Poll: Is Music a Must for Your Workouts?


By: , SparkPeople Blogger
  :  318 comments   :  29,553 Views

I often blog about music and share some of my favorite workout songs with our readers. I don't think I need to explain how or why music affects our emotions, energy levels and motivation. Most of us have experienced the power of music firsthand in everyday life and during countless workouts.

Nowadays, most workout DVDs offer a "no music" option on their menus. I used to think that was weird until I saw several comments from blog readers who say that they prefer the quiet when exercising. And last week, when my iPod was stolen out of my car (my mistake for leaving it there!), I had no choice but to go without my trusty tunes for several days—and counting.

This led me to wonder: Is music a must for your workouts?

For the longest time, I always felt that I absolutely could NOT work out if I didn't have good music pumping in my ears. It set the stage for my workouts and helped motivate me. If I forgot my iPod, my chances of following through with my workout plans went way down. These songs provided a distraction from the monotony and of the workout itself. It gave me something to focus on other than the drudgery of the gym. It made exercise far more entertaining.

This past winter, I blogged about a winter run that had a profound effect on me. It was the first time I had exercised without music in as long as I could remember. And surprise—I LOVED it. For the past several months, I've been running and exercising at the gym without the use of my iPod. The best part is that I no longer see music as a crutch. And probably even better, I'm more in tune with my body, my thoughts, my breath and my feelings while I exercise. I have deeper thoughts. I come up with all sorts of ideas and solve everyday problems. I reach inside and motivate myself up big hills instead of relying on something external (like the perfect song) to do the work for me. I talk to myself. I give myself pep talks—one more block, one more minute, one more mile. Sometimes I sing to myself! I fine-tune my movements. I actually feel freer, happier and less distracted and, for the first time ever, I began to notice the stress and tension leaving my body along the way.

Recently, I ran two races and reached new personal milestones in distance without the use of any music: a 15K back in March and a 10.6-mile run a couple weeks ago. Yesterday I ran my fastest 3 miles ever, no iPod in hand. I used to watch competitive marathoners in total disbelief, wondering how they could possibly run so long without music to distract and entertain them. Now I get it.

I still enjoy using music when teaching classes and during my once-a-week long runs. Spinning would never be as fun without it. But when I'm on my own, I'm letting music take the backseat for a while. I think that developing a true love of running has helped me reach this point, and finding something that you enjoy would help you go music-free, too, as would a new and more positive outlook toward fitness. Over the past year, my attitude toward exercise has shifted substantially and I can say that I truly love the mental and physical challenge of a good workout. It's hard to say what came first, the silence or the love of exercise, but I'm pretty sure the two are related. It has taken me several years of working out to get to this point, so don't worry if you haven't felt it yet. I'm sure you will. And I'll be thinking of you and pulling for you next time I'm running (music) free...

How about you: Is music essential to your workouts or are you able to exercise sans tunes? Have you ever tried exercising without your favorite songs in tow?

Click here to to redeem your SparkPoints
  You will earn 5 SparkPoints
See More: fitness, running, music, poll,
Got a story idea? Give us a shout!
NEXT ENTRY >   Putting Foods Off-Limits Can Sabotage Your Diet


  • 318
    I go both ways, but many times I do without... My husband likes to use his walking or running times listening to sermons or other spiritual material. - 4/24/2017   5:02:44 PM
  • 317
    I prefer no music and I'm in 3 gym classes a week and they all have music that I could do without. For one I'm hard of hearing and have a hard time hearing the instruction, and some of them play their music way too loud. I'm almost 72 now and still going strong, and have worked out almost all my life with no music, except in class when I don't have a choice. - 2/3/2017   12:14:54 AM
  • 316
    When I work with a trainer, I have no music...because I need to interact with the trainer. When I'm working out by myself, I prefer my music. It helps drown out other people's conversations and on the days I really don't feel like working out, the high energy beat helps to get me in the mood to do what I need to do. - 2/2/2017   9:39:26 AM
  • 315
    I Love my Music it reall gets me moving! - 6/20/2015   5:27:31 PM
  • 314
    It completely depends what workout I am doing and what the situation is. If I am running outside, I don't listen to music, but on rainy days when I'm stuck on a treadmill I have to have music to distract me. - 5/18/2014   2:53:45 PM
  • 313
    I prefer workouts with no music because I want to be able to use my own music. I like to be able to hear the instruction, but hate to have to listen to someone else's music choices over and over and over. That's why I prefer the videos on SparkPeople.com to the one's on Nicole's DVDs. On the DVDs, I'm stuck with the music. - 1/30/2014   9:54:34 PM
  • MSM995
    Music is a must for my work outs! It motivates me and keeps me energized - 9/1/2013   11:32:42 AM
  • 311
    If prefer listening to music or podcasts when I walk. They invigorate! ! I do not use music when I am lifting weights. In the gym i am often distracted and annoyed by songs with lyrics I dont like. I sometimes wish class instructors would use jazz ( no vocals) to see if it would help people like me, older clients, concentrate on the exercise without distraction of lyrics. - 9/29/2012   9:21:13 AM
  • 310
    I love running with music, most of the time. Sometimes the experience is enhanced by absence of music. I ran the Tucson marathon with Ipod in tow...I never turned it on. I enjoyed the sounds of nature, conversations with other runners, and the voice inside my head. I find running without music to be an almost spiritual experience...it takes me to an entirely different place. So, yes I like music while working out, but not always. - 9/29/2012   3:44:35 AM
  • 309
    YES must have music..It's what motivated me to get up and move. - 9/27/2012   11:26:56 PM
  • 308
    Absolutely! It makes the workout more enjoyable AND makes it go faster! It also helps me to keep the beat & not slow down on certain machines. - 9/27/2012   4:35:05 PM
    Since I workout at home, early in the morning music gets me amped and wakes me up. I love music anyways so a good song will boost my energy level. - 9/23/2012   12:29:47 PM
  • 306
    I cant workout without music. It drowns out the voices, lol. - 9/23/2012   7:39:53 AM
  • JTERM21
    All music is great to work out to but I must say the 80s is my favorite - 9/21/2012   11:47:24 AM
  • 304
    Music is a MUST for running for me, but I often prefer to take my practice in silence. - 6/30/2012   6:48:37 AM
  • 303
    HECK YES Music is a must for my workouts - the ONLY time it isn't is when something really bad is going on and I'm out of sorts, I don't want my favorite songs to have bad memories associated with them, during those times I exercise in silence, other than my breathing/panting, lol! - 6/27/2012   4:52:38 PM
  • 302
    Unless I'm running outdoors, then HELL YEAH I need music - heavy metal, the louder the BETTER!!! What I definitely cannot do is read while exercising; guess I'm not that coordinated! - 6/26/2012   10:34:16 AM
  • 301
    Can't run or workout without it!!! - 6/26/2012   9:01:08 AM
  • 300
    For the most part, I cannot exercise with music. I find it distracting to the movements that I am trying to do. When outside hiking or biking I'd rather hear the ambient sounds of the ocean or the birds, the cars, other people. This makes me feel more connected to my surroundings than music playing in my ears, and when I'm more connected to my surroundings I work out harder and longer. When working out inside, I'm usually following a video, so playing music would interfere with the instructions. The only time I have music on while working out is when I'm dancing, but those are never really planned "exercise" sessions. Sometimes I just want to dance :) - 5/11/2012   9:58:33 AM
  • 299
    Listening to my ipod gets me going when the weather is not ideal and keeps me going when I would have quit sooner without it. I agree wuth others I walk/jog harder and am happier working out to my favorite tunes. - 5/3/2011   11:06:17 PM
  • 298
    Music is not essential to my workouts. Some days I enjoy the quiet others I crave being lost in my music as I walk or run or use the elliptical. - 12/14/2010   2:18:38 PM
  • 297
    I first experienced running years ago in high school - cassette tape wasn't invented yet, so you know I had no idea about iPods either! That was a stressful period of time with family issues, school bullies, raging hormones - so running alone at night was a way to get some peace in my life. I'm missing that as an old lady and so when I do get out to run or walk, I prefer no music. However - for doing stuff I don't want to do, like housework, music is GREAT way to motivate and pick up my energy!! - 11/23/2010   6:56:18 PM
  • CB0798
    Depending on what im doing to workout, music is usually a MUST. If im running or something else I dread, then I need it to keep me going. If im lifting or doing aerobics with friends, then it isnt as necessary. though it does help. - 7/29/2010   6:07:23 AM
  • SHB1964
    Oh, and sometimes, I just plug in earphones but don't turn the music on. It gets people to leave you alone and it helps cancel out ambient sounds! Just my little non-social trick... - 7/28/2010   10:14:25 AM
  • SHB1964
    Interesting topic. I for one crave periods of silence (but with tinnitus, that's hard to achieve). So I totally understand experiencing running, walking or anything in total silence. I think it's good for the soul. I'm not a techie, so I just got an mp3 player and I'm planning lots of energetic music to put on it. Even before I read this blog, my plan was to energize and motivate myself to exercise with the music and once I got into the habit, then elevate myself to silence - for me, that's a reward! - 7/28/2010   10:12:35 AM
    I can't start exercising without my ipod in my ears with my favorite tunes. When I listen to music it gives me that extra boost. - 7/13/2010   11:11:02 AM
  • MARKO12345
    I used to listen to David Guetta all the time, but now I think that slower beats are better for cardio. They make life hardships easier in every aspect, including long biking. - 7/5/2010   4:28:07 PM
  • 291
    Once in awhile the right music really helps motivate. However, I would rather have no music than BAD music! - i.e. the horrendous "non-music" rap crap that has invaded my gym aggravates me to no end and makes it even harder for me to concentrate on doing my reps. This kind of noise throws off my running rhythm - and I am appalled at the foul lyrics! I've asked the gym not to play it. But, they haven't made the change. So, I bring headphones to wear to block it out. I like to be able to hear myself think when I'm working out - getting in touch with my inner voice. - 6/10/2010   6:43:43 PM
    I enjoy 50's music and great Southern gospel quartet music with some KennyG and Celtic. - 6/9/2010   11:48:12 PM
    When I run on the tredmil, it is a must. My office gym doesn't have a TV with the tredmill. I don't know if this is weird... but when I run outdoors, I do not need music. Maybe it is the fresh air or the street noises, but I am more open to thinking. It feels great. - 6/9/2010   8:46:05 PM
  • 288
    I have my elliptical exercise bike in the basement in front of a small tv...I like to pedal and pull to my fav country music videos. To make the workout like a circuit training, I start with a slow song, then vary the pace, ending again with a slow one. - 6/9/2010   3:04:12 PM
    If I am at the gym, I HAVE to have my music, but mainly because I don't like the music the gym plays or the sounds of treadmills, weights clinking, beefcakes talking. I like being in my own head. Music can also push me through the last half mile of a long run. - 6/9/2010   12:26:50 PM
  • 286
    I still use music as my crutch. Though in all fairness, I'm doing the Couch to 5K plan with Robert Ullrey's podcasts to help me with the interval breaks, so I kind of have to for now. I can see the benefit of running without music, but for now with it being so new, I'm keeping my ears filled with tunes! - 6/9/2010   11:36:47 AM
  • 285
    I generally don't have music to listen to unless I'm working out with a DVD that has it already. But I sometimes would like it when I struggle with the monontony of particular exercises like my stationary bike. I do think I would exercise longer if I had it for a distraction. Although I agree that I do a lot of thinking when I'm working out. A bicyle ride is great for that and I prefer not to have my hearing impaired while I'm out on the road. - 6/8/2010   11:43:28 PM
  • VAIDA_
    For me music is distracting and I prefer my workouts without it. But maybe it's because of my character - for example, I can't concentrate for studying, learning something when TV or radio is on. When doing exercises, I like to concentrate on my working muscles and my feelings and in such a way - the music doesn't help (for me). - 6/8/2010   4:04:59 PM
    Well I had something almost close happen to me like that, except with me I forgot to charge my MP3 player up, by this time I was already at the gym when I realized that it wasn't charged. So I said ohh well the heck with it, I'll try it for now, and boy was I disappointed. I even cut my workout short because I didn't have my music. This time I make sure my MP3 player is always charged. - 6/8/2010   2:00:05 PM
  • KJE_3001
    I was a swimmer for many years, and the quiet of the pool was always comforting to me. It helped me feel centered and relaxed. I do like music when I walk, though. The varying beats in the music help me to keep a fast pace, but also to change my speed to keep my heart rate up. Right now, my favorites are Beyonce songs! With other exercise I can take or leave music... - 6/7/2010   10:51:50 PM
  • 281
    Love having a beat to walk to. Helps keep me moving faster than if I didn't. I go to clickmix.com and pick out my favorite tunes that have been mixed with a faster beat. - 6/7/2010   5:29:01 PM
    I love to listen to Michael Jackson when I'm walking on the treadmill. I feel much more energetic when I listen to upbeat music as it helps set my pace. As I listen to a song, I fluctuate the speed and incline to match the music and in doing that, I make it a challenge to keep it up during the song so not to give up sooner. It really has made a great difference, and I feel so wonderful mentally, i'm much happier to know that I have pushed myself as much as possible. The music is just like a personal trainer for me. :) - 6/7/2010   2:58:27 PM
    It helps to get my body in rythm with the music. Positive and happy tunes keep me going. - 6/7/2010   11:44:34 AM
  • 278
    Interesting how life throws you a curve and you deal with it! I prefer to think of it as God provided an opportunity for you to experience the OUTSIDE world and see and hear what He created!! I never need music to workout but it does help sometimes to quicken up my workout pace as in the Walk Slim DVD. - 6/7/2010   11:13:29 AM
  • DMARIE671
    It keeps me motivated & keeps me moving. - 6/7/2010   12:40:05 AM
    Although I love the sounds of nature, lately if I don't have my tunes all i can think about is work. So the last time I hiked without my Ipod, I came back upset. I like the tunes at this point in my life because music helps me visualize success. Once the current stresses at work subside, I will get back to nature. - 6/6/2010   6:38:06 PM
    Hi.. I am a newbie.. as of yesterday.. I really haven't had time to go through everything.. will take me some time to find all of your great motivational ideas and all of the wonderful Spark Team Associates. First, I love Music! I grew up in a very musical background, and don't think I could ever really exercise without my music.... I also sing.. on www.SingSnap.com ... and my name there is LuvMyMusic. Check it out... You can exercise and listen to all of the great people on this site. It is Free as a blue member or you can sign up for a Gold membership, which I have.. and it is so much fun. I will be setting up my profile page, so a lot of you will get to know me. It's a great start in the right direction for me... and thank you for having such a wonderful FREE site to help me reach my goal. Cheers for now. MARLA :) - 6/6/2010   3:57:50 PM
  • 274
    I absolutely must have music playing when i workout at the gym. It keeps me distracted when I am feeling tired. It boosts my energy and allows me to have a better workout. If I want to take a walk outside though, I will leave the music at home and enjoy the sounds of nature. - 6/6/2010   3:04:44 PM
  • 273
    I've taken to leaving my radio at home when I walk my dogs. The music of birdsong and wind in the leaves soothes my soul.

    I still have my favorite programs I listen too, but not every time. - 6/6/2010   11:53:22 AM
  • 272
    gotta have my tunes..no if's and's or but's - 6/6/2010   11:42:01 AM
  • 271
    I too need to listen to music when walking or even working out in the yard. It makes everything go easier, faster, and helps me to push myself more. - 6/5/2010   9:01:08 PM
  • 270
    I cannot run without music -- oh, I've tried when I forget my IPOD or the battery goes out -- just not the same. I get sluggish. - 6/5/2010   3:32:33 PM
    I used to hit the gym without an MP3 player for a while, until my gym put on a radio station I didn't like. So enter MP3 player at the gym. I never really ran/jogged consistently before this year. I thought I needed the music. Turns out the road runs are perfect without music. I'm game try the treadmill without music :-) - 6/4/2010   10:16:23 AM

Please Log In To Leave A Comment:    Log in now ›