Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Running and Music

I confess that I have been running with an I-Pod lately, which I never did years ago, mostly because they hadn’t been invented yet. When I was training for the Buffalo Marathon I remember trying a few runs with a Walkman, but giving it up because a 90 minute cassette tape only lasted for around 10 miles. The I-Pod is a great tool for the distance runner, and may offer a competitive advantage to those who wear it while racing. According to a recent article in the Times, studies have shown that listening to music during exercise can improve results, both in terms of being a motivator and as a distraction from negatives like fatigue. The most effective music seems to be that which clocks in at around 120-140 beats per minute, which coincidentally happens to be the roughly the heart-rate aerobic zone of a 40 year old male.

I started running to music much more frequently around a year ago. That's when I started running on my lunch hour-on a treadmill-and without some sort of distraction I would have gone stark raving mad. I am a little worried that I’ve been relying too much on the music lately and that it gives me an artificial sense of my running ability, not to mention that any pretension of running as moving Zen is lost when you’re bopping down the road boogying to the Grateful Dead. I try to mix it up and play some ragas and some eclectic eastern influenced music to restore my sense that I am doing something more meditative than dancing. Bhagavan Das’s “Now” is particularly effective as a focusing tool. When I'm in a more natural setting or somewhere unfamiliar, I eschew the music and just tune into my surroundings. I remember a great 7.4 mile run in Berkeley up Strawberry Canyon, surrounded in white fog that had come streaming in through the Golden Gate, where I felt like my ego disappeared and I had become one with the State of California. An interesting feeling I must say.

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