Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Losing Yourself

The other day I came across a post by Scott at A Trail Runner's Blog about the performance effect of listening to music while running. It turns out a new study by a sports psychologist finds listening to tunes while running can improve endurance levels 15 percent. His take is music acts as "a legal drug. It reduces the perception of effort by blocking fatigue-related messages to the brain." I'm no sports psychologist; I'm not buying what he's selling. Maybe I'm too much of a purist. For me, music while running is missing the point. It's not about blocking messages to the brain, but listening to your body and spending time alone with your thoughts. It's about getting in touch with the primal act of running, even if you're running through a busy city. That's what got me up at 6am today run. Tuesdays are tough days: 14 miles. That's a good 1:45 out there before a day at the office. I'm sure the distraction of music might have helped make it seem easier, but I would have missed so much. For instance, today confirmed that I'm in good shape. I was running light. I felt light -- I'm starting to get people comment, somewhat worriedly, that I look skinny-- and my steps were soft. I would have missed that my strides were landing soft if I had music blaring. I would have missed the temporary quiet of Riverside Park before dawn, then the sounds of Manhattan waking up as I went down the Hudson. More important, I would have missed how awesome it is to lose yourself, totally zone out and let the miles come to you. I wouldn't trade that for the world, much less tricking my mind that I'm not really tired.

14 miles, 1:46:05

3 comments:

buzz bishop said...

the music however, will be back for race day. i dont hear the strain in my breath when i'm with music, and a good track (commodores - lady you bring me up) gets the adrenaline flowing, and picks up the pace.

kara said...

So true - when I listen to music, I go somewhere else. Not really paying attention to my body or surroundings...
But truth be told - I do run faster with tunes!

JPS said...

I'm thinking of getting a coach for next season, and the two I've talked to lately have indicated that there's a 10-15% improvement in output in a "real" setting vs. "controlled" setting, like on a trainer in a garage or on a treadmill. They've measured it time and again...

Bottom line is that distraction leads to increased pain tolerance. I for one can't run or exercise in any way w/ tunes, as it keeps me disconnected from the work I'm doing. Call me weird, but I need to be in touch w/ all the sights, sounds, etc.