Running to Meditate

One of the interesting things I’ve run across is the dichotomy between people who are for running with music and those who are against it.

I like to look up articles along the lines of “Why I hate running” and “How to not hate running.” They almost always come back to this.

So starting with those who want music, they do it for distraction. Running is a chore for a lot of people and many treat music as an outlet.

One of the arguments is that you’ll sync up your running to the beat of the music, so you could possibly keep up a quicker pace if you pick the right music. For others, it’s just a distraction to help them forget they’re running.

Up until recently, I haven’t run with music, but I have to have my phone for the zombie app and it includes music, so I’ve just started listening to music when I run. Mostly, it’s just an energy boost the same as it is all the other times I’m listening to music; I’m just trying to alter my mood to match what I’m hoping to accomplish. It’s no different than romantic music playing during a date or sad songs at a funeral. I’m trying to channel something. I’m in the camp of trying to distract myself. I have trouble not taking off like a rabbit being chased, so music helps provide a tempo to go with so I’m not fighting quite so much.

Another use for music that I’ve heard is to run a song and walk a song. This alternating approach isn’t new to most runners. It’s a pretty typical way of getting in shape at the beginning, and it’s a good way to run farther without getting as tired.

I’ve never truly done this, but I got caught the one time I sort of did. When I was still lifting, I would warm up with at least a mile on a treadmill (I realize for real runners, this is a laughably short distance, but it’s a lot to me). When I would get in better shape, I would up the distance, maxing out at 2 miles for a warmup. When I was just getting past a mile and trying to increase the distance, I said to myself “I’ll keep running until this song is over.”

I picked the wrong song. Muse’s “Uprising” had just started. The video isn’t ridiculously long (4 minutes), but the album version is 5 minutes. I wasn’t banking on another 5 minutes. What made it worse was that the song has a lull in it that makes it sound like it’s coming to an end before it just picks up and keeps going. I’m trotting on this stupid treadmill thinking, “Dear Lord, when is this stupid effing song going to end?!”

I’m not sure there’s any real lesson to this story other than maybe know your rock music better before you force an ultimatum on your wheezing butt while you’re on a treadmill.

Now of course, there are arguments for not using music.

One big issue is safety. If you’re listening to music, you might not hear the car. I’m afraid of getting hit by a car even when I don’t have headphones in. The compromise is to listen with one earbud. I have not done the compromise because I’m stubborn, and if I’m listening to music, I want to hear the music. And when I’m hit by a car, we’ll all know why.

Another issue is some people are seeking a meditative state. For many, running is what clears their head and allows them to relax and let go of whatever’s bothering them. I get somewhat close to this when I don’t have music playing. I’m paying attention to my surroundings, my breathing etc., but I try not to think. I focus on my body but not my thoughts. Of course, once I start getting my ass kicked in the run, I’m no longer in a zen state; I’m in my personal hell.

Of course some people aren’t seeking a meditative state; they’re thinking. They’re working through ideas. They’re mulling over what is going on in their lives. I can’t help but do this every now and then, but I don’t like it. It’s too easy for me to think about something that’s bothering me. I’m literally and figuratively trying to run away from my problems. So without music, I’m more meditative than thinking if it’s a good day.

Aside from endangering your safety (maybe I’ll take that one earbud out eventually), I think it’s all moot. Who really cares if you’re listening to music? Try both. Whichever helps keep you putting one foot in front of the other, keep it up. It’s like shoes. People have really strong opinions, but for most people, it’s just what feels best to you.

But since we’re talking music, this is my current running playlist that shuffles in between the dialogue of my post-apocalyptic zombie story. It’s a preexisting list, so maybe at some point I’ll build a list with running in mind:

  • Against Me!
    • Up the cuts
    • thrash unreal
    • white people for peace
    • borne on the fm waves of the heart
    • white crosses (this is an awesome song when you want to pick up tempo)
    • I was a teenage anarchist
  • Alkaline Trio
    • Mercy me
    • Radio
  • Bad Books
    • You wouldn’t have to ask
    • It never stops
    • Baby shoes
  • Fun
    • Out on the town
    • Carry on
  • Gaslight Anthem – 45
  • Hot Water Music
    • Drag my body
    • The traps
    • Trusty chords
    • State of grace
  • Kevin Devine – I could be with anyone
  • Spoon – The underdog
  • Theory of a Deadman – I hate my life (maybe a bit masochistic for a run)
  • Trampled by Turtles – Wait so long
  • The White Buffalo – How the west was won
  • RAC – Let go
  • Yonder Mountain String Band – Out of the blue

Here are some articles on the issue that take a more journalistic approach to it:




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