I was having a conversation with a co-worker the other day. She is also an avid runner, and at some point the conversation came around to music. “What songs do you like to run to?” she asked me.
“Actually, I never run to music,” I replied.
She stared at me, aghast. It was as if I had just told her that I was an alien being from the planet Glorrtaxx and was trying to fondle her with the tendril of ectoplasm extruding from my forehead.
After she had composed herself, she asked incredulously, “Why not?”
And actually, I had to think about this for a second. Because I love music. I had a 600 strong CD collection before CDs were rendered passé by streaming. I have thousands of mp3s. I have Spotify on constantly in my office. So indeed, why not?
There are a few reasons, as it turns out.
When I first started running again, I tried to run with music, and I found that it really screwed up my running rhythm. Basically, I was constantly trying to run with the beat, because my legs were being jerks and weren’t doing what I was telling them to. So, I would slow down for the songs with a slow beat, and speed up if the BPM did. Now, apparently this is pretty normal, and I guess it’s OK if you’re doing fartlek or something, but it was annoying when I was trying to run at a steady pace. And the damn earbuds kept slipping out because I’m too much of a cheap bastard to buy ones designed for running.
Also, I kind of like to hear what’s going on around me for reasons I detailed in my last post (keeps the octogenarian grandmas and killer clowns from sneaking up on me).
Finally, running has become sort of a zen activity for me, and I like the fact that my mind can go nowhere while I’m focusing on my breath, and music would probably disrupt that for me.
Now, I’m the type of guy who likes to look at an idea from different angles rather than dismiss it outright, so I did try to come up with some solutions:
1. Put together a playlist. It turns out there are some websites out there that will tell you what the BPM of various songs are so that you can put a playlist together, including
I guess there’s a way you can do it with iTunes too, but whatever. I’ll leave that to the Apple nerds.
First problem with this – I have no idea what my stride rate is, and I’m waaaayy too lazy to measure it. It could be 200/minute for all I know. (It’s not.) Then, I found a blog post with a chart converting stride rate into speed, which made me wonder, how the hell do these people know how long my legs are? Did they sneak in and stick a tape measure in my crotch while I was asleep? That’s peculiar, and slightly disturbing.
I kid, of course, but after all, I could be built like Manute Bol, which would render the chart pretty invalid. (I’m not).
So I decided to take the chart on faith, and went to jog.fm to look at the playlist for 175 bpm, which supposedly corresponds to a 7:30 mile, my usual tempo running pace. The first three songs were “Chattahoochee” by Alan Jackson, “Come Over” by Kenny Chesney, and something called “Backroad Song” by someone named Granger Smith.
Ooooooookay. Country. Huh. Ummm, what else ya got, jog.fm?
Oh, there’s “Pictures of You” by the Cure. “Yellow”, by Coldplay? We’ll put that in the maybe pile. A bunch of songs from the cast of Glee, eh? Pass. Jimmy Eat World… ehhhh…..
Ok, screw this. It’s too damn complicated.
2. Listen to music without a beat. This might seem a bit odd, but I do have some music that would qualify in this regard. An album I particularly like is called “And Their Refinement of the Decline“, by Austin-based Stars of the Lid. It’s this incredible collection of warm, droning tones that make you feel as if you’re floating in the womb or suspended in quince jelly heated to body temperature or something. Problem: I like to listen to it when I’m ready to go to sleep. Sleeping ≠ running, last time I checked. I have this sense that I’d either fall asleep and wander into the path of a meth-addled truck driver, or my legs would go all Pavlov’s dogs and jimmy all night while I was trying to sleep. Pass.
3. Listen to something meditative, like Gregorian Chants. Remember in the early 1990s, when Gregorian Chant CDs were a thing for about 3.4 seconds? Nah, neither do I.
4. Train myself to ignore the beat. I told you guys my legs were wankers, so this is out. I’d probably look like I was having some sort of seizure as I tried to do this, too. I don’t need the fire department rushing to my aid, so forget it.
I guess we’ll leave the headphones off, at least for now. Maybe I’ll make a list of good podcasts instead…