Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Coach Laura: Music and Exercise

Dear Coach Laura,

Do you recommend listening to music while you jog or ride your bike?

I Love My Tunes!

Dear Tunes,

I love music and especially love it for exercising. One of my favorite things about teaching spin (indoor cycling) classes at my local gym is putting together a play list with different types of music that I think will help motivate my students. I also love putting together a playlist for my own motivation and use it for running or even cleaning the house. Having the right song can really put you in the right mood for whatever the occasion is.

HOWEVER. Please PLEASE be cautious when deciding where to listen to your music and during what activity. Jamming headphones into your ears takes away one of the most important senses you have available to you when you're outside exercising. If you need to have music to exercise to, then see if you can make do with only one ear occupied with the music so you can use the other one to stay alert to traffic, other pedestrians/runners, or any other potential dangers.

One day I was on a hike with my sisters and we saw a solo hiker coming the opposite way. She had both ears occupied with her phone/MP3 player, and so hadn't heard the rattlesnake that was up on the path a little ways. Luckily, she had seen it, but if the snake hadn't wanted to be seen, she would have been in a world of hurt.

Some new studies are even suggesting that it's better to unplug while exercising, no matter how much you think it may motivate you.

"'Music isn't distracting only because it siphons off your ability to hear other noises like a car or—super scary—an attacker approaching, says Diana Deutsch, Ph.D., a psychologist at the University of California at San Diego who researches the perception of sound. "Music floods the brain and takes over your thought processes,' she explains.

"'You concentrate on the lyrics, or the music evokes certain memories or sends you into a daydream." Some scientists speculate that music may even have the power to dampen your sight. 'The tempo can interfere with the rate at which your brain perceives images that are passing by you, which could trip you up,' says Deutsch. In short, music draws your attention away from what you're doing and increases your risk of literally running into a dangerous situation like an oncoming bus, a malicious stranger, or a lamppost."

If you're going to listen to music while riding your bike, please check your state's bicycle laws. In California, for example (my home state), it's illegal to have headphones in both ears while riding your bike. I have recently purchased a special pair of headphones, well, headphone actually - that has only one earbud. That way I don't have to worry about another earbud dangling down, getting in the way, or getting tangled in anything while I'm riding. This is also my preferred way of listening to music while I'm running.

Even better than listening to music while you're running or doing other outdoor activities - find a buddy to go with. You'll have a lively conversation and have someone to help motivate you in your exercise goals.

Whatever you choose, play safe!

Musically yours,

Coach Laura

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