This chapter, it is all about music and rhythm!
Can “Rock Lobster” Improve Your Running?
I like to listen to music when I run. Most of my friends who run do too!
Listening to music while you run can certainly improve your running experience.
Many runners like to talk about and compare their running play lists. What do you listen to? Classic Rock, Country, Pop, Hip-Hop, Jazz? Do you crank it up loud or just keep it soft in the background? There are as many personal preferences as there are runners!
There is, however, a very important factor that most runners do not talk about or even take into consideration when putting together a play list. And it is a factor that can dramatically affect your marathon training!
Tempo, tempo, tempo! No, I am not talking about Tempo Runs that I wrote about in a previous chapter. I am talking about the tempo of your music.
Most runners just pick a bunch of songs they really like or that keep them pumped up. They do not think about the fact that they will naturally adjust their running stride to the tempo—some call it “cadence”—of the music they are listening to and are, therefore, constantly changing their running rhythm with every song.
I do not remember where I first learned about the ideal running tempo, but I know my running style has radically changed for the better now that I have put it into practice for the last two years.
“Rock Lobster” by the B-52s is one of the perfect running songs! Why? It’s exactly 180 BPM (beats per minute) — the ideal running tempo!
Someone studied elite runners for multiple distances and they all, regardless of height, weight, gender or nationality had one thing in common. They all ran at a tempo of about 180 beats (or steps) per minute. Most of the runners studied actually had no idea that this was their stride-rate. It was just how they ran. This study has become very popular and many of the new elite athletes have been trained to run at this pace.
Running at 180 steps per minute (or 3 steps per second!) will improve the way you run by forcing you to shorten your stride.
As far as stride length is concerned, shorter and faster is better than longer and slower!
Also, as for tempo, consistency is king! You should try to run at the same stride rate all the time! Increase or decrease your speed by lengthening or shortening your stride, but keep your feet moving at the same tempo. This is also true for running up hills or down hills.
If you are not already doing it, I want you to try it. It is going to feel awkward at first. But if you keep at it, it will be fun, and it will become your normal running rhythm and your running will improve!
180 BPM – The How To:
The easiest way to start running at 180 beats (steps) per minute is to practice jogging in place. Look at your watch and count to 3 for each second. So count 1 2 3, 1 2 3, 1 2 3, so that the 1s fall on each second. Start jogging in place to that tempo. Once you’ve got the rhythm down, keep counting to yourself and start moving forward so you are actually jogging. Keep your strides really short to start. Go slowly and gradually increase the length of your stride until you are running!
Many of us have iPhones or Androids or some other smart phones. One thing you can do is download a metronome app and set it to 180 BPM and run to the clicks of the metronome.
But this chapter was supposed to be about music! OK, let’s find the right songs and take our music to the streets!
I found a great product called MixMeister BPM Analyzer. It is FREE and available for both PC and Mac!
Here’s the link to download: http://www.youcangothedistance.com/bpmanalyzer
It will analyze all of the songs (MP3s) in your music library and update each of your songs with its BPM so your music software (I use iTunes) will automatically know the BPM each song. In iTunes, it is really easy to sort songs by BPM and simply drag the songs that are right at 90/180 BPM into a playlist.
Notice that I said 90/180 BPM. 90 BPM is the same tempo as 180 BPM, so do not let that confuse you.
Now you can really analyze the music that you’ve been listening to and know if it is the right tempo for you.
It was not until I really started to apply this technique of picking songs and being very intentional about my running tempo that I realized just how inconsistent my running tempo had been. I had music in my play list that was as slow as 75/150 BPM. In order to maintain my speed, I was having to really increase my stride length to maintain tempo with my music. Then the next song might be really fast, and I would have to change again…
Now that all of my songs are very close to the same tempo, my running tempo and stride length is much more consistent and my legs and knees are much happier about that!
Like trying anything new, this will certainly feel strange at first. It took me several weeks before I was running at a consistent 180 BPM without thinking about it. Now, I know my play list songs by heart so I can just sing them in my head even if I am running unplugged.
So go ahead and try this and let me know how it works out for you!
Also, it would be great if you posted the names of some of your favorite playlist songs in the comments!
Now, you’ve got a marathon to train for. So get your 180 BPM groove on and get rockin’!