Creating the Perfect Workout Playlist

As any sentient being knows, music makes things better. Whether you’re trying to get through that last mile of your race hoping your jam comes on or you’re like my buddy in high school who would always wait for the Rocky theme to come on in the weight room so he could hit his best sets, you know music can help you through.

I’ve talked about music before, including sharing what was on my playlist and the music vs. no music running, but I wanted to go a different route today. Let’s talk about the construction of a good workout playlist.

I’ll break this into three sections so if you want to see construction, just keep reading. If you want to just see the lists I’ve made publicly available, click on ahead.

What constitutes a good workout playlist?

Yoga list

Running lists

What constitutes a good workout playlist?

We have to start at the beginning before we get into the lists themselves (unless you clicked ahead, in which case you aren’t reading this, so it doesn’t really matter, does it?).

What do you want to feel?

That’s what it all boils down to. What do you want to feel? Do you want to feel anger? Looking at you death metal enthusiasts. Do you want to feel like the audience is cheering you on? Looking at you high school buddy listening to Rocky theme. Do you just want to feel the beat in your chest?  Whatever it is, that’s where you start. You find that emotion, and then you track down the songs that grab your heart just that way.

I like making playlists, so workout playlists are just an extension of this habit. I have a wedding first dance playlist. I have angry playlists (the kind designed to be played so loud you can’t hear yourself think). I’ve made writing playlists. I’ve even made a leaving playlist since I’ll be moving in a couple of months.

The key is catching that core emotion you want to feel. We all have different preferences when we work out, so I don’t expect my playlists to necessarily suit other people (when we get to the yoga playlist, you’ll see why).

Probably the best recommendation I can make is to have existing playlists you can steal from. I have a few core Spotify playlists that I cultivate, so they’re my natural starting point whenever I build any playlists, especially a workout list. I can peruse the list and if I’m not sure if a song works, I give it a listen. If it has that hits the right emotion, it makes the list. If it doesn’t feel quite right, it stays off.

Much like going through your closet to throw things out, be merciless. You don’t need to be in the middle of making puddles of sweat and think “I’ll skip this song.” You want to stay in the moment. I actually got derailed yesterday because my internet went out, so my yoga list got interrupted. I pulled it up on my phone, and then Spotify got buggy and started playing songs related to my playlist but not my actual playlist. I quit mid-workout because I was so frustrated.

That’s step one. Step three is to Google playlists that you’re looking for. When I was building that first song playlist, I Googled alternative and indie first dance songs. For workouts, there is not shortage of lists. In fact, you can subscribe to some if you want. I’m not a fan of this because the lists aren’t yours, but if you’re not picky, go for it. I’m just very picky.

On this note, step four is to steal from other people. There are a few people I follow on the social media who have very good music tastes. When they make a recommendation, I listen. About half the time, the song ends up on some sort of playlist. Along these lines, and this is relevant for the yoga playlist, I steal from yoga teachers. Not all of their songs fit the mood I’m looking for, but if I know I can work out to something already, then that’s a start.

And finally, step five, if it pops into your head, add it to your playlist now. Don’t do anything stupid like adding songs while driving (like I have a bad habit of doing), but if you hear it or think of it, add it before you forget. You can always remove it later, but odds are you’ll forget the song if you don’t add it in the next few minutes.

But let me reiterate, it has to hit the right emotion. I’ll go a little deeper into that thought process in the next couple of sections.

Yoga list

I’m starting with yoga because I can’t run right now, so all of my puddles of sweat are being made on a yoga mat.

Despite doing yoga for 8 years now, I didn’t make a yoga playlist until the last couple of weeks. Why? Because I can’t survive full yoga sessions on my own, especially since I started taking classes. I’m lazy.

But then life happened. My yoga teacher is on break for the summer, but I move in the summer, so to get the practice I really want, I have to do it on my own. That’s all fine and good, but I have trouble keeping myself on my mat. I thought music might help.

But where to start?

This playlist is actually a bit quirkier than my running playlists. Those are built to play on shuffle and maintain one emotion throughout. The yoga playlist is built to function for a full session of yoga, start to finish. This is not when one emotion will work. Added bonus, it’s built for ashtanga.

If you’ve never done ashtanga, it’s doing the same thing every time. Depending on how hard-core you are, you could be at it for 90 minutes. I’m not hard-core. I’m not even medium-core. I’m lucky, especially with my knee, to get an hour out of my session.

But knowing the list is built for ashtanga, I had to keep the practice in mind. While most of these songs are picked from my existing lists, I also bookended the playlist with songs I first heard in yoga (and they were placed where they are in my list).

The most energetic part of ashtanga is the beginning. You’re doing 10 rounds of sun salutations (5 of A and 5 of B). If I survive this part, I’ve already got a decent workout in, and I’m certainly sweating. As such, the first songs in the playlist have more energy than the rest. Kashi Vishwanath Gange (I have no idea what this song’s about) starts slow, which is good for getting in your right mindset, but then picks up as you actually start to do the salutations. And then it gets into Very Busy People. Timing-wise, I get very close to finishing the salutations at the end of that song because then we’re slowing it down.

The rest of the playlist gradually winds down as you go from the standing sequence to the seated sequence to the finishing sequence. There is a song my yoga teacher has that basically feels like an omnipresent heartbeat. I wish I had that song because it’s a good shavasana song, but Be the Song is a pretty good closer.

Without further ado, this is the full list, but skip to after for the discussion.

If you know these songs, you probably realize that a lot of them aren’t happy. I honestly didn’t even realize how melancholy this playlist could seem until I was in the middle of using it during a session. It was at that moment that I realized I probably am not cut out to be a yoga teacher, especially for those students who are just looking for a good time.

For me, yoga is a time to carve out space on my mat and pretend that no one else is around (at home, this is a lot easier). This is my time for taking care of me, which means fixing things. Fixing myself doesn’t really feel like a happy endeavor. It’s certainly a worthwhile one, but it’s not a happy one. I’m trying to leave all the bullshit that exists off the mat. As such, I need to feel something. I need songs that have substance. These are the songs you play as you jump off the cliff into the lake below. These are the songs that are playing on a cool, dark night with the windows down on a back country road. They won’t make you cry, but they should make you feel centered in your own little universe.

And that’s why they’re not happy.

Running lists

But how can we have a running blog post without the running playlists?

The first playlist is my 5K mofo list.

This is the list I created a few months into my Super Awesome Year of the 5K when I was getting tired of what was just on my phone. As it turns out, I would run my best race of the year the first time I used the list. Did the music help? Maybe, maybe not. But it makes for a better story to tell.

With this list, I was just going for pure uptempo music that I wouldn’t want to skip. This is music as distraction. There’s a lot of good music here, but it’s not the most substantive music to exist on this earth. The point is to distract me from running. That’s it. If I feel the need to skip a song when it comes on this list, it gets removed from the list. I’ve had a couple where that happened.

It’s a mix of pop, rock, and hip hop. And it’s a beautiful thing. It’s shallow. But it’s beautiful. Maybe I should rename it the shallow playlist.

The second list took a bit more form. I was getting tired of always using the 5K Mofo list during races, so I built another 5K list. This one was built to exclusively be rock music. The music has a bit more substance to it, and it’s honestly going after a slightly different emotion.

The goal for this playlist is a little more to pull at angst. If I’m running and I’m angry, this list is more likely to pop up that the original 5K list. I’m purposefully trying to burn off energy with this list. This will be probably be the list that’s playing when I PR and then pass out before getting hauled off in an ambulance for stupidity.

Let’s Talk About Self-Care

It takes a lot of work to keep me functioning. I don’t mean it takes me a lot of work like it takes a lot of work to maintain a pristine physique (it does require a lot of work, I’m told, but I wouldn’t have any clue about that. Fatty likes his food.). No, I’m talking about the work it takes to maintain basic functionality.

There are a few factors at play that caused this:

  • One, I have back issues. If you’ve never had back issues, I can’t full explain it, but this is what I can tell you: I can’t remember the last time I went 24 hours without any type of pain. I went 8 hours pain-free in August, and it felt like I was on drugs. I was giddy. There are days where I just want to lie down on the floor. They’re rare, but they exist.
  • Two, I’m just injury-prone in general. This is a product of lifestyle, which is brings us to
  • Three, I work a desk job. Desk job’s are great in a lot of ways, but they are also a significant contributor to the decline of physical health of Americans.
  • Four, I have a stressful job. There are more stressful jobs in the world, but I have a “make your own stress” job, which is great because
  • Five, I like to make my own stress. I think A LOT. Most of my hobbies are about getting my brain to shut down or to keep it so focused it’s not running off on its own. Think of my brain like a border collie. Great when it’s focused and the possibility of being a real jerk if it has nothing better to do.

All of this results in me doing a few things just to keep my mind and body in check. Basically, I’m going to run through all of the big and little things I do to stay in one piece. If you find something you’ve never tried, give it a go. Every person has their own needs. These are just the things that help me. You’ll notice a good chunk of them were featured in the Super Awesome Year of Me.

Running

Hey, that’s why we’re here. I run even though I complain about it because it’s necessary. I don’t have a better way to get cardio work in quickly, and cardio’s necessary, especially if I drop from a heart attack and would like to recover.

But in all seriousness, running allows me to burn off the wrong kind of energy, that nervous energy that has zero chance of being productive. Plus, I get a lot of t-shirts.

Reading

This is a default for me when I’m overwhelmed. I like to dive into a good book and hide there. Not always the healthiest coping mechanism, but it helps. And if you’re going to engage in an activity for the wrong reason, at least engage in one that’s good for you. And because writers are the biggest bunch of dorks who include the most random bits of information, you also get to learn the most random bits of information. You’re gonna kill it at trivia night.

Writing

This is the other reason we’re here. I enjoy writing. I write for a living, but I don’t write fun stuff for a living. I write research papers. Not fun. Interesting but not fun.

This is about fun. This is about taking the time to put thoughts on a screen illuminated by the magic of technology. I can put jokes in here. I can put my thoughts here. And I can (hopefully) stretch my ability as a writer. This blog (and my other blog) are about allowing me to write under the guise of providing useful information for other people.

As a teenager, I wrote a lot. I don’t know what good it did or what good I thought it would do, but I enjoyed writing. Slowly, I got older and wrote less. This was my chance to take some of that back. I’m probably not going to write the next great American novel, but I can still write.

Yoga

This was the first piece of deliberate self-care I ever engaged in. I was doing most of the others, but I did them for fun. They just happened to be beneficial. I started doing yoga for my back. And it worked. I didn’t know why it worked; it just did.

Later, I would figure out it wasn’t just the stretching and that the core work was a contributor, but it didn’t matter. I found something that worked.

I don’t practice as often as I should, but I’m a yoga convert of 8 years. I don’t believe I’m flushing out toxins or finding (much) inner peace, but my body’s happier when I do yoga, so my brain’s happier too. And when I’m running, yoga’s the only thing that allows me to keep living a normal life.

Stretching

Not the same as yoga. For those of you keeping score, yoga includes stretching. It is not about stretching. And frankly, sometimes yoga isn’t all that great for stretching. Yoga classes and routines aren’t prescriptions. They don’t help my specific issues. I steal what I learn from yoga for my own use, but I have to do pretty deliberate stretching. At this point, it’s a full-body stretch routine, but I’ve had PTs who gave me specific stretches for back pain and costochondritis. Basically, I do stretches to help me with back pain.

Drawing

I should have put this caveat in earlier, but just because I enjoy doing something, that doesn’t mean I actually am any good at it. I’ve always enjoyed drawing. If you leave me alone, I’m doodling or making elaborate patterns.

While I always liked it, I didn’t realize what it was doing to my brain. When I did the Super Awesome Month of Drawing, I was a lot more calm after each picture was done. The concentration of drawing was downright meditative.

Music

This one goes two ways. The easiest to see is that I almost constantly have music going. I wake up and turn on Spotify. I have music going all day while I work. My commute has satellite radio. My walk to the office features me wearing earbuds. And of course, I run to a soundtrack now. Music is life.

Really, though, it’s the second aspect that’s most important. I play guitar. I’m not as good about playing every day as I’d like to be, but I play more days than not. Everyone should make music and preferably learn an instrument. It’s something to concentrate on, and if you’re brave, you can even write your own stuff. And that’s pretty damn cool.

Massage

And this is the one that has me outside of my comfort zone. I’m not a fan of strangers touching me, especially when I’m wearing almost no clothing. Let’s just not, thanks.

But I had back pain flare up that was lasting more than a week. When I asked the physical therapist what I could do, massage was their best recommendation. So I gave it a try. I went to a n0-frills sports massage place and proceeded to have a stranger make a valiant attempt at making me cry. And it was fantastic.

I was able to go back there one more time before I moved, and then I began my odyssey in Mississippi of finding a good massage. I had to make it to my 3rd location and even then it was my second MT before I found someone I was happy with. Now, every month or two, someone half my size digs their elbows into my back to buy me a few hours of relief.

And the thing I wish I did more of? Meditating.

I do things that hit some of the same points of meditating, but like running being the best cardio I can access, meditating is the best I can do to hit the brain.

5-10 minutes is all I need, and I can’t make myself do it. It’s hard. Trying to focus on your breathing and letting stray thoughts drift on by without dwelling on them is an enormous task as far as I’m concerned. But man, I feel fantastic after a good session. Unfortunately, I can’t stick with it long enough to see if there are long-term benefits. Maybe one day.

Recapping June (AKA, the month I sort of quit on)

12 for 30. In baseball, I had an ok month. Anywhere else…

calendar of June

But let’s not dawdle (we’ll talk about next month at the end of the post):

Day 23
Day 23

Day 23 was a good day. I got to eat awful stuff, but I had green bean casserole, so it didn’t matter, chased by a salad and stir fry.

Day 24
Day 24

This was not a good day, though it was technically a victory for this month’s challenge. It had the usual suspects: two salads and stir fry. But those cookies are there because it wasn’t a fun day. I bought six. Three were left by the time I made the 10-minute drive home from the cookie shop. Those three disappeared before I went to sleep that night.

Day 25 was not a better day of decisions. I did eat salad. I also ate Popeye’s as my post-yoga treat and enjoyed every single bite. Fun fact, I like to judge the people who are in line to get fast food AS I’M IN LINE TO GET FAST FOOD. Hypocrite, thou art.

I have no log of day 26, though I know it was a loss. I’m sure it involved pizza.

Day 27
Day 27

And now for the last victory of the month: more stir fry and salads. So tired of salads, but hopefully I’ll still eat them often with dinner and lunch. Stupid rabbit food.

Day 28
Day 28

And yet more stir fry. I also had broccoli beef for supper. Had these two bowls not been tiny, I would have considered them two servings of veggies, but alas, they were too small to let them count in good conscious. There may or may not have also been a big chocolate chip brownie at the end of my day.

Day 29 consisted of some broccoli beef, along with a burger, fries, and a brownie at lunch. And some pizza for dessert that night. At this point, I just want to watch the world burn, it appears.

Day 30
Day 30

And finally, today. A salad for lunch. That’s it for veggies. I had a burger, fries, and pizza with my salad. I had Chick-fil-A for supper. And I might have pizza as dessert again.

Ugh. At least that’s over. It wasn’t as bad of an experience as April’s no refined grains, but I still managed to miss even worse this month. Oh well, on to the next challenge: playing guitar 20 minutes a day. I think this is a challenge I can get behind. I can’t wait to see how this plays out. Hopefully this month strikes the right chord. I’ll have to pick my actions carefully.

But for real, I used to play every day. Going two days without playing used to really bother me. And then I got a grown-up job and playing dwindled until I was playing about once a week. I didn’t like that. I’ve been much better about playing more often the past couple of months, but I want to get to where I was in terms of effort. This will not have any effect on my physical well-being, but it will be good for me mentally (and I’ll totally look cool playing acoustic guitar around the campfire).

The Most Awesome (Possibly) Fitness Songs Ever

For some stupid reason, I have had the Best of the Best song from Karate Kid stuck in my head. Well, I’m not one to let a good piece of momentum go to waste.

So with that, I decided to make a list.

And now presenting THE MOST AWESOME FITNESS SONGS EVER (for reals, though).

No. 1

We have to start here. If this is going to be the spark, then let’s let it lead the way. Of course, my favorite version of this song was from another source.

No. 2

When I was in high school, one of my teammates would always wait for this song to come on. Once it hit, that’s when he was going to do his biggest lifts in the weight room. I had weird friends.

No. 3

Don’t judge me bro ’cause:

No. 4

I think the real reason I included this video was so I could include this next video.

Of course, I was watching this when I was like 6 and totally did not understand who Jimmy Walker was. In hindsight, I’m pretty sure I didn’t understand a good deal of the jokes on In Living Color.

No. 5

Fantastic song. Also has a fantastic video to pair with it. Seriously, go to YouTube and search for Wayne’s World. In the suggestions, first is Wayne’s World. Second is Wayne’s World Bohemian Rhapsody. I can’t remember the plot of the movie (again, I was like 6 when that came out, too), but I remember this sequence. Also, see if you can figure out who the two guys in the backseat are. They stuck around Hollywood better than most of the lead actors in the movie.

No. 6

There are two reasons for this song making the list. One, it’s a fantastic song. Two, I had class with a girl named Sheena once. I would always mentally start listening to this song when I saw her. She also ran a similar jogging route as me, so it will forever be associated with running, even though I’ve never listened to it while running.

No. 7

Ok, maybe now you can judge me.

No. 8

If for no other reason than this song shows up repeatedly when you look up the best workout songs.

For some reason, now all I hear is spaghetti.

No. 9

I think it’s important that we allow crossdressers to say they’re not gonna take it anymore. And Dave’s friend Chip agrees.

No. 10

There was no way I wasn’t including this classic from my childhood. The fact that I didn’t just include the entire Space Jam soundtrack as the entirety of this list is a clear indicator of my restraint. Seal, Coolio, R. Kelly, Chris Rock, B. Real, Busta, LL Cool J, Method Man, Monica, Salt-n-Pepa, Barry White, Jay Z, Spin Doctors, Biz Markie, Bugs Bunny. What you got on that?

In Conclusion

I have just given you the best workout song list ever. Just give up any hopes of beating this list. You probably started doing pushups despite yourself. I bet you already have the makings of a six pack just by listening to these songs. Just by reading this list, your cholesterol went down 10 points.

-Q

#ihaterunning

Prelude to Bingeing – 1/3 Into the Superawesome Year of the 5K

We’ll lead with the important part. Ran about 30:00. I’m not sure of the exact time, but the board was ticking right at 30 when I was at the line, so I don’t know if I ticked right over or right under or right at it. Either way, personal best for the year. I’ll take it.

Now, how did we get there? In a pair of Adidas. I’m just kidding, but seriously, those Adidas feel great on a long run. The Brooks are officially the backup shoe now. Shame. They’ve treated me so well, but they’re just too heavy over a long run. I don’t want to notice my shoes when I’m running.

But back to the main plot.

I think the starting point is the music. I opted to try using a Spotify playlist, so last night I pretty meticulously selected songs that were up-tempo that I also found interest. I also put it on shuffle so I couldn’t possibly know what was coming up next.

I think it worked out great, especially at the beginning. Childish Gambino and Tyler the Creator played back to back, and I had to resist the urge to start singing along. I probably was keyed into the music a bit too much. Despite not trying to push a quick pace, I was under 8:30 for my first mile, and I’m blaming those two. As I got tired, I noticed the music less, but it worked out pretty well, including my footfalls matching the beat perfectly for one song.

As always, I’ll talk about the organization. It’s interesting to have gone to multiple 5Ks now. Excluding the mud run in 2013, this was my seventh 5K. This one was borderline the smallest one I’ve done. I’d call the organization good not great. The people were nice. The course was well marked (the largest one I ever did was actually the most poorly marked, resulting in a 2.2-mile route; you won’t see so many scrawny people mad at once as you will when you cheat them out of close to a mile of running). They gave a drawstring bag as a part of registration and also had workout shirts as the official shirt (now the second one that’s done that this year).

One in the middle that was just odd was that it was a family fun night as a part of the overall event, so there were a bunch of families and a lot of kids everywhere. It’s a bit different to show up to a race where the majority of people there have next-to-no interest in the race. Not a real problem, just odd.

But there’s always the negative. Most of it was really beforehand. They didn’t have shirt size selection in the online registration and had to email people last minute to clear that up, but I got the right size. It also wasn’t terribly clear when I was supposed to show up (the email about the shirt actually confused the issue more). Again, not a biggie but still noticeable. There were no bibs at this race and they did the same thing as the last race (including, I think, the same box they were using to track participants by gender and age). They put the fun run before the 5K, which I’m never fond of, but they did have it run on schedule, so it wasn’t really off-putting (one 5K I looked at for January said the 5K would begin after the fun run ended; my punctual self couldn’t take that, which is a large reason I ended up in Jackson running across the spillway).

But the real sin was not having any bananas (or any free snacks) at the end. It was in the 70s at the start and the sun was shining. I was drained at the end. Something that was a good source of potassium would have been nice. All I got was a small bottle of water, and then I was fending for myself (see later for what that ended up looking like).

As I mentioned recently, prep is something I wanted to be more mindful of. I mostly had just been hating humanity before races and not properly warming up. Today, I really prepped. I had a lot of time because I had to be there before the fun run, so I was there about an hour before the 5K started, plenty of time to loosen up. I was methodical about not standing around too long. I was doing a lot of dynamic stretching to get loose. I was honestly a bit worried going in because I’ve had a lot of aches this week, and I could feel my knee, hip, back, and hamstring twinging throughout the day. Luckily they held up.

Now the weird part about trying to properly warm up is that it looks like a very serious activity. I wasn’t as rigorous as I could have been, but it still felt like I was warming up like a person getting ready to clip out a 7-minute per mile pace.

And now for the actual race. It was good, not great. I’m a long way away from having a great run. I don’t even know what it looks like, so it may never happen, even if I do magically start running 7-minute miles. I should probably start setting real goals beyond just finishing and hoping for better times.

The course was pretty good. There was only one part that I found annoying, which was in the last leg. It wasn’t a flat course, but there also weren’t any a-hole hills waiting at the end like the last race. There was one long, slow climb right after the one-mile mark. It wasn’t steep, just long. After that, there were one or two decent little hills. I was kind of hazy by this point, so I really can’t remember if it was just one or if there was another. I want to say there was one hill leading to a bigger hill (nature’s a jerk when it does that crap).

The last stretch was finally out of the sun but a lot of winding, which is the one thing I truly found annoying. It was basically zigzagging, not just turning every now and then. Almost like running cone drills at a very slow pace. At first, it was just going around the shrubs that were in the middle of the path. Obnoxious but spaced out. And then we got to true S’s, as in no running in a straight line.

In the S’s, I pulled in front of someone. After the S’s was the straightaway to the finish, so I picked up my pace to a stride. As I got closer, I realized they had the big clock going, and I was very close to being able to break 30, so I started sprinting. With my headphones in, I didn’t hear the footfalls of the person I passed who was sprinting to the finish, too. Basically, I probably looked like a jerk trying to beat someone who was probably 10 years older than me. Don’t get me wrong, I might have done it anyway had I known it, but I don’t like looking like an asshole on accident. I’d rather be intentional about it.

But I got in around 30, so that’s pretty cool, and it gives me a solid mark to try to beat in the next run.

There were a lot of little victories (30-minute finish, 12-minutes of running to start), but the real best of the year was only walking 4 times. I hadn’t realized I’d done that well until I looked at my fitbit/slackertracker for the workout. While the slackertracker only thought I went about 2.3 miles, it does show when I speed up and slow down, so I can at least know when I’m walking even if the distance is off. 4 times. I’m pretty sure I’ve walked at least 6 times in all the other runs. I’m probably going to pay for this tomorrow, but today’s win is today’s win.

The last part of the actual race worth mentioning is the Batman shirt. The first two runs featured fairly recognizable superhero shirts, but it was literally freezing, so I had to wear a jacket over the top. The last race was the first I wore just the superhero shirt, but it was green lantern, which isn’t widely recognized. Even then, I did get a comment from a cop on the course for that race.

But this was Batman. Everyone knows Batman. Your grandma knows Batman. And so Batman got attention today. I got one prerace comment on it. During first mile, I think some people sitting at a house may have been yelling at me, but I was in that first 12-minute run, and I wasn’t disturbing it to acknowledge people (and I had headphones on, so I could play dumb). At the end, there was the usual cheering section (again, more people at the event than were actually in the event). It was pretty cool to hear people cheering on Batman through the headphones. Usually I hate the crowds, but I was oddly ok with them cheering on Batman on directly me (yes, I realize the logic is faulty, but I’ve just finished running 3.1 miles, and I’m not all there).

And then I was done. I took the little bottle of water they gave me, and started cooling down and drained the bottle in the process. I went back to the car, grabbed some cash and bought a small bottle of powerade and a hot dog. Killed both of those. Got another powerade and then a bag of chips. At this point, I drove home. About halfway, I decided I wanted pizza instead of a burger, so I called a pizza place and ordered a pizza to go (the equivalent of a small at most chains). And I killed that pizza. Tasty. So tasty. The closest thing to servings of vegetables that I’ve had all day. And as I write this, I’m eyeballing a bag of chips sitting on my bar from my pre-race lunch. I had a sandwich but opted not to test my luck by eating the bag of chips. Probably for the best. And now I have more chips to eat.

But that’s it for now. I’m exhausted. I have no good pictures to share. But I shared music, and music is life.

A bit of foreshadowing: The next post will probably be about the people you see at the races. I jotted some ideas down before leaving today, so that should be in your near future.

-Q

#ihaterunning

Running to Meditate

One of the interesting things I’ve run across is the dichotomy between people who are for running with music and those who are against it.

I like to look up articles along the lines of “Why I hate running” and “How to not hate running.” They almost always come back to this.

So starting with those who want music, they do it for distraction. Running is a chore for a lot of people and many treat music as an outlet.

One of the arguments is that you’ll sync up your running to the beat of the music, so you could possibly keep up a quicker pace if you pick the right music. For others, it’s just a distraction to help them forget they’re running.

Up until recently, I haven’t run with music, but I have to have my phone for the zombie app and it includes music, so I’ve just started listening to music when I run. Mostly, it’s just an energy boost the same as it is all the other times I’m listening to music; I’m just trying to alter my mood to match what I’m hoping to accomplish. It’s no different than romantic music playing during a date or sad songs at a funeral. I’m trying to channel something. I’m in the camp of trying to distract myself. I have trouble not taking off like a rabbit being chased, so music helps provide a tempo to go with so I’m not fighting quite so much.

Another use for music that I’ve heard is to run a song and walk a song. This alternating approach isn’t new to most runners. It’s a pretty typical way of getting in shape at the beginning, and it’s a good way to run farther without getting as tired.

I’ve never truly done this, but I got caught the one time I sort of did. When I was still lifting, I would warm up with at least a mile on a treadmill (I realize for real runners, this is a laughably short distance, but it’s a lot to me). When I would get in better shape, I would up the distance, maxing out at 2 miles for a warmup. When I was just getting past a mile and trying to increase the distance, I said to myself “I’ll keep running until this song is over.”

I picked the wrong song. Muse’s “Uprising” had just started. The video isn’t ridiculously long (4 minutes), but the album version is 5 minutes. I wasn’t banking on another 5 minutes. What made it worse was that the song has a lull in it that makes it sound like it’s coming to an end before it just picks up and keeps going. I’m trotting on this stupid treadmill thinking, “Dear Lord, when is this stupid effing song going to end?!”

I’m not sure there’s any real lesson to this story other than maybe know your rock music better before you force an ultimatum on your wheezing butt while you’re on a treadmill.

Now of course, there are arguments for not using music.

One big issue is safety. If you’re listening to music, you might not hear the car. I’m afraid of getting hit by a car even when I don’t have headphones in. The compromise is to listen with one earbud. I have not done the compromise because I’m stubborn, and if I’m listening to music, I want to hear the music. And when I’m hit by a car, we’ll all know why.

Another issue is some people are seeking a meditative state. For many, running is what clears their head and allows them to relax and let go of whatever’s bothering them. I get somewhat close to this when I don’t have music playing. I’m paying attention to my surroundings, my breathing etc., but I try not to think. I focus on my body but not my thoughts. Of course, once I start getting my ass kicked in the run, I’m no longer in a zen state; I’m in my personal hell.

Of course some people aren’t seeking a meditative state; they’re thinking. They’re working through ideas. They’re mulling over what is going on in their lives. I can’t help but do this every now and then, but I don’t like it. It’s too easy for me to think about something that’s bothering me. I’m literally and figuratively trying to run away from my problems. So without music, I’m more meditative than thinking if it’s a good day.

Aside from endangering your safety (maybe I’ll take that one earbud out eventually), I think it’s all moot. Who really cares if you’re listening to music? Try both. Whichever helps keep you putting one foot in front of the other, keep it up. It’s like shoes. People have really strong opinions, but for most people, it’s just what feels best to you.

But since we’re talking music, this is my current running playlist that shuffles in between the dialogue of my post-apocalyptic zombie story. It’s a preexisting list, so maybe at some point I’ll build a list with running in mind:

  • Against Me!
    • Up the cuts
    • thrash unreal
    • white people for peace
    • borne on the fm waves of the heart
    • white crosses (this is an awesome song when you want to pick up tempo)
    • I was a teenage anarchist
  • Alkaline Trio
    • Mercy me
    • Radio
  • Bad Books
    • You wouldn’t have to ask
    • It never stops
    • Baby shoes
  • Fun
    • Out on the town
    • Carry on
  • Gaslight Anthem – 45
  • Hot Water Music
    • Drag my body
    • The traps
    • Trusty chords
    • State of grace
  • Kevin Devine – I could be with anyone
  • Spoon – The underdog
  • Theory of a Deadman – I hate my life (maybe a bit masochistic for a run)
  • Trampled by Turtles – Wait so long
  • The White Buffalo – How the west was won
  • RAC – Let go
  • Yonder Mountain String Band – Out of the blue

Here are some articles on the issue that take a more journalistic approach to it:

http://www.runnersworld.com/workout-music/running-music-0

http://www.theactivetimes.com/3-reasons-you-should-run-without-music

http://running.competitor.com/2014/08/inside-the-magazine/running-rhythm-music-helps-runners-abilities_110214

-Q

#ihaterunning