So, How Many Hats Do You Wear?

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Pensacola, Florida, United States
Husband. *Dog Dad.* Instructional Systems Specialist. Runner. (Swim-challenged) Triathlete (on hiatus). USATF LDR Surveyor. USAT (Elite Rules) CRO/2, NTO/1. RRCA Rep., FL (North). Observer Of The Human Condition.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Horses For Courses - The Right Music For The Run

Not a week after we returned from Singapore, my second iPod Touch went on to it's eternal reward. Apple, in their infinite wisdom(?) decreed the cause of "death" to be immersion or exposure to fluid. I unsuccessfully tried to explain I live in a part of the country where humidity is a way of life. The only way to NOT expose electronics to fluid is to hermetically seal it within a plastic casing, like the DryCase I reviewed months back. The positive of the DryCase sealing technology was countered by its size. I could easily carry the iPod Touch in a knitted pouch hung around my neck, access the on/off/volume controls, and so on. I didn't run with the iPod in Singapore because I forgot to take the DryCase along. Somehow the exposure happened. Nothing else can be done without spending a lot of money to repair the iPod.

So, I'm back to running without music.

It's a blessing and a curse. Running with music naturally provide mental stimulation, and allows runners to dissociate - tune out - the messages which often try to slow down or stop them on a run. For me, running without music - especially in the morning - provided the chance to tune in to bird songs, watch clouds move, and pay close(r) attention to my immediate surroundings. There are times it's nice to not have any distractions blaring into your head.

The first "non-musical" treadmill run, however, found me grooving voluntarily to a John Mayer tune in the back of my mind. I recalled entire albums of music from memory before on road runs, because Walkmans were heavier and had lousy battery life.

Running author Hal Higdon mentioned in social media posts the favorite pieces of music he would listen to during treadmill workouts. Higdon liked classical music, including Beethoven and Tchaikovsky. "Horses for courses," triathlon coach Brett Sutton would say, while it works for Hal, I think I'll avoid the 1812 Overture and the climactic least on the treadmill. We all have our own personal tastes. And, as I used to tell my students, "there is no such thing as bad music."

So, what's the best kind of music to listen to when running?

An English sports psychologist studied the effects of musical performance, and considered tempo to be everything. In his opinion, most commercial dance tunes and rock music seemed to fit best, having a tempo which ranged from 120-to-140 beats per minute. Music professors, fitness buffs and medical professionals seem to agree a tempo which aligns with specific workout motions is the best for the activity.

When I think about the music I've "channeled" during some of my best races, it falls into the 120-to-125 beat-per-minute range. My best long runs, however, are in the 160-to-180 (or 80-to-90) beat range. Of course, good grooves are everything. Punk and hard rock - styles which often make a concerted effort to break the "comfortable" groove - are probably the least desirable genres for running.

Ah, but horses for courses.

There are a variety of sites on-line where you can find new music at a desired tempo; other sites allow you to find old favorites or in different genres. There are also great workout podcasts available for download, with music mixed to a particular tempo. One site I'll send some love out to is Steve Boyett has several mix podcasts which are among the iTunes Store's top downloads. His Podrunner casts feature many independent and out-of-the-box musicians, mixed at tempos ranging from 120 to 180. The most recent series has tempo progressions which mimic pyramid and tempo workouts...all of them are around 60 minutes and include warm-up and cool-down segments.

Making the treadmill workout a little less dull can take some time and effort on the part of the individual runner. There are tempo-defining programs which can help catalog the runner's music collection, or the workout at a particular pace can be downloaded from the internet.

And the "horse," when matched to the right "course," can make an hour's treadmiling less...boring.

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