Can music improve your run performance? | 10 of 26 Marathon Series

Many of us like to exercise to music, but then many people are purists, who frown upon listening to music while exercising. So… who’s right?

Well sports psychologists from Brunel University and the University of Southern Queensland found that music can clearly have a positive effect on sports performance; up to 15% increase in fact! Particularly in endurance sports such as running; due to the fact it lowers the perceived effort of the exercise by taking the mind off the pain.

Music that is in beat with an athletes stride can also help to regulate the stride and therefore improve efficiency as well. Not all of this is psychological either; the study found that there was increased chemical and electrical activity in the ascending reticular activating system at the core of the brain, when athletes were played upbeat music.


However finding the right music is obviously important, so spending some time on the careful creation of specific playlists will be worth it. It is worth having a few different paced playlists that will suit different distances so that you can use the music to help pace yourself. If you are really keen then you can start to learn the timings of each track and use these to gauge your performance; particularly if you frequently run a certain route.

And many of our customers say that they like to keep a “power-song” in each playlist. This is a song that they find personally really inspiring and gives them a massive psychological boost for when the going gets tough or you want to sprint to the finish; personally I love “Eye of the Tiger” by Survivor as cheesy as that sounds!

While it is pretty clear from the above study that music can improve performance; it’s worth bearing in mind the following tips to ensure happy, safe running:

  • Always use a good quality phone/ipod case to avoid dropping or damaging your beloved device
  • Avoid high volumes so that you maintain auditory awareness, this is particularly important when crossing roads or running at night
  • Avoid big DJ-style headphones as they increase sweating, are heavy, block out ambient sound and also you’ll look pretty ridiculous; consider some sports specific headphones that are sweat-resistant and won’t fall out
  • Have your playlist ready so you don’t need to slowdown to look at the screen or change the track
  • If you always train with music, why not try without it occasionally, not only is it nice to sometimes be completely in touch with the run, but also you’ll appreciate not having to carry a device

Whether or not you run with music, the most important thing is to enjoy your training and never give up, so have fun and keep on running!

Need some new headphones designed for running? why not check out our collection of running and fitness headphones:

Running Headphones

Here is the next blog article in our marathon series:

11. Race Day: How to Run a 10k




Ryan has worked in the sports industry since 1999 and has a wealth of experience across most subjects. Ryan holds a BSc in microbiology and has studied sports physiology in great detail in his own time. His main areas of specialisation are: footwear construction, footwear technology, strength & conditioning and anatomy & physiology. He splits his 13 hours a week exercise between, Kickboxing, MMA, Crossfit, Rock Climbing and Running.