For a lot of people, there is an inherent rhythm in running. When they “get into the groove” it feels like they could just keep going from one end of the city to the other. Their breathing and their cadence are in complete control, and they thrive on pushing themselves a little faster or a little further each run.
For many other people, though, it’s never quite that simple. It can be hard to remain fully focused for an entire run, and when the stress on the knees, ankles, and lungs starts to build, it only gets more difficult.
A lot of runners turn to music to help them find that “groove.” (Yes, that was a cheesy pun just there, but it couldn’t be helped.) The constant rhythm of a favorite song can help people focus on the run, keep a steady pace, and get past the fatigue they might otherwise feel.
It’s not as simple as putting in the earbuds and randomly playing any old song from your collection, though.
No, to really add rhythm to your run, you’re going to have to be a little more selective.
Getting in Sync
The key to augmenting your run with music is synchronization. The rhythm of the music and the rhythm of your stride should be tied closely together.
In other words, you don’t really want to start your run with the fastest, hardest-pounding music on your playlist. Instead, go for something with more of a mid-range tempo so you can start off easy and build to a faster pace.
Then, when you reach that point in the run where you really start to struggle, you can switch to the faster songs on your playlist. Maybe some techno. Maybe some dance music. Maybe hard rock. Whatever really gets your energy going.
Finally, as you start to reach the end of your run, switch back to something a little slower. You can even take advantage of some nice, relaxing tunes to help wind down and get ready for recovery.
What is a Good Cadence?
Your cadence (the number of steps you take in a minute) has a huge impact on how you run and how you feel when you run. Speeding up your cadence, for example, can have an effect on how your muscles and joints perform.
The general belief is that a 170 to 180 steps per minute is a pretty good cadence, and music can make it easier to change your cadence up or down, based on your personal goals until you reach that level. Eventually, those small changes can become part of your natural movement.
Listen to Your Body’s Rhythms
Everyone approaches running and exercise a little differently, and the music that works for one person may not fit on the playlist for someone else.
Pay attention to how you run. At what point do you start to face those mental blocks that tell you to give up and be done. At what point do you start winding down?
You’re the best person to know when and where you run out of energy or start to get distracted, disinterested, or discouraged, and you can plan your playlist accordingly. These are the times when you can switch to songs with a higher BPM to motivate yourself to go further.
Rhythm and Pace Can Make a Better Run
Running experts say that by staying aware of your pace, you will get more endurance benefits and be able to stay out longer and push yourself to the end of your run.
Whether you’re a causal runner or trying to up your game and take on a new distance run, pacing can really be important. Start too fast, and you’ll wear out. End the run with too much energy left over, and you won’t feel satisfied.
The right music can help you keep the rhythm of your run, so you can ease in at the beginning, really step it up mid run, and finally wind down near the end (but still pushing yourself to use up everything you’ve got).
This is especially important in those longer runs where it’s easy to zone out and lose track of how you’re doing. A runner might suddenly realize that they could have been going at a faster pace for that last five minutes, or that they’ve burned themselves out by going too fast, too soon.
Music is a great aid to keeping a steady pace. Find the right songs with the right beats per minute for each part of your run and soon you may start to improve endurance, sharpen your focus, and get more out of each run.