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July 15, 2019

Should you workout with headphones?

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Is it okay to workout while wearing headphones?  While studying Neurobiology in college, I remember learning that focus and attention is a requirement for comprehension and skill acquisition. And while headphones might provide the entertainment or motivation you need in a work out, it also makes the activity more brainless by distracting you from the task at hand. Have you ever been on a treadmill, you get really into whatever you’re listening to, and you realize that another half mile or mile has passed in your run seemingly without thought? Well sure, you completed the physical side of the exercise, but a lot of the overall growth you are hoping to experience is dependent on the mental side as well, which didn’t get the attention it needed.

But it’s a trade-off. I’m not saying you should exercise and not wear headphones. There’s no one recommendation that satisfies all cases because everyone has different intentions when they go to workout. But, I think there are overarching themes that I want to tap into.

So, if you’re an elite athlete, this is unacceptable, because you are working out with the intention of squeezing every once of value you can out of the workout.  Headphones might limit that capability.

Personally, when I work out, my intention is to push my body while also taking a moment to learn. But, I realize I am not giving 100% in either camp. I only listen to podcasts that I can come in and out of, or audiobooks I have already read. And I don’t expect to make massive improvements in my fitness because I am not dedicating all of my attention to it.

Or, maybe you need to be motivated to get to the gym more often, and listening to music or a podcast is your reward for making it out. This shouldn’t be looked down upon, the difference in output is small, especially to someone trying to be healthy or look good.  

I say this all to underscore the importance of having self-awareness about your reason for being at the gym, so you can understand how much of your attention it requires. From there, you can decide for yourself if you want to wear headphones!

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