Certainly working out to music has its benefits. I will openly admit – I work out with music. It can help you push your body harder, faster or get you to make that final push.
But it can also have drawbacks. For one, working out with the music blaring can create dangerous situations, such as if you are running outside and it makes you oblivious to your surroundings. Likewise, biking with headphones in your ears can be extremely dangerous as you may be less attuned to the environment around you. Most running races request that you leave the headphones behind, and some ban them entirely for safety reasons.
So, have you ever tried exercising without the music?
If you're using it to help you make an intense final push for the last rep in a set, I don't blame you for listening to some aggressive music. Music can definitely be a motivating force. But if you're on a long jog or a casual walk, try taking in the sights and sounds around you instead of locking into your own bubble. You might hate it; you also might love it.
I have found that running – especially my longer "weekend" runs – are therapeutic and allow for me to clear my head. Rather than having the same random list of 100 or so songs blaring directly into my ears, I hear the cars around me, the dogs barking as I pass by, and most of all, anyone around me who needs to get my attention, to pass or to alert me of something else.
Running without music has really helped to provide the relaxing element that exercise can bring. Not every workout needs to be speed training or power lifting –sometimes it is nice to just slow things down a little, give your body a little break and just take it easy while you keep training your body.
Remember, exercise isn't just about your physical appearance, as it has quite a few benefits that impact the mind and emotions in addition to your body. When people do yoga, it's generally to calm things down and allow for some introspection and meditation. Why not apply that mentality to other forms of exercise? There's no reason to keep yourself wound up when this is your time to get away and unwind.
Maybe you hate to run and can't imagine it as a relaxing, meditative time. Okay – then try going music-free when walking, biking, hiking or cross-country skiing. Focus on your breathing and try to really work with your body to maximize results, rather than pushing yourself to a beat or rhythm. Give yourself a chance to listen to your body – instead of trying to always push harder to get bigger or stronger, think about the other benefits of exercising.
Vin Scully, the great Dodger's baseball play-by-play announcer, is often hailed for his ability to let a game of baseball breathe, leaving periods of silence for the sounds of the environment to fill the airwaves. Try to take a similar approach when working out. Meditation coupled with exercise doesn't have to be exclusively associated with yoga, nor does exercise exclude you from using it to clear your head. Try a day without the headphones in.
Give it a shot. What do you have to lose?