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Music versus podcasts while running: a comparative study

For those who prefer audio on their long run, there are two primary options: the podcast and the playlist. Which do you listen to?

For some runners, weekly miles are important time alone with their thoughts. For others, a good distraction is what helps them through a run. 

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According to Malcolm Gladwell and other running purists, listening to music while running is “soft”. Gladwell suggests that, “It’s people who are running from their running.” 

The other side of that argument, is that there are days when running seems taxing and difficult. On some of those days, skipping the run isn’t an option, so you motivate yourself with audio. 

For those who prefer audio on their long run, there are two primary options: the podcast and the playlist. 

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Podcasts have become extremely popular. Since hitting the mainstream around 2005, they have become one of the fastest growing forms of media. 

Merits of listening to podcasts while running:

  • Informative: With such a wide variety of topics, podcasts can educate the listener on everything from world religion to postmodernism. This means you can feel even more productive after your run. Not only did you exercise, but you also learned something. 
  • New content on a regular basis: With music, the wait time between albums or singles from your favourite artist can be years. But with podcasts, new content is typically put out weekly or monthly. This means that if you have a few different podcasts on rotation, there’s always something new. 
  • Stories are more engaging: Some would argue that a story or narrative can be more engaging than a song. 

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Merits of listening to music while running:

  • Upbeat: If a strong beat is what motivates you, then music is presumably your audio of choice. 
  • Less engaging: Music can become background noise whereas dialogue is more engaging. If a little hum in your ear is all your looking for, then music is for you.
  • The playlist: Podcasts typically run a lot longer than songs, which makes it difficult to have variety over the course of a run. A good running playlist allows you to mix it up.