What to listen to while running

As I approach the 10k race day, and my training runs grow increasingly longer, I have realised that running is largely about mind over matter.

Some mornings you wake up feeling like the last thing you want to do is get outside and run. As in, you’d rather watch the same episode of Paw Patrol six times in a row while your child asks for a snack at 30 second intervals at increasing volumes, than go for a run. And yet, once the running kit is on, the child is deposited at pre-school and the headphones are in, those legs seem to automatically start carrying you, the ritualistic nature of your running regime kicking in.

The final step of that run prep, the insertion of the headphones, is key for me. The track of choice, be it a podcast or a Spotify playlist, can make the difference between a run where I have to stop every few minutes or one where I’m out and back with 5k under my belt without feeling like I even broke a sweat.

Fortuitously, this week, I was asked to do an interview with marathon runner Paula Radcliffe  – she’s part of a campaign encouraging asthma sufferers to get a winter flu jab (particularly key for runners with asthma, like herself) so, naturally, I used the opportunity to quiz the three-time London Marathon winner about how to get through the difficult early training runs.

“Distraction is key!” says Paula. “When you’re first starting out, if you want to achieve one or two miles, make sure you don’t do it in loops where you’re coming back past your house or your car. Choose an out and back route so you don’t have a choice but to keep going. You can build in distraction to help, which might be listening to music or looking at certain things along the route or thinking about the reward at the end.” 

Not only did I take on board the running route advice and immediately ditch my mile lap loop for a Thames path route that has an end point to keep me motivated, but the distraction technique has been a game changer. Whatever is playing through my Powerbeats Pro (as recommended by Barry’s Bootcamp’s Anya Lahiri in my last blog INSERT LINK WHEN LIVE) has the power to make or break my run.

The first step is to make a kick-ass running playlist packed with songs that have beats worth running to and songs that always perk you up. Mine is a mix of girl-power self-love pop hits – think Taylor Swift, Lizzo, Little Mix – and banging rap anthems by the likes of A$AP Rocky and Wiley. And once you have that killer playlist to fall back on, start building up your podcast collection, because nothing can make your run pass more effortlessly than a great podcast. Here are a few that I love:

Listen to podcasts as distraction technique while running (Photo by Icons8 team on Unsplash)

1. My Dad Wrote a Porno

Only listen to this if you can run while also giggling. Or if you don’t mind people looking at you strangely as you occasionally snort with laughter like a lunatic. Also avoid operating heavy machinery while listening; I was doing weighted squats at the gym during a particularly funny episode and I nearly hit the deck.

2. Couch to 5K 

The sole purpose of this podcast is to motivate you to keep running. Packed with inspiring talks and upbeat music, this is an easy way to go from zero to hero relatively pain-free.

3. Guys We F**ked

If you like listening to smart, funny women talking about sex, relationships and everything that falls vaguely into these categories, this is the podcast for you. If I can ever get a run in on a Friday, I will run further and further just to listen to a little more.

4. My Favorite Murder 

If true crime is your bag, this is my pick of the murderous bunch. My stomach isn’t strong enough for the real, in-depth deep-dives, and I prefer my horror stories with a side order of dark humour. Certain episodes will make you run faster through the woods. While looking over your shoulder. Back to your home. Where you’ll double lock the door and turn on every light in the house.

So, what does Radcliffe listen to while she runs?

“I actually don’t listen to music outside when I run. I prefer to be aware of what’s going on and in tune with my surroundings. Keeping an eye out for bikes or dogs coming out of nowhere, I like to be aware of that!”

Oh. Well, something to aim for in the future then. But until then, I’ll take my chances with the bikes and the dogs and let ASAP Rocky, Lizzo and my true crime podcasts power me through my (increasingly more enjoyable) runs.

Rebecca is writing about her fitness journey for the Evening Standard. Follow her progress here

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