve found FEW people are “in the middle” on this subject: either you’re totally FOR USING iPods or totally AGAINST USING iPods.

This topic was recently brought up in the Minnesota Distance Running Association (MDRA) magazine “RunMinnesota.” Gary Westlund, the GREAT race director for Charities Challenge, wrote the article titled “What Are You Missing?”

Please click here to read Gary’s article in “RunMinnesota.”

I don’t want to make any enemies, but I feel I must let you all know that Pharmie and I side with Gary on this subject. I actually wrote Gary once I saw the article to say that we back him up, and I said that Pharmie and I think it’s a real safety issue. Many times I’ve passed a runner (either while biking or running) whom I didn’t know was wearing an iPod. I always give a friendly but loud “on your left” as I come to pass people so they’re aware of me. When their iPods are blaring, they cannot hear me legally signaling my pass. Either they change course and I nearly hit them (I’ve never hit anyone yet, but it’s been close a LOT of times), or they freak out and jump when I go by and then shoot me a dirty look because I startled them.

I must mention that there are people that DO wear their iPods at a decent volume considering they are working out in a public place being used by others as well. It’s great when I come up to pass someone with an iPod, say “on your left,” and they give a little wave letting me know I was heard and we’re on the same page. Then I always say “thanks” when going by.

So when I told Gary that I felt it was more of a safety issue, he wrote me back and said that he had written a lot more about that, but that was the majority of what had to be cut out to fit in the magazine.

Gary's been a race director for years, and the following is an interesting point that he made in his MDRA article:

I’ve edited thousands of race photos. And I see confirmation in racers’ faces that headphone wearing runners are not nearly as happily engaged in all the experiences of running and racing as those who run with both their ears and eyes, and attentive minds, wide open to all the sounds, voices and cheers around them.

(BTW, I think Gary’s probably edited more like HUNDREDS OF THOUSANDS of race photos!! That man is picture crazy! In a good way, of course!)

My final 2 cents on this topic is regarding those who use music to pump themselves up. I KNOW about the power of music. I’m NOT denying that. It’s easy to be moved / revved-up by a song. But when I’m racing or working out hard, I really need to be “tuned in” to my body. I need to hear my breathing; I need to hear the speed of my foot strikes; I need to hear the wind going past my ears. All those things help me to gauge my effort. (Not to mention that I need to hear the traffic around me so I don't get killed.)

The “studies” show that using music really DOES help beginner athletes; it really gives them that boost when they need it. But “studies” also show that iPods hurt seasoned athletes because of similar issues I listed in the paragraph above. (And I placed “studies” in quotes because, like most issues, the “research” on this topic is sketchy and changing all the time.)

This might not be a totally fair argument, but look at the fastest runners in an iPod legal marathon. How many of them in the top 1% are wearing iPods? I finished in the top 2% of the TC 10 Mile a few weeks ago (95 out of 5797), and I only saw 1 person running near me (around mile 5) that was wearing an iPod. I just looked back at the finishing video of that race, which was an iPod legal race. I discovered 2 things. 1: a guy pukes just after finishing around 56:00 and the cameraman tries to get him out of the frame. And 2: of the runners that finished in the top 2% (the top 115 out of 5797), I saw exactly ZERO iPods come through.

I think my bottom line is this: If you want to run as fast as you can, it’s not about finding the right song; it’s about “tuning in” to your body.

So what are your thoughts on all of this? Why DO you or DON’T you wear an iPod during workouts or races? Let’s open this up for discussion. Please leave a comment with your thoughts. This is a hot-button issue, but try to be civil with your comments on either side of this debate. I’m also going to let Gary Westlund and the editor of “RunMinnesota” know about this post so they can stop by and see what’s being said.

Thanks!! Happy Monday!

(p.s. Did anyone else think it was funny to see Gary’s “anti iPod” story on one page of the spread, and an ad for 2 races with 2 big “iPod Friendly” logos on the other side of the spread? Ha!)


Shannon 4:25 AM, October 26, 2009  

We'll agree that you and Pharmie are smoking hott wet suit strippers but as for the I-Pod thing.....I love wearing mine. :)

Good discussion.....

Jumper 2.0 4:25 AM, October 26, 2009  

I rarely use mine anymore. Just for long runs really and certainly not races at all. There is definitely no need during a marathon since there is plenty of music, fan support, etc.
When I do wear it, I have an old pair of ear phones that i cut off the right and just wear the left one. That way I have some music for those slow 3 hour runs but also hear everything else well too.
If my run is less than 2 hours then I don't even consider grabbing the pod. On the bike there are some speakers that you can buy now that just easily attach to your bike if you really need some music. Here is a cheap example but there are some other options too. http://tinyurl.com/4mstf7

MaineSport 5:40 AM, October 26, 2009  

Training yes, racing no. I'm rarely passed in training (speed and time of day), and keep the volume reasonable. As for racing, I carried one with me last February (10 mi.) and never felt a desire to put it in. There's way too much going on, and I want to hear my footstrikes- and there were nearly zero spectators.

Krista 6:08 AM, October 26, 2009  

I wear one in training runs but I always keep the volume low enough that I can hear other runners, cars, etc. I never wear them biking (my biggest pet peeve) and never in triathlons. I agree they should be banned from races for safety reasons.

Petraruns 6:19 AM, October 26, 2009  

I wear mine training for my long slow runs (only one earphone in, I keep the ear on the road side clear to hear traffic). Since starting to run speedwork regularly (and moving up the speed ranks of runners as a result of that, not of listening to "inspiring" music) I don't use music for that (as I need to concentrate, as you suggest) and I have never used it in a race and never will - I need to "sense" the race, the supporters and people around me. In small races I enjoy the periods of quiet, in big races like the London marathon or NYC - are you kidding me? It's not the same without hearing the crowd call out your name the entire time. I wouldn't miss that feeling for the world.

So, yes I side with you.

Mike 6:29 AM, October 26, 2009  

Great post and topic! I see a ton of bikers in the valley and few wear iPods without getting the stinkeye from everyone they see on the road, but for some reason people think if they are on a century ride or long organized ride that it's ok. WTF??? You are still on roads with traffic and still need to hear what's going on around you for your safety as well as others! Get with the program and leave the iPods off the bikes unless you are on your trainer, then, have at it! Ride naked for all I care. As for running I totally agree that running is a lot of physical and part overall environment and experience. chatting with others encouraging others and listening to life going on around you. Is there really a need to seclude yourself with your ears plugged. In my mind when I see runners with the iPods it reminds me of a little kid with his fingers in his ears not willing to listen to those around him or her. Either way I LOVE scaring those people when I wiz bye on my bike. I announce every person I take on the left, if they don't hear it, not my problem. I just hope they didn't have to go to the bathroom! lol!

Ironman By Thirty 6:30 AM, October 26, 2009  

I only listen to my iPod on training runs during the day. Never on the bike. Never during a race. Never at night (or even close to it). I try to keep it at a modest volume and am listening to talk (Car Talk, This American Life, other NPR podcasts) 90% of the time.

I used to be 100% reliant on my iPod and listen to it during races, but not anymore. Way to dangerous with so many people around. Plus, you miss the camaraderie of the other runners and cheering of the spectators.

PS: I'm liking the new layout!

UltraMamaC 6:41 AM, October 26, 2009  

because I travel for work, I usually am running in a strange city, and don't wear the iPod for safety reasons - I need to be completely aware of what's going on around me - and because I like to experience the places where I run. I don't use it on group runs because, hello! the point of the group run is the camaraderie. During a race, there is too much to see and interact to have the iPod on. I have some iTrain workouts that I use, but typically on the treadmill only.

And after I left it on the plane last week, I won't be using one anytime soon anyway...

Unknown 6:55 AM, October 26, 2009  

I just started wearing mine again after a good year of going without.

I agree it can be a safety issue, I run with one ear but in and one out so that I can hear what is going on around me.

When training without ipod, i was more focussed on running. When training with ipod, I'm just out there enjoying life.

And enjoying life better fits my personality than focussing on running. I suppose if I were to get serious about this, I'd lose the ipod...

Steve Stenzel 7:07 AM, October 26, 2009  

Lisa, that's a good point: "When training without ipod, i was more focused on running. When training with ipod, I'm just out there enjoying life. And enjoying life better fits my personality than focusing on running." I shouldn't have assumed that every runner is out there trying to be super fast.

And a lot of you bring up a good point of running with 1 ear bud in - nice idea!!

Carly 7:07 AM, October 26, 2009  

I like running with mine but I have been avoiding it for safety reasons. I want to be able to hear cars or people coming up on me. Plus I think it is starting to kill my hearing.

I do have to 100% agree that running without an ipod during a race betters the experience. I have done it both ways and everytime without I have had more fun.

joyRuN 7:13 AM, October 26, 2009  

I'm actually middle-of-the-road on this one. I've run with & without. My races lately have been without though - you're right about needing to stay tuned into your body.

Good discussion!

Leah 7:14 AM, October 26, 2009  

I'm with you 100 percent. I never wear an ipod for training or racing. And certainly never on the bike. That said, race directors need to be careful how they spin this issue. No one wants to be told they're missing out on "being happily engaged." That's totally subjective and for the individual to decide (maybe they want to tune out the cheers, etc.!). If it's truly an objective safety issue (and I believe it is), that's reason enough to ban ipods.

Kim 7:37 AM, October 26, 2009  

havent trained with an ipod since 2006. allows me to collect my thoughts and concentrate on the running - i prefer to get pumped up by adrenaline from my mind!

Maria 7:55 AM, October 26, 2009  

I think I'm one of the few that fall in the middle. If a runner wants to use an iPod, that's their prerogative, however, I think that in doing so, they claim all responsibility of any accidents that occur as a result of the iPod use.
i personally don't use them anymore, but i did once.
love the new site design!

flarunner,  8:13 AM, October 26, 2009  

I ran for 32.5 years without music, and was critical of those who did. Then about a year ago I got a Sansa Clip and I wonder how I ran without music. I'm old. I hurt and I run slow, so having music helps, a lot.

As for having music/earbuds during a race: No, and I'm still critical of those who do. Although, not hearing the well-meaning spectator say "You're almost there" at mile 18 of a marathon does have an appeal. ;)

Steve Stenzel 8:22 AM, October 26, 2009  

flarunner: I LOVE that last thought of yours! Ha!

Jennifer Harrison 8:27 AM, October 26, 2009  

I think there are good points on both sides. Of course, as a coach, I harp on no IPod so people can listen to their breathing and concentrate on their form...breathing is always a better indicator of effort, and if you take that away, then the run suffers, I think.

Then, there are some who run for fun and fitness (versus trying to get faster and compete, PR) and I understand why they wear Ipods. (but eventually most want to get faster, PR, etc...hahaha).

In the dark days of training in the winter - when I am not training - just running, I will wear my Ipod.

WHAT I DO NOT get is when they wear it on the bike rides!!!! One funeral of a good friend, father and husband will make you think twice about that.

Thanks Steve, good one!

Steve Stenzel 8:31 AM, October 26, 2009  

Yeah Jen, I forgot about runners not "training" hardcore for something. If your point is just to stay fit and have fun, music is a big part of that.

And you brought up winter running too - Pharmie DOES pop the iPod on when she heads out on a long winter run too.

E-Speed 8:42 AM, October 26, 2009  

At Columbus around mile 11 or 12 we had two guys pass us who were obviously running together, both with ipods, shouting at each other to be heard over their tunes. It was absolutely ridiculous. I just don't get it. I wear an i pod for my recovery runs from home where I need an extra kick in the ass to get out the door, would never consider racing with them except for maybe in a 100 mile ultra if I was going to be running alone at night and needed something to keep me awake!

triblog carol 8:51 AM, October 26, 2009  

I use an mp3 player when biking and running. However, I only use 1 headphone, and it is not very loud. I can still hear my breathing and my footstrikes, and more importantly, cars and people. The music helps keep 1/2 of my mind occupied while training. And it often puts me into a really great groove.

I never use it in races, because it is illegal in triathlons (and enforced). The 1/2 of my mind that is normally occupied with music, becomes completely focused on my body during a race.

This just works for me, and I'm not changing it!

Anonymous,  8:52 AM, October 26, 2009  

Hi Steve,
I train with one in and the other out...so I can hear traffic and my fellow runners, but not during races....otherwise you miss everything great about racing!!

Kelly 8:54 AM, October 26, 2009  

I may be one of the only commenters who disagrees.

I think wearing your IPod is a running race is just fine. I wore mine yesterday during my first 10k. I kept it off during the first half mile, I turned it off when I passed the cheering section, and turned it off once again when I neared the finish line.

As for training, as long as a person uses it safely, it shouldn't be an issue. I turn it off whenever I near an intersection/road so I can hear traffic. I always run on the right, and look over my shoulder when I'm about to change direction or veer left.

I don't cry or anything when I can't use it in a race. I'm just fine without it. But at this point, I would rather NOT listen to my feet pounding and my panting breaths. I tend to get caught up in it too much and get worried that I'm overexerting myself.

LittleRachet 8:55 AM, October 26, 2009  

At first, as a beginner, the ipod helped with motivation. Once I got serious with my running I stopped using it (along with my treadmill unless it was too icy) and have never been happier. If I have a hard workout, I am focused on my feet, my breathing, etc. If I have an easy workout, I actually take time to look around and soak up my surroundings - enjoy it. That is just my preference.

As for others - it is a safety issue. I have no problem with people who wear it SAFELY - to each their own. But please, be courteous to others. Only one bud in, volume low enough, etc. Just like I jump off the sidewalk and onto the road when I encounter people walking their dogs - we have to be aware of our surroundings and "share the road" (or sidewalks). That means pay attention - not zone out to Fergie.

itsallrelative 8:56 AM, October 26, 2009  

I won't use an iPod when riding my bike outside - it just isn't safe. I do wear my iPod when running right now (but I am just trying to build a base) but plan to drop it in the spring when I am trying to improve my performance.

I don't think it is unreasonable to ban iPods from races - for security reasons.

The big exception for me is indoor training. I couldn't make it through a 2 hour ride on the trainer without the iPod. Likewise with the treadmill. I use the music to get me amped up to keep going after spending 90 minutes looking at all the junk in the basement.

itsallrelative 8:56 AM, October 26, 2009  

(I meant to say "safety reasons" not "security reasons"...whoops!)

jen 9:02 AM, October 26, 2009  

I actually am kind of in the middle on this issue. I do wear my ipod sometimes for training- maybe half the time. Sometimes (on an empty trail) I really crank it up and zone out. Other times it is just a distraction. Sometimes I like to be able to hear my thoughts and othertimes I need to block them out.

I agree about the safety issue- I wouldn't wear it on a busy path ir street and it kills me to see people on bikes wearing them.

The main thing for me in races is being able to hear and enjoy the sounds of the event. Cheers, music, fellow runners. Plus I need to focus on my body and strategy, etc.

So for me, I would say th ipod has its place. Just be careful and don't rely too much on it!

Ryan 9:18 AM, October 26, 2009  

One time while running with an Ipod, George Michael's "I want your sex" started playing. That got me thinking about that time in school with that "one" girl, and the song started playing, and we started...

Err, anyway... I ended up running for about 10 minutes with a huge boner that ended up getting really chaffed so bad that I was out of commission for at least a week.

The point of the story...Running with an Ipod can be dangerous!

Tigerlilly 9:34 AM, October 26, 2009  

Great point. I'm a new runner and right now I depend on my IPod to keep me motivated to get in another mile. Of course, being winter, I am training indoors on a treadmill... but I think you have a valid point and I am going to start taking my IPod off on my outdoor runs. Thanks for the input.

Regina 9:36 AM, October 26, 2009  

Like the new look on the blog,

In the past I had always been a treadmill runner (not a serious runner) and always wore an ipod b/c it is exceedingly boring to run on the dreadmill.

I started training back in February with Team In Training and they did not allow ipods in training sessions. I got used to running without one. Now, I almost never wear one when I run. The exception being a very long run when I actually use it to help keep my pace slower. I keep the volume down so I can hear (usually).

Because I almost never use it now, I find the "noise" of it distracting and annoying when I run. A 180˚ turnaround for me.

I have been in triathlons where they do not allow them (as I am sure most all of them do not), but have seen people with them on the bike; very dangerous. It really annoys the hell out of me that they think they are somehow the exception to the rule.

GoBigGreen 9:52 AM, October 26, 2009  

I just wrote on my blog about things that annoy me and one is when is exactly what you said steve ...do we need to run or ride with our megaphones so we dont startle people we pass? Um no.
I dont care what other people do as long as they do it safely. I cant stand using an ipod and will only use it when i am on my trainer inside, away from cars, leaves, potholes, etc...

Julie @ ROJ Running 9:54 AM, October 26, 2009  

I didn't read all 30 comments so I might be adding the same info but here it goes...I agree mostly with the 'studies' for myself. When it's a distance I've done before I don't always like my music. I love being in the moment, having my own thoughts and watching everyone around me. I stopped using mine @ 5k's and even 5M a while ago. I've even ditched it on a half or two. However, I had it on yesterday for my 1st marathon and I would have dropped out without it. They LIED about crowd support they LIED about having lots of runners on the course. I pretty much ran miles 10-26 alone and without my ipod giving me music and giving me heartwarming podcasts I couldn't have done it. I DO have a "special" pair of headphones which are broken so only the one side works and I keep it at a lower volume anyway.

I have friends who wear ipods while biking and I think that's just about the dumbest thing ever. I really only wear mine when I'm @ the gym and have little risk of rudeness or injury.

Unknown 10:06 AM, October 26, 2009  

I agree with you on this one, Steve. The only time I wear mine is running on the treadmill. I never run with it outside because I find it both distracting and dangerous because I can't hear things coming up behind me.

Great post and I like the new look.

Shawn 10:32 AM, October 26, 2009  

I one of those few "I really don't care" sort of people. I run with my ipod sometimes and without it other times. (although I don't think I've ever worn one during a race). I certainly don't understand the people who have an absolutely FIT and act as if someone's asked them to run barefoot when they learn that they can't wear their tunes during a race.

I will say this though, when I wear my ipod, it's as a training tool, so, maybe that's why I'm indifferent. I use the tempo and interval based music from podrunner and I'm listening to tunes that are based on my goals for my run. AND when I run, I usually only have one earphone in - because, yeah, it's a safety issue.

Des Corbett 10:47 AM, October 26, 2009  

I am training for my first long event, a half-marathon. I live in a very rural area, with no shoulders on the roads, very little flat (all hills! UGH!) and not much traffic, much less any other runners. I use my i-phone, with one ear bud. (The i-phone also has an app that acts as my Garmin- it tracks my speed, pace, time and map- so it's an all-in-one deal...cool!) I can hear the music, but also hear cars, other runners/riders that might exist, *dogs* etc. I just find that I get a little bored and over-analyze myself without the music to keep my mind occupied during training runs. I do also train on my bike rides with it- same thing, only one ear bud in, so I can still hear cars coming behind me. I simply enjoy the music, so I like having it while I am putting in the miles. I have been vacillating on whether to use it or not during the event. I did a long run yesterday, on an urban bike path about an hour from home, and used the music for the first 8 miles, then took it out for the rest. I found that I was interested enough in the people I passed and the different terrain and landscape to not get bored without the music. I am planning on NOT wearing the one ear bud for the event, and going with the experience of the live music they profess to have, the other runners, etc. I think I'll be OK for a couple hours of running without the music to keep me engaged. :-)

Steve Stenzel 10:52 AM, October 26, 2009  

Des: thanks for the comment! Yeah, I grew up in the MIDDLE of nowhere on a dirt road, and I could see wanting to have some music if I were running longer distances out there. And like a lot of people who are commenting, you're doing it RIGHT: you can hear your surroundings! (Including those country dogs which I've had run ins with in the past!)

If you had luck in the last few miles of a recent longer run without the music, I'd try the race without, and see how it goes. Whatever you choose to do, ENJOY the race!!

B.o.B. 10:56 AM, October 26, 2009  

I'm with you all on the safety part of it. As a female, while training it's waaaay safer to run without one. On the other hand, I think during the race is OK if you really, really need the motivation. Although I don't use one myself.

Des Corbett 11:03 AM, October 26, 2009  

~Steve said re one ear bud: you can hear your surroundings! (Including those country dogs which I've had run ins with in the past!)~

Me, too! I got bit on the butt several weeks ago by a "neighbor" dog, a very large breed called a Leonberger. His mouth was right at my butt level. I knew he was there, and he was not acting aggressive, so I was taken very much by surprise! D*** dog!!

~Steve also said: If you had luck in the last few miles of a recent longer run without the music, I'd try the race without, and see how it goes. Whatever you choose to do, ENJOY the race!!~

Thanks very much, Steve! I am looking forward to it, though with my type A personality I am also anxious about it, worried about being able to do it...which is stupid, I did end up doing 12 1/2 miles yesterday between the running 8 miles, intervals another 2 1/2, and walking 2 more to "cool down". I am my own worst critic.

Runner Leana 11:52 AM, October 26, 2009  

When I first started running I wore an iPod all the time. Then I managed to injure myself and when I came back from that injury I vowed to learn how to run without music.

I've run with music once outdoors since 2006 and I found that I was so distracted by the music, the cord on the earphones, you name it, that I didn't have a good run at all. So that is it. No more iPod for me unless I'm on the treadmill. I prefer to tune into my breathing and my footfalls and to really pay attention to my surroundings.

In races I've found it really annoying when things get crowded and I'm trying to squeeze through a pack, except no one can hear me because their music is so loud. And I agree with Gary, I find it anti-social.

I think if you want to use it in training, then go for it and be safe. But I didn't have an issue with iPods being banned from road races.

X-Country2 12:02 PM, October 26, 2009  

I love my iPod. I NEED my iPod. I run and race because I love it, and if it stops being enjoyable to me, I know I won't do it. You're totally right that the top races go without, but since I'm not a threat to break any records, I'll keep jamming out.

StephB 12:08 PM, October 26, 2009  

Another one ear runner here - I keep one ear free (just loop the extra ear thing thru my jogbra strap). I like to be able to hear cars, animals, other runners, etc. I would not consider an i-pod on the bike. It's hard enough to hear cars with no earbuds.

On the run, though, I've used my tunes to "help" me through some tough races, but mostly now I use audiobooks to allow me to run my long runs at a pace slow enough to not injure myself (I'm on my 3rd year of marathon attempting).

Steph (from the ID team)

Nat 12:17 PM, October 26, 2009  

I am one of those in the middle on this subject. I DON'T like it and don't think it's safe when people where them on the bike. But, as for training, I wear mine if I am on my own on a trail/sidewalk. If I am running in the street, no, I don't use it. I guess to me, having to go around someone in a race because they have an ipod on and can't hear me happens probably almost the same amounts of time as trying to get around a mob of people running six abreast who are chatting and can't hear me.

Bryan 12:28 PM, October 26, 2009  

I often use my mp3 player during training runs, but with the volume set low enough so that I can hear what's around me. I always acknowledge an "on your left" with a wave of the hand.

I've raced once, a 10K, with my mp3 player. However, the race was on a hike and bike path, not roads, and the volume was way down.

More recently, I find myself leaving the mp3 player at home for training runs, as I get closer to a race, or if it is a key workout, such as a tempo run or intervals.

Trishie 12:49 PM, October 26, 2009  

I always use it during training runs (NEVER rides!)... listen to audiobooks usually, sometimes music.


Chad 12:53 PM, October 26, 2009  

Steve, I agree with you and prefer to be in-tune during hard runs. However, I will throw on my ipod for an easy run. I do have ear buds that sit outside my ear, which I think helps.

With that said, I still have an issue with the way the article is written. None of the the 43 comments so far seem to be addressing any of Gary's comments;

"ipod wearers enjoy their running and road racing experience less" - Sounds like opinion.

"I see confirmation in racers' faces that headphone wearing runners are not nearly as happily engaged..." - Really?

"missing the ever present friendly, helpful, chatter amongst runners." - if I want to be in tune with my body, I definitely don't want to hear this.

"missing one's name announced by race announcers"

"missing music...along the course" - If I wanted to hear music, I'd wear my ipod.

"communicate messages like I'm a novice runner" - Why does Gary care what message I'm communicating?

I particularly "liked" the ones about missing music on the course and not hearing your name announced - especially after learning that Gary "delights in delivering enthusiastic, vocal support to all runners at many racing events, along with motivational music. Kind of seems like Gary is worried that we'll all be wearing ipods soon and that he'll be out of a job.

Steve Stenzel 1:16 PM, October 26, 2009  

Chad, the music Gary is referring to are a lot of the local bands that set up along a race route during the bigger races in the Twin Cities. It's AWESOME to hear them jamming out as you run by. A guitarist threw me a wave when he caught my eye during the TC 10 Mile. He's not talking about iPod music.

And yes, it is mostly opinion, but how much "fact" can someone quote when it comes to people's moods using iPods during a run? The idea of the article is that it's a "seasoned race director's opinion" - a guy that lives this life.

Good points Chad - it IS just mostly opinion. But Gary will NEVER be out a job. Run one of his races and you'll see why. :)

http://gokristen.wordpress.com 1:59 PM, October 26, 2009  

It depends on how I feel that day...I did some races with my music and then I did some without...I have to say...a HUGE downside to not wearing headphones is hearing everyone's weird breathing patterns, their weird conversations, or when their feet hit the ground too hard. I really could live without all that...
Maybe I should wear ear plugs...

saroy 2:29 PM, October 26, 2009  

I wear mine almost all the time when I'm training. (Only while running, never while biking; there's a big difference between on the sidewalk vs being in the road.) But I never wear them during races.

For me, it's just a motivation/boredom thing. When I'm actually running a race and there are lots of other people around, I just listen to their conversations to entertain me. :)

CoachLiz 2:31 PM, October 26, 2009  

Ok Steve,

If I don't wear my iPod on the trainer, I may just scratch my eyes out from sheer monotony.

I am a bad coach because I do have one bike ride outside that I wear one ear bud on. It is a 10 mile loop in a residential area of estate homes. There is very limited traffic and visibility is good. Sometimes on a 70 to 80 mile ride I may only see 15 cars or lawn crew trucks. Again, I only have one ear bud in and it is the one on the side where traffic is not passing me. Other than that one ride, it is no iPod on the bike.

As far as runs go, I like having some tunes to help me with interval workouts at the track. I do not run on the street with music when it is dark out or raining. I do like having music on longer runs, but I always make sure that I run facing traffic and that the music is not so loud that I cannot hear traffic or other noise.

Now, I am guilty as charged for running a half marathon this spring and a marathon last fall with my iPod. I cracked a PR on both the half and the full marathon. For some reason, I was able to focus better on the intensity of the work that I was doing and I was not distracted by things that could have pulled my focus away from my pace and breathing.

I do enjoy running without the iPod and hearing my own foot strikes and breathing. It is a skill that runners should learn how to do. I have seen people crumble when the battery goes dead in their music player. Music should not be a crutch, but just one of the tools in the tool box.

trimybest 2:50 PM, October 26, 2009  

I wear an I pod in training. But never if I'm with another person. And never ever in a race. also If you can't hear someone approaching or speaking to you then your volume is too loud. When I listen to my ipod I can easily heare what's around. Oh and most of the time when I workout I listen to my favorite podcasts.

One final thing. I don't buy the argument that ipods are unsafe and here's why. I have deaf people in my family. I have deaf friends. Somehow they manage to ride and run safely despite NEVER hearing an anything approaching them. How could that possibly be true if the ipod argument is true?

Sure some athletes who listen to music hog the path but that's not a music issue that's an asshole issue.

Signifying Nothing 3:12 PM, October 26, 2009  

It has taken me years and years, but I have finally developed the peace of mind (or sheer lunacy) necessary to enjoy my breath and footfalls more than guitars, drums, or violins. But I would not begrudge my teammates or anyone else the joy, comfort, or distraction of recorded music.

Thanks for the post. Enjoyable comments as well, everyone!

Ms. R 3:27 PM, October 26, 2009  

Steve, I completely agree with you, Pharmie and Gary that MP3 players are a safety issue. I have had many similar situations as yours passing runners and bikers on the paths. I'm not completely anti-MP3 player, but I think they need to be used with caution and respect in order to minimize (or elminate the possibility of) injuries to the user and others using the same pathways.

I don't run with an MP3 player, and I miss the early weekend mornings of running when no one wore an MP3 player. It was a fun community of people saying hello to each other and striking up a conversation on the paths. Now there is little interaction between runners because so many people are plugged-in.

I was disappointed when USATF changed their initial ruling on MP3 players during races. I think it takes the racer using an MP3 player out of the race and into their tunes. It feels less like a community even during a race. There were so many times during Twin Cities Marathon that I would say "Good Job!" or "You're doing great!" when passing someone and they wouldn't hear me because they were plugged-in. I think you miss out on so much of the race atmosphere when you wear an MP3 player.

Anonymous,  3:29 PM, October 26, 2009  

So does everyone that thinks wearing ipods while biking is so dangerous whip their heads around at the sound of every approaching car? If you aren't in the city, on a very busy road and obeying traffic laws, what is the big deal? I'm a cyclist first, runner second, and the times I've almost gotten hit by a car (probably while listening to music, biking and running) it was due to the inattention of the driver.

Unknown 3:32 PM, October 26, 2009  

You can be tuned into your body and you can listen to your favorite songs while doing so. I am a Boston qualifier- the Ipod actually helps me stay focused on my body and the effort I need without too many distractions on the outside. Some people are social runners, I am not, and while I'm on that topic: if you can talk while you are racing, you are not running hard enough.
If you are cycling or running and need to pass someone with and Ipod on, give them a wide birth, that's the safe thing to do. Be proactive- then again the culture of NY does not have you saying "hello" to everyone you pass on the street. If you do that here, beyond the "nod of acknowledgement" of a fellow runner or cyclist, you will probably be labled a "wacko".
If you don't like wearing the music, that's your thing, but on a closed course to traffic, the safety issues just aren't there... "pause" on the ipod is a millisecond away.

Rachel 3:41 PM, October 26, 2009  

I would agree with you to a point. I typically don't work out with the music on for the very reason you mentioned--I like to be in tune with my own body.

However, there are some days when I like to bring it along and play it on low or keep it in one ear.

I never ever use it in a race because I want to be engaged for the crowd who is there to support the runners.

On another note--I have been scared out of my wits by cyclists yelling "on your left!" without my Ipod even on. I think distance is the key in that situation. Yelling it further back seems to work better than waiting until the moment you are right on someone's shoulder. Perhaps I'm just more easily startled than some though.

Unknown 6:55 PM, October 26, 2009  

I just wore one in the SF Nike Women's Half-Marathon, and regretted I did. I missed just being among the crowd and I think people thought I couldn't hear them (I could). But I honestly don't train without one. Reasonable volume level, but motivation can be severely hard to come by, and the right song can make all the difference.

tri_al 8:28 PM, October 26, 2009  

i wear it for training, not for races. i agree with the safety aspects and only wear mine with one ear (although i'm deaf in the other ear - the thought is there!)

i agree with you steve regarding the top runners aren't wearing ipods, but feel its slightly redundant; as most people who use ipods are doing so because they really need that extra oooophhhffff when running. top runners don't need that, because they're fast. us slow folk need all the help we can get.

each to their own; but when it comes to safety; keep one ear free.

Becca 10:03 PM, October 26, 2009  

When I started running, I was told to not even get myself used to listening to music...and I didn't. I don't wear headphones for safety reasons and I feel others shouldn't as well. How are you going to hear if someone is approaching you from behind to attack you when you're jamming out to Fergalicious? I was crashed into by a cyclist when neither of us were listening to music! Running/cycling is dangerous enough as it is!

Jen 7:05 AM, October 27, 2009  

When I first started training, I used an iPod religiously. I found that the music pumped me up and I couldn't imagine cycling more than 20 miles without music.

Then, one day, my iPod batteries ran out on mile 15 of a 30-odd mile ride along A1A (in FL). After freaking out a little, I realized that the sound of the waves breaking on the shore, the seagulls wheeling overhead and my bike's soft clicking as I sped along was ten times more motivating than any playlist (even the one with Ike and Tina's Nutbush City Limits). I've never felt the need to ride with music since.

Fizzgig 1:15 PM, October 27, 2009  

I dont count cus I run indoors on the treadmill and watch 90210...but when i go for a leisurley bike ride or walk i dont use one only because I go alone and I am afraid of being abducted.

Really, my only concern is for myself. thats how i roll...

T 7:06 PM, October 27, 2009  

i used to wear an ipod. i liked singing along and having the music there. i should note, however, that i always kept the volume low enough so that i could hear myself running.

then, my ipod died. and i had to train for my first tri without it. i turned inside my head instead to make it through the runs, daydreaming if i needed to, and running wasn't a problem.

i got a new ipod later that year and started running with it ... and i found i didn't like it. i felt that the music was slowing me down somehow. so i ditched it again, and life has gotten better.

i mean, i still wear it playing - just without the headphones - as i use it as my ghetto timing device until i get myself a good watch.

Unknown 6:39 PM, October 28, 2009  

Well, as a purely recreational athlete, I have to say I really enjoy my ipod-fueled runs. However, I think it's only fair that the volume stay low enough that you can hear other runners and cars etc. for safety. I would think that anyone of any professional or competitve level would likely be 'in tune' enough that they don't need the tunes...?

gene 8:17 AM, October 29, 2009  

unless i am running on trails, i wear my trusty sensa mp3 player. the monotony of thunk, thunk, thunk bores me to tears. with it on, i can still feel myself breathe, can feel my heart beating (pounding!), and know my cadence/footstrike.
as far as banning them from races....well, i can see both sides. having spent enough time in an ER as an RN, i have seen my share of people getting thumped by cars. however, personal safety should be a personal issue, not one mandated by some governing body (isn't that why we sign a pre-race waiver??)
to each their own, i say. i agree with Jen Gatz. pause is just a button away.

Peg S 11:08 AM, October 29, 2009  

Our club puts on a 12K race every Fall, just took place last weekend. I was working the finish line and watched one runner completely miss the last turn and head away from the chute. The course marshalls were yelling at her, the finish line workers were yelling, people were waving and jumping up and down, but she was in her own world with the ipod. She may be in New Jersey by now for all I know.

Irish Cream 7:03 AM, October 30, 2009  

I'll wear it during LSD runs, but not much else. And even during those runs, I keep the volume down pretty low (not to mention, my running headphones are seriously crappy--so I get lots of outside noise anyway).

As for races? Not a chance. I think you really miss out on the best parts of the race environment if you choose to tune out to your ipod. I've met so many amazing people and had so many fun exchanges during marathons--and I know it never would have happened had any of us had our ipods on. Plus, I'd agree that I definitely run better without it (not that I am anywhere near the top 2% of any race, but ya know) :)

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