Sep 28, '17

When you are getting ready to head out for a run, what items do you bring with you? It’s probably some combination of your phone, ID, cash, keys and maybe a gel or two. Oh, and your earbuds to listen to music of course!

Many athletes listen to music during a workout, not just for enjoyment, but to reach peak performance.

Research presented in Scientific American out of Brunel University in London by Dr. Costas Karageorghis found that:

“Music distracts people from pain and fatigue, elevates mood, increases endurance, reduces perceived effort and may even promote metabolic efficiency.”

In fact, according to Dr. Karageorghis’ twenty-year research study:

“Music can enhance endurance by 15% and improve the 'feeling states’ of exercisers, helping them to derive much greater pleasure from the task.”

With this information in mind, you may be thinking of putting together a list of upbeat songs for your next running playlist. It seems logical that songs with a high-tempo would get you pumped up for a good, hard workout.

That’s not a bad train of thought, although the research shared in Scientific American shows that “ceiling effect occurs around 145BPM (beats per minute); anything higher does not seem to contribute much additional motivation.

That being said, Dr. Karageorghis’ research has found that increasing endurance isn’t all about listening to fast music. Rather if you select songs that are connected to memories and emotions that motivate you, an increase in endurance can still take place even if those songs have a slow beat.

For instance, Karageorghis found that the song 'Defying Gravity' from the Wicked soundtrack is popular with endurance athletes because the lyrics focus on breaking through tough barriers.

According to the website, which matches up songs based on their BPM to a specific running pace, 'Defying Gravity' has a BPM of 128 which technically matches it up to a modest 12:12 min/mile pace.

Here is a sample of the lyrics to give you a clearer picture of how a song can be motivational during a workout, even if the BPM would equate to a slow(er) running pace:

“I’m through accepting limits
cause someone says they’re so.
Some things I cannot change
but til I try I’ll never know!”

Listen to the full song below.

Additionally, motivational song choices can depend on your age. Dr. Karageorghis said in an interview with the BBC that older exercisers tended to enjoy songs such as 'The Heat is On' by Glenn Frey, 'Don’t Stop Me Now' by Queen or 'Dancing Queen' by Abba. Younger exercisers tended to select more recent tracks for motivation.

While music appears to be an effective aid for increasing endurance and elevating the mood of runners, it’s important to think of safety when running outdoors with earbuds in.

An article in Runner’s World points out several safety cues you miss when running while listening to music:

“One big problem is that listening to music can remove you from the other sounds that running produces, such as breathing and footstrike, which are essential cues. They give you feedback on your effort.”

Additionally, you may miss:

  • The sound of an approaching car
  • The footsteps of an attacker
  • Claps of thunder in the distance
  • The directions of race officials
  • Comments from others sharing your running path

To combat some of these potential issues you can lower the volume in your earbuds or put your phone on speaker so that you don’t need earbuds at all.

You can use an armband like the Armpocket to keep your phone close to your ear if it is on speaker phone so that you can still hear your music clearly.

In fact, your Armpocket can hold your phone, ID, cash, keys, and gels during any type of run whether you listen to music or not (and whether you use earbuds or not).


What songs energize you the most must during a run? We would love to hear from you!



Armpocket Enterprises is the manufacturer and distributor of high quality, feature packed armbands designed especially for smartphones. For more information about our products, please contact us at 877.276.7628 or