Running is partially mental. (Not mental as in crazy, though I wonder about that sometimes.) It takes a lot to keep going when you’re tired, you’ve got a stitch in your side, or you’re discouraged. If you’re going to keep going, you’ve got to come up with motivators. You tell yourself that you can slow down as soon as you get to that tree up there. Or you tell yourself, just one more quarter mile to the finish line and you’re NOT walking across the finish line! Maybe you’re out in the middle of nowhere and you decide to keep pushing for another 60 seconds.
One of my favorite motivators is music. When I listen to music while running, I automatically run to the beat. And when I get tired, I tap into the beat and use it help drive myself on. The trick for me seems to be finding music with the right beat – it’s been pretty hard. I’ve tried going through my modest collection of music and creating a playlist with the music I think has the right beat. Few of those songs have actually been right. Even when they are right, it’s nearly impossible to find more than one song with the same beats per minute (bpm) which means that once one track ends and the next begins, my pace changes. That’s not really a horrible thing, but it’d be nice to be able to stay consistent. It’s really not an impossible task, but frankly, I’m too busy (or too lazy, if you’re less generous) to undertake the job.
PodRunner is a free weekly podcast. Each podcast episode is about an hour long set of music at a constant bpm (beats per minute) intended for workouts. The music is all electronica/techno/dance kinda stuff. I’m probably going to insult fans of those genres when I call the music rather mindless, but it’s been perfect for running. The beat’s nice and consistent and the music isn’t interesting enough (to me) to distract me, so the music is there when I need it and I can still use my time running to think about things. The title of each episode includes the bpm, so once you identify what pace works for you, you can hone in on the episodes with the right bpm and load those up on your mp3 player.
The last time I trained for a half marathon, I did not use music to help me run. The race rules strictly forbid headphones, so I figured that if I can’t use it during the race, I’d better not use it to train. (Headphones and music ARE a distraction, which means that runners are slightly more likely to get hurt. Races have to be insured, and headphones void the race coverage in some way, I think. I’m not sure how this works… if one runner’s headphones mean that nobody’s covered or if just that runner is SOL if she gets hurt.) Every single race I’ve taken part in has had a high percentage of runners with headphones, though. I’ve never seen anybody pulled off the course because of headphones… so I thought I’d give it a shot for the upcoming half marathon. After all, it really helps me a lot.
If you’re interested in giving PodRunner a try, you can find it here, or in the iTunes podcast directory. You’ll also find that they’ve just started a new podcast called PodRunner Intervals – the music is set up to help you do interval training. I haven’t tried it yet, but it should be good, too.