The “Music While Running” Controversy

So here’s something I wish I had heard before I started running. Silly me, I just ASSUMED that you could listen to music while you run. How foolish of me! Apparently there’s a big controversy in the running world about listening to music while you run. Many people argue that you shouldn’t, that it will interfere with your run, that its better to listen to nature and whatnot…some even go so far as to say that it’s dangerous (in the case of road running or urban running). Others (the camp I have fallen into) say that running while listening to music can help improve the quality of your run and help make it a more enjoyable experience. There is nothing I love more when I’m on a run than a power song coming on and feeling a surge of energy hit my stride (Chelsea Dagger – The Fratellis is a PERFECT example).

That said, I COMPLETELY understand why the “Anti-Tunes” camp believes what they do, and THIS is the part I wish I had been told before I started: the wrong music can COMPLETELY ruin your run.

When I started running I, enjoying music and having a large music library, had a number of playlists. I picked one, I put it on shuffle, and off I went down the street. THAT was my mistake. The playlist I picked was a lot of The Offspring (No Brakes, Walla Walla, etc) and other fast-paced tracks. I could not for the life of me run to that music. Something just wasn’t right. I ended up going slower, my strides shorter…I couldn’t sync up with the beat. After long enough trying to deal with that, I figured it out. CRACKED THE CODE!

You have to pick songs that have the right BPM (beats per minute) for the pace you’re running (or trying to run).

That’s about how I felt when I finally figured it out. (img from fanpop)

Well, with that bit of genius finally unlocked I sifted through over 14,000 songs (between my own music library and outside suggestions) to put together a playlist. First I had to figure out that I ran about a 9:00 to 9:30 /mi pace and I’d like to shoot for 8. As far as I was concerned, anything just below 8 all the way up to 9:30 pace for music was fine, so I searched. There are a TON of google results for “Top running songs” “best running songs”, etc. I took ideas from many of these sites, but I will be so bold as to say…there CAN’T be one perfect running playlist. That would imply that everyone runs the same, or that there is one standard of “perfect” in running world…if there’s one thing I love about fitness its that there’s never perfect, its the journey and the evolution that’s important.

Better, not perfect.

Aside from everyone out there with a blog that thinks they’ve figured out the definitive list of the best songs for running, there are other resources too, like Jog.fm. That site gives you a TON of song suggestions listed with (and sortable by) BPM/time (it matches up BPM with what pace that gives you). GREAT resource!

While I did figure out a great playlist, it is not “THE BEST”. Your playlist will need to evolve over time just like your run does. I have cut a bunch of songs from the list…some I wanted to be able to run to and they just weren’t right, some I liked and then fell out of love with, and some I can’t run to anymore because they’re too slow. I threw Blurred Lines (Robin Thicke) on my playlist and I really want to run to it, but I have a feeling its going to end up cut.

That said, here’s my current playlist (current because I have no doubt I’ll edit it soon). DISCLAIMER: Just because I’d run to it doesn’t necessarily mean I’d listen to it in real life.