Just as important to a runner as a pair of broken-in shoes is their source of motivation, inspiration and distraction: their music. Running with music has become so common that the two biggest names in both industries, Nike and Apple, have been joined at the hip with the Nike + iPod combination. So just what is it about music and running that feels so right?
Scientists have been working to find out more about this special connection between our ears and our feet and in a recent study, sports psychologists helped to create a half marathon in London that tried to find the perfect music mix of live bands based on research of human reaction to rhythm (Now, how cool would that be? Ultimate multitasking right there. Go to a concert and run a marathon all in one Saturday morning). This second annual "Run to the Beat" event was held a few weeks ago with 9,000 runners either enjoying the live music or listening to their own mix of tunes on their MP3. Scientists even offered a scientific selection of songs based on their findings. Wonder what that playlist is like...
According to the study, there are four factors that contribute to a song's motivational qualities: rhythm response, musicality, cultural impact and association. Surprisingly, a runner's response to rhythm is actually tied not only to how well it matches their pace, but more importantly tied to how well it matches their own heartbeat. Syncing running with music has been shown to improve endurance, allowing runners to require up to 7% less oxygen, and has a dissociation effect that results in a significant reduction in perceived effort.
But then again, it's not like we needed to be told that running to music was a good idea. Nice to know anyay, though.