Thursday, January 10, 2008

Workout music

I noticed a couple things lately on the subject of listening to music while exercising, including this popular story in the New York Times and a new iTunes page devoted to workout mixes. The point always seems to be about what you'd expect: If you want to run faster, lift heavier or treadmill longer, crank some heartbeat-bumping rock or techno or hip-hop; doesn't much matter as long as it's fast. The idea is that your body will naturally tend to keep pace with the beat.

A typical quote from the NYT story:

Allison Goldberg, a 39-year-old life coach and amateur runner who lives in Texas and who is training for the Houston Marathon on Sunday, has been running to the Green Day CD “American Idiot” because, she said, “There’s no way you can run slow to Green Day.”

The "Lance Armstrong: Run Longer" mix at iTunes, with an average customer rating of four and a half stars, is full of headbangy stuff you might find on "Guitar Hero": Wolfmother, Audioslave, Weezer, Queens of the Stone Age ...

Rock on and everything, but I noticed on my short run just now that I may be better off going the other way.

I don't run very far or very fast these days, only a mile or so every other day at a pace I'm too mortified to write down. But I've been a regular runner for a long time, and until a year ago or so I went much faster and often farther. One of my biggest problems now is that out of habit or muscle memory or just plain stubbornness I start out running too fast and then poop out before I finish even my pathetic little course.

Today, though, halfway through my run, Billie Holiday's "Body and Soul" came onto my Shuffle and I found that it really helped. The previous random tunes had been something by Prince and some up-tempo Sheryl Crow song, just the kind of stuff the experts would recommend. But I almost involuntarily slowed down to match Billie's languor and -- wow! -- my breathing evened out, I felt better, and I finished the run stronger than I have lately or than I likely would have otherwise.

I'm thinking about experimenting with an all-slow mix. Maybe I'm in shape enough to get through one entire Pink Floyd song.

(Photo Credit: © Herman Leonard)


kateco said...

I think it is an indication of your supreme cool that your workout mix would include Lady Day. As a super-slow runner myself, (in the past,currently a walker), I can say that smoothness is of more importance to me than speed. I did a lot of work back in the day on the smoothness, regularity and openess of my stride. Slower music sounds like the ticket to me. In my old running/cycling mix was Paul Simon's Rhythm of the Saints which as a lot of comples, but slower dreamy beats in it. Putting your feet down to that stuff can be trance-like. You can hear some snippets at.

OOOooo Sharon Jones 100 Days would be great!

Gotta go ... cuz everytime I think about Sharon Jones nowadays, I have to fire up the iTunes on and dance around the house!

freda said...

Michelle once asked me how I could keep playing tennis, (now that I am old and arthritic), and the secret is again, go slow, play with old ladies, or in your case, run to Lady Day. Personally, I never could run, more power to you.

mich said...

Man, that is a brilliant idea. I've always suffered the start-too-fast problem and could use your help. You would soar to the top of the ITunes list with this, I'm guessing.

Wes said...

I like to use podrunner podcasts for my runs the music is mostly house music but he has it broken down into beats per minute so you can really get going or take your time.