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Music and Motivation: How the Right Tunes Can Get You anywhere

Updated: May 18, 2020

Successful runners know that there's more to the sport than just being fast. If you want to reach your goals, it's essential to train your mind as well, as it is a mighty force in overcoming obstacles. As we've previously shared in '3 Mindset Tips to Beat Your PR', repeating a mantra over and over can help enhance your runs, as it sharpens your focus. While motivating yourself is indeed a powerful way to improve, why not take it up a notch by simply listening to music? Here's how listening to your favorite tunes gives you the motivation you need to get you anywhere!

How Music Gets You Going

Whether it's an easy morning run or training for a marathon, a boost of motivation can make all the difference. After all, everyone has those days where they'd rather stay in bed than get up and run. This is where listening to music while running can help. A study published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research found that music helps accelerate the brain's prefrontal cortex area — this is responsible for executive functions like focusing attention, managing emotions, and making decisions. By stimulating positive emotions and reducing tension, music creates an ergogenic effect that will keep you motivated during a run.

Plus, music can also improve your running technique. Researchers from Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam conducted a study that discovered runners who matched the music's beat with their cadence outperformed those who weren't listening to any music at all. This leads us into our next point.

The Type of Music You Should Run To

However, it's important to note that you can't just plug in any playlist, since your song choice can either make or break your running performance. In fact, Daniel Levitin from McGill University explained to TIME that a song's rhythm influences heart rate modulation and brain activity.

Be sure to steer clear from songs with slow tempos or melancholy lyrics, since they can dampen your run. Instead, opt for fast-tempo tracks with uplifting lyrics, and also an average of 120 to 130 beats per minute. This type of music will not only get you pumped, but also push you towards the finish line.

Positive Effects of Music on Mood

The effects of your music-accompanied runs will also have a profound impact on your mood and mental health. PsyPost shares that the release of dopamine from music heightens your feelings of pleasure, which makes the activity your doing at time even more enjoyable. And research backs up the impact good mental health has on the activities a person does. Psychologists at Maryville University have long established a link between a motivated mind and the ability to perform in different areas of life, whether it be school, work, or while exercising. By listening to music as you run, not only will you feel galvanized to run, but you'll also likely enjoy the activity a lot more, which will help you keep at it.

Being in the right headspace helps you get in the zone, from beating your own personal record to becoming a more complete runner! It's not enough to merely have a goal, as you'll need the right tools to help you stay in the race no matter what obstacle comes your way. If you want to maximize your potential, you should definitely consider curating a playlist for your runs to help you get in the right mood. After all, succeeding is often a case of mind over matter.


Reese Jones is sports writer and marathon runner. She has run marathons all over the world and has fully embraced the lifestyle. Her goal is to help others develop their love of running and get as much satisfaction from it as she has.


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