In recent weeks I’ve been training indoors a lot. Because of the ongoing problem with my leg, I’ve been cross training and spending a lot of time in the gym. Being pinned to the cross trainer or the treadmill is effective in keeping fitness levels up, but oh my is it boring! For me one of the best ways to beat the tedium is to listen to music, both for distraction and motivation. Music may indeed be the food of love, but for many it’s also the fuel for a successful run.
Before going any further, it’s important to acknowledge that under UK Athletics rules, racing whilst using an mp3 player is banned for reasons of health and safety – if you’re wearing earphones then you may not hear important instructions and put yourself at risk. Personally, I do train with my iPod, but I only ever wear one earphone and keep the volume low so as not to cut off my sense of hearing.
In my experience, I’ve found that listening to music whilst running is most definitely a matter of personal preference. Some people are reliant on their music to keep them going, whilst others find it a distraction and struggle to find their pace when they’re listening to music. When I first started to run, my iPod was of crucial importance. I couldn’t even make it once around the park without being plugged in to something and, at least in the early days, music was somewhat of a psychological crutch for me. These days, things are different. I do have a lengthy running playlist on my iPod (I like to have lots of variety) but only listen to it when I’m running alone. Even on my longest marathon training runs, because I had a training partner, I didn’t actually take my iPod with me. Music is great to give you motivation on a training run, but catching up on the latest gossip with a good friend can be even better!
So what makes a good running song? We all know that music can be a very powerful thing: it can affect our mood, it can trigger memories and it can inspire us. If you want to take a very scientific approach, then experts recommend that good running songs should match the pace at which you want to run (i.e. the number of beats per minute is the same as the number of steps you take per minute). That’s all very well, but for me the emotional response to the song is just as important as the bpm when it comes to motivation. I tend to choose a mixture of songs that are upbeat as well as songs that I find motivating either because of their association with sporting success, their motivating lyrics or a personal connection. Never was this more true than in the run up to the Paris Marathon in 2010. I’ve written previously of my injury problems during training for my first marathon. As I stubbornly continued to prepare for the race I came across the Gabriella Cilmi song On a Mission and the lyrics seemed to sum up exactly my feelings at the time. This became “my song” for the Paris Marathon and with its usual flair for selecting the best song for the moment, my iPod chose to play me it around about 18 miles or so when things were becoming tough, giving me the boost I needed to continue. I was indeed a woman on a mission, and I wasn’t going to give up!
Since then, music has remained a key part of my training and preparation for races. Listening to the right songs definitely inspires me and there are certainly some songs I wouldn’t be without on my running playlist. My 10 favourites are listed below (although in the spirit of all popular reality tv shows, in no particular order!):
On a Mission – Gabriella Cilmi
Lose Yourself – Eminem
Eye of the Tiger – Survivor
You’re the Best – Joe Esposito
You Can’t Stop the Beat – Hairspray OST
Propane Nightmares – Pendulum
The Trap – Ron Goodwin and his Orchestra
Don’t Stop Me Now – Queen
Louder – DJ Fresh
Road Runner – Imelda May
For me, music is as key to my running as having the right kit or remembering to charge my Garmim. Music is definitely a powerful thing and the right song can give me a lift just when I need it the most. Nietzsche once said: ” Without music, life is a mistake.” He may not have known the tedium of a lengthy cross trainer session, but he certainly had a point!