Playlists and Runs

Woke up for a run today. Saw that my iPod wasn’t charged! I quickly took my charger and charged it for at least 15mins. This actually increased my inclination to run another round on the ground. It got me thinking, why are we so depended on music when we get out for a run?


Back in days, before the walk-mans and the disk-mans, people ran without music, and they did run! It makes me think whether music an accompaniment, an enhancer or a distraction to my run?


Focus and Runs

When we spoke about pre-race routines last week, a major component of it is focus and developing the right focus before a race. According to sport psychology research, music is all about directing your focus to a point that enhances your run. Just to make things easier:


We have two major types of attention while we are on a run- while training or while running a race:


  1. Associative Style of attention
  2. Dissociative style of attention

An associative style helps to enhance your run by focusing on aspects related to your run. For example, your breathing or body sensations which keep your motivation high or even your environment and nature which keeps you going.


A Dissociative style of attention involves not thinking about running at all. For example, what am I going to cook for breakfast, what is at work today etc.


To be a mindful runner, developing an associative style of attention or focus is applicable. But, while running marathons it does get exhausting to just focus on your breathing or your stride. More than anything, it is mentally exhausting!


The best way to maintain your attention for a longer time is to switch on and off. But how can we do that exactly?


Here comes music.


The association goes something like this


Music—Emotion— Physiological Arousal – Focus—Performance


Emotion here means all the feelings that are aroused in your body. Now, this can be because of an external factor or association you make to it. Like music.


To give you a very personal example,

I always start my run with this song:

‘Where’d you go’ by Fort Minor.- Music

Why: It reminds me of beautiful running routes in the UK because that was the first song on my music playlist then – Emotions

I get completely motivated and encouraged to complete my first lap, and I get into the flow.

This enhances my focus towards my goal of say 10 rounds in the first 20 minutes, and in turn my complete performance.


Another example,

The second/ third song on my playlist is

‘Phenomenal’ by Eminem


I associate this song to the movie ‘Southpaw’ when the lead actor restarts his boxing training. It reminds me of this



This is definitely a cue for switch on focus for my run.


In short, music acts as a strong variable of associative attention for your run.


I would suggest you to choose the songs on your playlist with interest, especially if you have certain songs that get your physiological arousal high. This could be before the run, or during the run.


Keeping the same playlist for training and for races could help in developing some association with the playlist, and in turn your performance.


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