Thursday, May 7, 2009

Running with Music: My Philosophy

I have been doing very unscientific counts of runners with head phones at the gym and in my neighborhood parks and I would say just over half to two thirds are sporting headphones. Some may be listening to podcasts and books on tape but the majority are pumping their favorite running tunes. Recently I've become a fan of the Nike + sensor for the ipod. It's a great way to track pace and distance with your ipod (I'm including the image of my "Mini"). There is a revolution of the personal soundtrack going on with so much independent music flooding the culture and so many accessible ways to listen to it. Running is part of this phenomenon.

Listening to music is a great way to add a little extra pleasure to your run. Running is meditative and invigorating. It is a time to be out and actively communing with your body, mental fortitude and imagination. Your blood is pumping, your breath is deep and the sweat is exhilarating. You are alive. The music is your soundscape. You are the hero of your own story. So it is inspiring when the music intertwines artfully with the experience. There is the beat of your feet of course, but there is also your breathing, your heart beat, your arms and a million other tiny muscles and bones keeping you balanced and moving you forward with their own rhythms.

I believe that music that coordinates all of these things could help lead a runner to a smoother, more efficient performance and enlightening experience. Of course the speed and the endurance of the athlete is up to that runner's experience, conditioning, genetics and a million other factors. Still, focus, patience, and discipline will aid any runner in attaining a higher level of his or her individual potential. That is what the music I write is intended for.

  • Each song follows the last without dropping the beat.
  • There is a basic beat to give the runner something easy to hold onto but there are other complementing rhythms to keep things loose and interesting.
  • Along with the rhythmic element there are flowing melodies and harmonies to remind the runner to keep things light and smooth.
  • There are easy choruses that can be repeated like a chant in your mind when you're running without the headphones.

By the way, I do not recommend wearing noise-canceling head phones while running unless you are on the treadmill. If you are running outside with cars, cyclists and other runners competing for space please keep these in mind:

  • Keep the music low enough that you can still hear what is going on around you!
  • Check in with the sound of your feet against the ground to make sure you are not stomping to the beat.
  • Instead of sounding the beat with your feet imagine you are tapping it with your elbows behind you that will create the same effect of running to the rhythm.

If you can not stay with the exact rhythm don't worry, just run to the spirit of the music. Some songs are about pushing the speed but others are more about finding ease in the exertion and enjoying the ride. Still others are about wrestling with the difficulty and getting over a difficult hill. All are a metaphor for life. I hope to keep writing more.

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