Most of us use some kind of distraction such as music, tv or reading to get us through our exercise sessions. Group exercise is popular is because a good instructor can divert us from any boredom or pain from exercise. However, there are some disadvantages to distracting yourself while exercising.
First of all, not all distractions are equal. Reading, watching tv, or talking on the phone will reduce the intensity of your workout. If you cannot exercise without one of these distractions, (and I admit that without my DVDs I would not be on the elliptical for long), then of course, tune out. However, you should be aware that you are probably not working as hard as you think. If you distract yourself while you exercise you are also less likely to tune into your body. You may be unaware of a strain that can progress into an injury. When you focus in on your workout, you will be more aware of your breathing and form.
If you need to be entertained and are worried about lack of intensity, you can program some cardiovascular machines to work with a heart rate monitor. If you slack off, the program will warn you to up your intensity. Music is the one distraction that can actually help your workout; research has shown that it will make your exertion feel a little less, and you will probably be able to last a little longer. More on music next post.