Listening to music in the first 1.5 km of a run alters pacing strategies and improves performance.

How do  you feel before a race? Excited ? Adrenaine pumping? Do you ever notice how you typically “go out” a bit too fast for the first mile or two because of this ? Do you feel that it takes that first mile to find your comfortable running pace ?
How do you feel otherwise during  your training runs during the first mile or two ? Some folks feel a bit sluggish and it takes a mile to get into the rhythm and “get the bugs out”, eventually loosening up and getting the heart rate at your comfortable running rate.  For many, it takes time to get “the machine” up to cruising speed, up to cruising temperature (especially if we are dealing with some environmental temperature extremes), and to get our head “in the game” or in that meditative zone we all love so much. 
In this study the authors looked at “the effects of listening to music on attentional focus, rating of perceived exertion, pacing strategy and performance during a simulated 5-km running race”. What they found was that through the use of music they were able to create an affect on the runner’s outcome. More specifically, they discovered that listening to music at the beginning of a run may draw the person’s attentional focus away from internal sensations of fatigue and transfer their focus elsewhere thus affording a faster pace.
We have talked about the use of music in previous blog posts here on The Gait Guys regarding its function in assisting speed work and helping to set a tempo via beats per minute of the music. Interestingly in this study, because of the distracting factor of the music, the rate of perceived exertion of the runner increased linearly throughout the run hinting that the change in velocity may be to maintain the same rate of rate of perceived exertion increase.
Possible take away point?:  Well, is it possible that using music on your runs may distract you from the uncomfortable internal environment brought about by running (ie. pushing through fatigue, pain or lactate for example) that might otherwise dictate a slower pace because of perceived exertion ?  This article seems to suggest this possibility.  So, you might run faster because you have reduced your perceived effort via distraction.
 
Shawn and Ivo
 
Int J Sports Med. 2012 Oct;33(10):813-8. Epub 2012 May 16.

Listening to music in the first, but not the last, 1.5 km of a 5-km running trial alters pacing strategy and improves performance.

Lima-Silva AE, Silva-Cavalcante MD, Pires FO, Bertuzzi R, Oliveira RS, Bishop D. Sports Science Research Group, Faculty of Nutrition, Federal University of Alagoas, Maceio, Brazil. adrianosilva@usp.br

Abstract

We examined the effects of listening to music on attentional focus, rating of perceived exertion (RPE), pacing strategy and performance during a simulated 5-km running race. 15 participants performed 2 controlled trials to establish their best baseline time, followed by 2 counterbalanced experimental trials during which they listened to music during the first (M start) or the last (M finish) 1.5 km. The mean running velocity during the first 1.5 km was significantly higher in M start than in the fastest control condition (p<0.05), but there was no difference in velocity between conditions during the last 1.5 km (p>0.05). The faster first 1.5 m in M start was accompanied by a reduction in associative thoughts compared with the fastest control condition. There were no significant differences in RPE between conditions (p>0.05). These results suggest that listening to music at the beginning of a trial may draw the attentional focus away from internal sensations of fatigue to thoughts about the external environment. However, along with the reduction in associative thoughts and the increase in running velocity while listening to music, the RPE increased linearly and similarly under all conditions, suggesting that the change in velocity throughout the race may be to maintain the same rate of RPE increase.

© Georg Thieme Verlag KG Stuttgart · New York.

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