Poll: Is Music a Must for Your Workouts?

By , SparkPeople Blogger
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?

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I used to wear an ipod... but then I left it at home one day while going to the gym. Now I don't wear it. I like to zone in on my body while working out. I think I focus harder when not lost in music... I do love music though!! :) Report
I don't workout as hard if I don't have music on. I like fast paced dance floor music when I am working out because then suddenly I am not just walking I am wiggling and walking and moving my arms and trying to move faster to the beat. It gives me a time away from my family and all the things I need to do at home and gives me time to just breath and empty my head and bring home some happy feelings with me.

I use music as a motivator ALL the time. When I walk, when I exercise, when I drive, when I want to clean the house. The music just makes me relax and makes me work a little harder and it makes the time go by faster and then before you know you've been cleaning for hours and haven't been bored or that quick minute of exercise turned into a 45min walk, and a 45min bike ride and an exercise DVD before stretching and continuing on with your day.

Every week I have a new theme song that helps motivate me to get up. :-) This week it is "I Can Transform You" and I like to imagine myself morphing and losing 30lbs and telling people. Yes, I've lost 45lbs so far- half way there!!! Report
I am the type of person who requires music no matter what I'm doing. Work, browsing the web, walking, driving, etc. Silence bothers me. For working out, I find it great to make a playlist that runs the time of how long it takes me to walk the perimeter of my town, and I will put a face paced song, and then a medium paced song, etc, and I will change my walking pace, to the pace of the music that's currently playing. :o) Report
In the gym, yes I have to have music to keep at the best pace. Outdoors in nature, not quite as much unless I'm on a long run. I think music helps me last longer and go stronger.
Though I love music in general, I mostly work out without it. Like so many, the quiet helps me tune into my body and breath... thoughts and feelings. When I'm running outdoors, I like the sounds of nature. Another reason to not use music is because workouts can be an excellent time for emotional processing. First 5 minutes, ask yourself "What have I been feeling in the past 24 hours?" Tune into the predominate feeling. Next ten minutes, ask yourself "When in my life have I felt this feeling before?" Recall the time... feel the feelings. Next 5 minutes, ask yourself "What's true now?". From this you can create an empowering mantra to take you through the rest of your workout. This can be intense, and it helps move through the emotional blocks that keep us from our healthy lifestyle. Music blocks that process. Report
I'm more likely to go without music on my walks. I find that there is so much "noise" in our environment (work, home, school) that it seems pleasant to not add anything additional.
Music is more occasional for me to exercise with, part of "mixing it up".

Side note: I have begun to drive without additional sound more often as well. I can't find anything I HAVE to listen to, so it seems better to go without. Report
I dance, I sing, and music is part of me and my day. It's like the sun, I miss it when it is not there. I love to have some music no matter what I do. But it doesn't have to be loud, just enough to know it's there. When it is too loud, I would rather not have it, like some of the group exercise classes. Report
I can't imagine NOT listening to music. Nothing gets me moving like some good music. I get more into it while listening to music, Report
hi iam doris denise i like working i like going to the gym. i love the fact that myhusband is wonderful,support me in my fittness . iam very happy person, i need to loses 40 lbs i have lost 54 iam 5 ft 11 the extra 40 is for me to have room to breath just in case i want icecream smile. thank you for this site Report
Yes!!!! It's hard for me to workout without music. Music is one of my motivators to get off my butt and get on that treadmill. When I have my jams it's like the time goes by so fast and before you know it you burned 300 calories in 30 minutes! Music is a must have for me or i get in a bad mood without it...... /o: Report
Yes!!!! It's hard for me to workout without music. Music is one of my motivators to get off my butt and get on that treadmill. When I have my jams it's like the time goes by so fast and before you know it you burned 300 calories in 30 minutes! Music is a must have for me or i get in a bad mood without it...... /o: Report
I usually listen to music when I'm running, or using cardio machines at the Y. Today I went to the Y for my spinning class, only to find it was canceled due to Memorial Day, so I went running on the track instead - and I didn't have my iPod. I was embarrassed at how loud my breathing was! I guess i've missed that over the past 15 or so months I've been running, since my ears were usually covered... Report
As one of those "I find music a distraction" people ... I almost always exercise without music. Helps me stay tuned in - to my body, to what's going on around me, to what's going through my mind. Works for me! Report
It certainly makes the workouts easier. If you want to move due to the music Report
Walking the dog twice a day with no music, 5-6 days a week I just enjoy nature. Report
I love to workout to music. It helps to pump you up and pass the time. Dance classes are great and when i'm doing regular workouts I have to have my ipod. Report
Music help the time pass without notice. It seems to give me an extra bit of energy. I-Pod all the way. Ya Report
It all depends on my mood and what I'm doing. On the gym treadmill it's hard for me not to have music or TV to distract me. Running outdoors, I can go with or without. During a race, it's usually fine for me to go without so I can be more aware of my surroundings, and also there are usually plenty of people/things to look at to keep entertained :) Report
I'll vote for music. In April I started walking for fitness again after a couple of years. My first few walks were without music and it was a struggle to get one lap around the block (one-half mile). I dug out my old tape player and a favorite tape and immediately found myself picking up the pace and the distance. Now I'm getting that favorite album and some other energizing music to put on my MP3 player. Report
When I go for a run I I listen to my ipod every time but I strength train at home maybe 75% of the time Report
Thanks for an interesting article that gave me pause for thought. I always listen to music when I do cardio, and also when I do yoga at home, but it's true I am probably much more in tune with my body when I am in yoga class and there is no music. Even with music, though, I find that I have a lot of creative thoughts and ideas while I'm doing my workout; I've always assumed it's the endorphins. When I walk/jog outside, I am on a track so it is safe enough to have headphones on. I hate it whenever the battery dies on me mid-workout, so I guess I really do need my music! Report
I usually like to do something while working out at the gym...music, good book, or tv (while doing cardio). However, when I strength train I prefer quiet these days.... Report
Rarely do I listen to music when I run outside. But on the treadmill at home or at the gym, I do. Mostly because I find it boring and the music is the only thing that helps me keep going. Report
I love to bike for exercise, so music is a big no-no. When I walk, sometimes I listen to psalms or the rosary - this way I take care of my body and my spirit at the same time. Report
I listen to audible books - have to go longer to finish a chapter. Report
I, too, have recently tried running outdoors without the use of an iPod/headphones. I thought I was going to hate it and that the time would drag by but surprisingly, I loved it! I also have deeper thoughts and seem to have a much clearer mind after I'm through running without music.

It is a challenge though because I used to rely on music to pump me up and get me through those hills or those difficult times when I needed to push through the final half mile. But now, I have to find something inside of me to get me through. So far, so good.

Mostly though, I began running outdoors without music for safety reasons. I typically don't have a running partner so I chose not to run with music so that I could be aware of my surroundings at all times (hearing people come up behind me or emergency vehicles/motors running, etc). It started out as a saftey concern and ended up showing me that I can get SO much more out of a run when I'm alone with my thoughts and the silence. Report
I have to listen to music when I exercise. Music always makes me want to dance and move around, so it just makes me that much more invested in my workout. I have 2 playlsits that I use: one with upbeat fun music for cardio, and one more mellow list for during weight training.

I use the "no music" feature on videos all the time... but only so that I can blast my own tunes through my stereo! :) Report
Inside - music is on 98% of the time.
Outside - no way! Nature provides enough symphony for my senses, I love it. Report
I tend to have music on as much as I can, but when I workout, it serves as "white noise" more than as motivation. I can concentrate on lifting weights with proper form or squeezing out those last couple of reps without hearing the conversations of the people around me or the music playing on the gym's stereo speakers. The other day there was an outdoor concert right outside my gym and I couldn't play my IPod loud enough to drown out the singer. So annoying.

But when I ride my bike I ride sans IPod. I don't know whether it's safety or my desire to be more streamlined and lightweight when I ride that prevents me from listening to my music on the bike, but I don't.

So depending on what I am doing, I can either go with or without music. Report
When I go to the gym, I like to have my own music because sometimes what they have playing is not conducive for me. I take the exercise slow, so when I get on a machine, I tend to close my eyes and zone out until I am done with my sets. When I am out in nature, I do not use a music player. Report
I love weight training and cardio training WITH music. I'm such a music person all the time though (in my car, at home, and work). I mainly listen to praise and worship music and I feel like it just helps me stay focused on Christ as I go about my daily routine. Also, I think it keeps people from interrupting me while I'm working out at the gym. Report
music is a must if i'm training by myself. however, if i train with a friend, the companionship is enough to keep me going and working hard. Report
I do exercise with and without music. Music gets me moving faster, but sometimes when I exercise on the ellipital, I read a book or look at a magazine. Doing something else (like listening to music or reading a book) makes the time go by faster and therefore I exercise longer. Report
Not this chickie! I must have my tunes and if I don't have my tunes while I run, I will most certainly bonk. Report
My husband & I are on opposite sides on this one. He is glued to his i pod perpetually, but especially for exercise outside. I can always tell when he is working out indoors, because the whole house vibrates to his driving beat. Me, I like quiet. The raucous music most require keeps me out of the gym. Outdoors, I want to hear nature, sure, but also approaching traffic, free roaming pets and especially wild life, some of whom may not feel too friendly. I worry about my DH hiking alone & oblivious to all around him. I, like Nicole, find my own thoughts emerging out of the silence, with creative energy, solutions for personal quandries, prayerful appreciation and de-stressing tranquility. I love music - it definitely has its place & can urge you on. I use it often during heavy housework. But if you are tuned in ALL the time, how can your own thoughts ever surface, still less make a change in your life? Report
I always like music when I'm on the go - running, driving, walking or taking the bus. Especially when I'm running, I like to have my mp3 player, because then I can't hear myself panting! Hahaha!!! Report
I have actually never put much thought into exercising without music. I ALWAYS take my Ipod with me for a run, or just walking anywhere. And I have to admit that it is a big part of my workout because that's the first thing I grab. The music definitely motivates me, with every beat and catchy lyrics. I haven't tried exercising without music, and I have to admit that the thought of that scares me. But from reading the comments it seems to help you, so I'll try it the next time I go for a run. Report
I seem to be the opposite of many people here. I like to use my Ipod when I'm outside, I even wore it the last time I mowed the lawn ( loved it for that!)..but when I'm on the treadmill it annoys me...I think I feel like I need to hear what's going on in the house ( nothing ever is).. I have also started hiking with my husband and when we are out in the woods I feel that the music would be intrusive. I have tried to make play lists that will encourage faster running/walking and also give me breaks to catch my breath..if a song doesn't work for me it gets taken off the list. Report
I use the following songs to get about 30 minutes on the treadmill, yep I am 51 so most of the songs from the 70's and 80's ~ LOL ~

Working for the Weekend
The Heart of Rock n Roll
Eye of the Tiger
New Attitude
Turn the Beat Around
Love Shack
Its Still Rock and Roll to Me
I Like the Way You Move
Rock Your Body Report
I don't use music when I run. The earphones annoy me, and I find that if the music isn't exactly the right beat, I slow down to accommodate the music. Even on my long runs (currently 12-15 miles), I only listen to the sound of my feet and the thoughts in my head. I wouldn't have it any other way. ☺ Report
Music is a must for me when working out. I am not able to walk outside as I am disabled at the moment, but when I can I imagine it will be then as well. I am in a position now where I seem to have too much on my mind stress-wise, and exercising and listening to music give me a reprieve from that. Music energizes me as I workout and I keep regular playlists that keep me motivated. Report
I have always found this to be an interesting topic: music and how it affects working out. Personally, I have very different tastes when it comes to using music for working out. If I am running outside, I prefer not to have music. Perhaps that is just because I am better able to keep a more consistent pace when I don't have my music on outside. However, if I am on a treadmill/elliptical/bike (outside or inside), I don't mind the music at all. Now, if I am weight lifting I really like to have music as it helps set a pace for my lift.

I have always found that if you are running with music, try to find music that has a steady beat. For example, I like to listen to metal. I have found that with music that has too many changes in tempo or pace tends to be more of determent. Why? Well, I have found that, personally, the tempo change makes me run faster when the tempo is faster, and slower when it is slower. It is as if my body sets the pace to the music. Then, after a long time of fast tempo, I burn out faster because I am running too fast to keep going a long distance. Therefore, I have found that with steady paced music, where the tempo stays constant, or more constant, then I can set a better pace to the music. This is why I have found it better to run without music outside, too. Report
I enjoy listening to music, but since I'm hearing impaired that means I need to remove my hearing aids. If I'm walking on the street this puts me at risk, and if anyone stops me to talk I can't hear them. In addition, Since I've had the hearing loss since birth I'm well aware of the dangers of pumping music into your ears at a high volume. I tend to not use music to work out with. I do enjoy it in the car, those--the only place I can sing off-key without listening to others' comments! Report
I am a walker and I love to listen to MY music. I have a series of songs that uplift me while I walk and they really touch my soul. I incorporate their message which carries me through my day. Report
I am new to running. As I trained for my first half marathon, I ran out and bought an Ipod shuffle and created a running playlist (which needs lots of work). I loved listening to the music as I warmed up, but I HATED it when running. My trainer thought it would be a great distraction, but it was a great annoyance. If i didn't like the song, if the headphones felt funny.... any little thing annoyed me. Instead, I loved listening to my own thoughts, problem solving, observing and listening to nature, and, every now and again, I'd hear some of my favorite songs in my head. Like you, I could self reflect, listen to my body and find ways to motivate me to run further.

Thanks for letting me know I am not alone with the no music approach. Report
Years earlier, when I just started my workout routines, I always use my Sony Walkman when I use my elliptical. But everytime I started to run faster, the earphones kept popping out, it was so annoying. Nowadays, I stick to sounds from tv series, especially re-run series. But not quite sure about silence during workouts, I'm a very noisy girl and like sounds around me when I'm doing things - hence, no need for music when typing, haha. Report
I love to listen to music during my runs, I find the music gives me more energy but it also keeps my mind of sore feet and the distance I still have to to. Today I didn't have my music and my run seemed longer than usual. Report
I need to listen to music when im doing more high endurance excercising and weights when I am alone. When I am with someone I listen to music as I am doing cardio.... and its cranked up. I like to not listen to music when I am walking outdoors in the woods so I can take it all in... if I am listening it is very very low. Report
It depends on whether I'm inside or outside. If outside, then no because I love the sounds of the world around me as I'm usually out in the country or woods or somewhere else where the sounds of nature are predominant. Sometimes, though, if I'm out for a walk, I do like to have some music playing, but if I'm biking or skating in places where the traffic's busy, then I'll never play music because I have a hard enough time hearing the traffic properly without the music.

Inside, though, I almost always have music on. My sis-in-law's giving me an iPod Shuffle soon, & so I'll use that if I ever go to a gym so that I have something to motivate me rather than just exercising & seeing others do so as well. Music is a great motivator & a love of my life, & it can be used for great purpose when the need to inspire & to be inspired's called for. Report
I have to say that when I'm by myself, music helps the time pass more quickly, but when I'm working out with someone else, passing the time talking is always nicer than music blaring in the background. Report
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