Everyone loves a good song. It gets you pumped up for your workout and can keep you going when it gets tough. Unfortunately most training runs don’t feature bands or DJs along the course. That leaves it up to us runners to provide our own tunes and that’s most often by listening via headphones. While rocking out during a workout can have benefits there are also potential drawbacks. Here are a few of the pros and cons Team ECRP faces when making the choice to run with or without headphones.
Relaxation – Music is a great tool for helping runners stay relaxed while working out. If you’re singing along you’re not getting tense and that’s a good thing. Especially during a tough workout a little distraction, as long as you can keep pushing, goes a long way to making it more bearable.
Cadence – One of the keys to good form and fast finish times is a high step rate or cadence. Using headphones so you can listen to a song with the right beat or a metronome can be a big help. The key is to use those headphones as a tool to help you improve and not become dependent on them for success.
Safety – The way a song can help you relax or stay on the beat also means it’s a distraction. From the trail below you to emergency vehicle sirens it’s important to be extra aware of your surroundings when you have something in your ear. Try only putting in one side or keeping the volume very low. You’ll be able to hear what’s going on around you as well as your favorite tune. That’s a win for everyone.
Dependence – Counting on something with a battery life can be risky. If you’re unable to power through a rough session without your music, what happens on race day? You’re usually not eligible for awards if you race in headphones anyway. Get used to ditching them every now and then to prepare for when something doesn’t go your way.
Everyone want to run faster. Setting a new PR is an amazing feeling and there’s no runner who doesn’t love it. Getting to that new PR, however, requires lots of hard work. A big part of running faster is actually practicing running faster and it sounds simple enough. Unfortunately, it’s challenging. Aside from building strength and endurance, the most important part of getting comfortable running at a faster pace is staying relaxed. Relaxed running is smooth, good form running and that means it’s also fast running.
We all practice plenty of easy relaxed running. Long runs, recovery jogs, group workouts. But how often do you practice relaxed running at a faster than conversational pace? Not often. Many runners, especially new ones, equate faster running with harder effort. While that’s true, harder effort doesn’t mean clenched jaws, stiff arms and lifted shoulders. Tension is bad. More effort should lead to a faster pace but no change in form or locomotion. To accomplish that most people need lots of practice. Here are some of Team ECRP‘s favorite ways to start getting acquainted with faster but still relaxed running.
Strides. Strides are an extremely useful tool for improving running form and getting comfortable at faster speeds. These short accelerations can be completed before a run as warm-up or after a run to instill quality movement in tired muscles. You can complete anywhere from 3 to 10 strides depending on the goal. Run for about 100M gradually increasing your pace from beginning to end to finish at 95% effort. These help reinforce good form on tired muscles or before a race and are a good way to practice relaxed running at a faster pace.
Surges. Done during a run or workout, surges are also known as pick-ups or considered a type of Fartlek. Mixing in some faster stretches during a long run will help you get used to running faster without getting tense because it’s very low pressure. There aren’t any strict pace or distance guidelines. They’re a good reminder to maintain to quality running form throughout a longer run when you might get worn out or sloppy.
Sprints. Not only are sprints fun, they’re useful! We won’t all be as fast as Usain Bolt but we can take a page from his book. Those smiles crossing the finish line, bouncy cheeks and soft hands all signal that’s he’s relaxed in spite of how hard he’s working. Practicing sprinting is a great way to teach your body to stay loose and smooth while churning out some killer repeats.