Music is pretty amazing. You plug yourself in and your perceived effort when it comes to doing any type of activity changes. Running up a hill? Fire up the Afro Celt Sound System and you’re all set, my friend. Calming yourself down an hour before your first ING NYC Marathon? Time to put on some soulful ballads. It works wonders.
A recent scientific research conducted at the United States Sports Academy has identified five key ways in which music affects preparation and competitive performances: dissociation, emotional regulation, synchronization, acquisition of motor skills, and attainment of flow.
These concepts are not new to runners. We know that music can help take our mind off fatigue (dissociation), get us psyched up for a race (emotional regulation), keep us within pace (synchronization), maintain consistent form (acquisition of motor skills), and keep us focused on the finish line (attainment of flow). But “hacking” your run with music requires a little work. You need to figure out your ideal training levels translated into Beats Per Minute (BPM).
iTunes is a tease – they have a column for BPM, but no function to actually identify BPM. Not cool. So there’s a number of other tools you can use to make your life much easier than actually counting the number of beats per minute per song. Take a look at AudioFuel, JogTunes, Jog.FM, and Cadence Run DJ.
You could also do it the harder way by researching what songs fall into different BPM categories, getting those songs into your iTunes playlist, and organizing them to plan out your pacing. If you’re not sure of the best way to identify your ideal BPM, here’s a pretty good starting point from PaceDJ: