Training and Racing without Headphones and Music!  Can you do it?

Music is a wonderful thing.  It can change our mood, motivate us, make us happy or sad, and some believe it can even heal us.  So, how does music affect our training, our workouts and our races?  

I love music.  I teach indoor cycling classes, and music is the key to the classes.  However, when I move outside, to me, racing and training with headphones and music is a distraction. 

As a coach and a race director, I have the opportunity to see people train and race on a regular basis.  I see so many people who rely completely on music to get them through their workouts and races.  I’ve even known people who wouldn’t run in a race because rules stated headphones aren’t permitted. 

So, why do race directors have these no headphone rules?  Are these rules enforced? If you find yourself in a race that doesn’t allow headphones, how will you survive the race? 

Race directors have many reasons why they implement a no headphones rule. 

Their insurance may require athletes to not use headphones.  USA Triathlon does not permit headphones at any of its races.   If you wear headphones, you will be disqualified.  USA Track and Field used to implement a no headphones rule, but changed that in 2007 to only include those vying for championship spots.  However, most insurance companies see headphones as being a major distraction.  As a race director, I also believe people shouldn’t wear headphones when racing because they can’t hear other people around them, and they can’t hear volunteers.  Lastly, if roads are open to traffic, they can’t hear the cars around them.  Unhooking from those headphones make races safer and can simply save people’s lives. 

Are the no headphone rules enforced?  They should be.  In every triathlon I organize, I strictly enforce the no headphone rule.  In my running races, I do permit headphones.  I honestly believe people should race without them, but I only enforce the no headphone rule for the triathlons.  I have known a lot of race directors who say they don’t allow headphones, but never enforce the rule.  In my opinion, if you state in your athlete guide that headphones are not permitted, then you should enforce the rule.  It’s not fair to those who do follow the rule. 

How do you survive a no headphones race?  First, train without headphones.  Use headphones on your easier training days.  On your tougher training days, connect your mind to your body, and get rid of the music distraction.  When you run, specifically a harder workout, you should run it without music.  Listening to your breathing and your footfalls will get you in tune with your body and make you a better runner.   My recommendation is to run two days with music and the rest of the week without music.  Learn how to listen to your body when you work out.  Find friends to run with and talk to them and socialize during your run.  Most of all, enjoy your surroundings.  You miss so much when you listen to music.  Once you disconnect, you can truly escape the craziness of your day, find nature and find yourself in every step you take.   

Lastly, never ride a bike with headphones and music in your ears.  This is so important.  Riding a bike requires zero distractions.  You must be fully aware of your surroundings when you are on a bicycle. 

Music can motivate you.  It can do so much to help you get through a tough day, but when you plug in on a run, you miss out on the beauty of the sport and the great friends you can make through it. 

By: Joella Baker