As we add miles to our training program and try to settle into a steady, consistent pace, this topic is growing in importance to me. I love running or walking to music. It cuts down on the boredom of longer distances, and upbeat songs seem to propel me a little farther and a little faster than I might go on my own. I usually put a Bruno Mars channel on my Pandora and run to whatever random song pops up. Since Pandora uses an algorithm to pull up similar songs, I havenít been too disappointed. But last week, Pandora threw a sluggish tune at me and I found myself, well, becoming sluggish. My feet were awkwardly landing between beats and I struggled to keep my pace. I was fascinated by how hard it was to disconnect my cadence from the music.
That day, I learned something that Iím sure veteran fitness fans already know: Beats drive movement, and a song playlist that is matched to your specific fitness level can be an important tool in your training whether it's walking, running or working out at the gym. I did a little research and found some helpful websites on this topic. If youíre really ambitious, you can determine your personal BPM (beats per minute) and craft a soundtrack to match your pace and distance. Or you can simply play another runner's well-thought-out playlist and take it for a spin to see if it works for you.
The ambitious method:
Start by figuring out your BPM using the technique at http://www.run2r.com/Technical.aspx. It just takes 15 minutes. There is a slightly different process for outdoor running/walking and treadmill running/walking. You can even skip that step if you know your average pace. Pick a BPM off this chart:
On Sunday, I ran a full 2 miles at a pace of 14:48 per mile, so I might try the ď14 min/mile BPMĒ next time to see if it helps me pick up my pace a little. The chart says thatís a 153 BPM.
Once youíve settled on a BPM, itís time to create your playlist. There are several websites and apps where you can buy a playlist to match your pace. That run2r.com site sells custom programs, and I found other apps called JogTunes and JogFM that you can download ($2 to $3) for music based on BPMs.
But if you donít want to spend the money, there are some databases that rank popular songs by their BPM. I found one database here by a guy named Dave Tompkins: http://www.cs.ubc.ca/~davet/music/bpm/index.html. Itís nice because it breaks songs down not only by BPM but by genre. Fair warning though: I havenít tried this yet, and some of the songs on Daveís list for my BPM donít seem similar at all when I sing them in my head. There may be some trial and error here.
The ready-made method:
If you donít want to reinvent the wheel, use someone else's wheel. I found a YouTube channel called Running Music. I listened briefly to this hour-long audio (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eQ-Jy08oNQo) and I could imagine myself keeping pace with it. Some of the comments said the beat was too slow for them, which means itís probably just my speed! If you search Google for running music, you'll find plenty of other options. Your dream music selection may already be out there waiting for you to find it.
Having said all of that, it may be you donít need or want music at all. Maybe you run or walk with a partner or a pet. Iíve heard at least a couple of runners tell me they just want peace and quiet. Certainly nothing wrong with that!
One final tip when it comes to music. I hate earbuds. My ears werenít made for them, so I run with a full headset. Still, I always make sure one earmuff is tucked behind an ear so I can stay aware of my surroundings - a honking car, a friend shouting in the distance, a bike passing on my left, a coyote sneaking up on me from behind. Thatís probably good advice for earbud-wearers, too.