There are two reactions I always get when someone finds out that I’m a runner.
Reaction 1: “I could never do that.” (Not true, btw; everyone can do this!)
Reaction 2: “Running is so boring. How do you stay entertained?”
Well, let me tell you.
Back in the day, as a cross country runner in high school, we were minimalists when it came to training. You might wear a running watch to keep your time, but other than that, we didn’t rely on Camelpacks for water (and yes, I grew up running every day at 3 p.m. August-November in 100+ degree heat on Arizona canals) or music from iPods. Our running soundtrack included the sounds of our own breath and the crunching of gravel.
College came and I no longer had my training crew. Off on my own, I decided to give music a whirl.
It was amazing what it did for my running.
In the times that I started to drag, a fun song would come on and suddenly I was ready to run a few more miles. I felt more relaxed and less inclined to think about the things in my life that tended to stress me out and drain me (and also derail my run. Running is, after all, 90% mental, right?)
So, what’s the best way to incorporate music into your run? Here are a few fun ideas to get you going:
1. Tailor Your Running Mix. We all know about play lists, especially if we’re i-Whatever fans. Sit down and have some fun by putting together an eclectic mix of your favorite, upbeat songs. Try to keep them at a moderate tempo unless you’re going aiming to rival Speedy Gonzalez.
2. Play the Music Game. While out for a run, use music to add small speed intervals. When an energizing song comes on that perks you up, go with it. Kick up your speed a notch, look for a landmark in front of you (a sign, rock, etc) and run to that point and then revert back to your tempo speed once you reach it.
3. Switch it Up. Eventually we all get bored with the mix of songs we have on our i-Whatevers. Find another running friend or music enthusiast and ask them to put together their favorite mix of songs on a CD for you. Upload it to your i-Whatev and enjoy a fresh hodgepodge to change up your running soundtrack. (I once did this with a friend before a marathon and every mile was a new surprise!)
4. Get into Gear. I’m not a techie and stick with the basics (as you’ve likely noted by the picture above). If you have a bulkier i-Whatever or smarty-pants phone, get a special armband or other holder to keep your music player in line. Be forewarned: Do not add an armband to your routine right before a race or you will likely experience chafe-city, and believe me, it’s not fun.
5. Keep it Safe. If you choose to add music, always keep it to a background level. Not only will your ears thank you later on in life, but you’ll also be able to remain alert. You should still be able to hear small sounds behind you, cars nearby, etc. If you ever find yourself “surprised” by a person or car, odds are good that you need to adjust your volume. Ladies: if you run with music when it’s dark out, take an ear bud out so you can be extra alert.
We all have our preferences when it comes to running. Sometimes we need to take a break from distractions and leave our i-Whatevers at home. Other times, it’s a great thing to incorporate music as a fun distraction to liven up and re-energize your running routine. So jump online and find that old Madonna song or download the latest poppy tune. Your next run might be your best yet!