Music for the road
Love ‘em or hate ‘em, iPods and other MP3 players are a part of running. Even if you don’t listen to one yourself, you’ll inevitably run alongside others who do: In 2008, the United States Track and Field Association lifted its ban on portable music players for racers not competing for awards, leaving it up to race directors to decide whether or not to allow them. Even when the ban was in place, however, race participants routinely broke their rules. Just like coffee, it seems music is something many runners simply will not, perhaps cannot, run without.
While we at Running Shorts may not shudder at the thought of running emtpy-eared, we recognize the power of the right tunes to push our workouts over the edge or even to pull us out of a dreaded running rut. Here’s what we think about training with iPods, and the music we use to jazz up our workouts.
Matt: Every once in a while I go through a phase where I run without my iPod for a while, but usually that’s only because I’m sick of my playlist! Otherwise, I almost always use one when I’m running alone.
For me, listening to something while I run serves two distinct purposes: Enhancing my workout, and delaying the onset of all-out boredom. If I’m doing a track workout or even a tempo run, upbeat music pumps me up and helps me focus during fast repeats, while slower songs during rest intervals serve to accentuate the change of pace. For long runs though, it’s all about distraction: I’ll listen to whatever it takes to keep me out on the roads or the trail for two or three hours. Lame as it sounds, a brand new audiobook from the library can zone me out like nothing else while I log in the requisite mileage to train for a marathon or ultra.
As far as genres and bands go, I’m a big fan of anything punk while running. Pop-punk stuff like Blink 182, which I’m a little ashamed of listening to when I’m not running, always seems to do the trick of getting me to push a little harder. I’ve also found Death Cab for Cutie albums to be a good mix of entrancing and energizing, perfect for long-ish tempo runs. And I’ve got to give a little love to Eric Johnson’s “Cliffs of Dover,” an all-instrumental guitar song that has the perfect tempo for matching your strides at the ideal rate of 180 steps per minute. I listened to this one over and over as I was training myself to increase my turnover rate. You can see lots more of my favorite running songs in a post I wrote on my blog a while back.
Megan: I started running when the only option for on-the-go music was a clunky CD player. I tried this a few times, but soon decided that the constant skipping and extra bulk wasn’t worth it. By the time Ipods became popular, I was a member of my college’s cross-country and track teams and our coach made it clear that running with music was not an option. Even after I graduated from college and was running on my own, I was hesitant to bring an Ipod along. Would the music distract me during hard runs or races? How do you bond with a running buddy if Beyonce is blaring in your ear?
Once I moved to New York City and my work schedule required that many of my runs be done solo or on the treadmill, my music became an indispensable running partner. A new playlist got me excited to run when I was tempted to stay on the couch and some of my favorite motivational songs helped me finish the last tough miles of a long run. Now I regularly run with music, but I’m judicious in my use of it. My playlists keep me company on the treadmill, during solo runs, and even during some workouts and races. However, over time I’ve made the decision not to run with music when a race is very important to me. In these instances, I prefer to draw my focus inward and concentrate 110% on the race. I didn’t use an ipod during any of the marathons I’ve run – I wanted to hear the crowds and cheers in NYC and I had a great running buddy to keep me company in Boston. When the stakes are high for a race, I’ve found that focusing internally brings greater success than a playlist. That being said, I still have a queue of favorite songs that pump me up:
-She Wolf by Shakira
-Meet Me Halfway by the Blackeyed Peas
-Promiscuous by Nelly Furtado
-Lose Yourself by Eminem
-Empire State of Mind by Jay-Z and Alicia Keys
-And of course, Running Down a Dream by Tom Petty
There’s nothing like top 40 music to get me goin’ – Kelly Clarkson, Fergie, and Shakira help the miles fly by!
Do you have the perfect running playlist? Or do you prefer to run to the beat of your own feet?