I often use Audio during my runs, whether is a training run or even an event. There are different camps about using audio files, especially for the event, which for some it might provide some advantage, especially in longer events and should not be used. I am not writing this to debate the issue, as an audio user, I just want to share, what audio I use and some of the experiences where it has worked for me and not.
Music – I love to run and listen to music. Running to Spanish and English music. From Salsa, Merenge to some old classic Trios, Boleros and also from Classical music all the way to Heavy Metal. There is not a piece/style of specific music I use, just specific songs I use the most. I use a variety of methods to listen to music. The three I use most are of course a playlist on my phone or my iPod/shuffle. I do have multiple playlists specifically build for my runs. I tend to pick music that provides me with the right tempo/beat for a workout. Some are faster than others, but I like to include some slow recovery songs inserted at key intervals. Once I find a song that inspires my legs, I tend to listen to it multiple time, like a broken record. Sometimes the song will lose the effectiveness to push the pace or inspire faster performance. After that, I might move it to a different playlist or skip it for a while. I use my playlists for my track work, short pace and Tempo run with the high beat count. For longer runs, there is a mix of them to vary the pace and cadence, especially for those multi-hour runs. I will highly recommend having two or three playlists (Even more if necessary) with a few targets in place. Fast beat, inspiring songs, songs that will make you sing out loud or even (which is my case) play that air drum or guitar solo while running. I have more than 7 playlists, some I used more often and I try to keep refreshing and improving the list by adding and removing files.
Similar to my playlists, I use Spotify, there I have a few stations and playlists with songs that I do not personally own. There is some something about their shuffle play that I like better than the one I use with the previously with my standard playlists. I would use Spotify for some more easy pace runs, where I am trying to enjoy the surrounding more than pressing the pace.
I also use Pandora, although I only have a station I constantly use, I love the randomness and the once in a while new tracks to listen to or something unexpected. For example, I remember doing a long run and feeling very tired that day since I was at my last couple of miles of the run. Suddenly, Pandora started an extended version of the Theme song for the TV series A-Team. I started smiling and started to remember the show with a little bit of nostalgia. Needless to say, it got me going and gave me a second burst of energy that allowed me to finish the run strong. I tend to use Pandora for my longer runs, were pace is not necessarily a big factor.
Podcasts – I started to use podcasts during some of my runs about a year ago. I tried a few times in the past, but could not find a podcast that was consistency enough or that entertained me and provided with good information for the length of a run. Fortunately, I found DizRuns podcast while searching for podcasts on the web and I am glad I did. I have listened to Dizruns, on my 6, 8, 12 and more recently 20 miles training run. Since they have a large amount of podcast show already recorded. Denny does a great job keeping the conversation going and entertaining. It provided me a good balance between interviews, Q&A session, reviews, and good conversation. Recently I have also added The Science of Ultra podcasts which similar to DizRuns it covers an ample selection of topic, interviews and advises for those dabbling in the ultrarunning. I think if you find a good podcast, use podcast during your runs, they are short enough that you might go over a couple topics in your 3-6 mile run and definitely multiple on longer runs. There are other topics and shows you can also use and entertain you during your runs.
Audiobooks – I am a big fan of audiobooks, mostly business and strategy audiobooks, but I know other people like to listen to plenty of other categories. Audiobooks tend to last longer and perhaps it will take multiple runs to go over a complete audiobook especially if it is an unabridged book (At least for me more than one run). For that reason, I use audiobook very seldom and only on super long runs. One of my challenges with audiobooks is that since it takes so long to go over the material/book, I find myself forgetting and my mind starts wondering and not paying attention to what I am listening. Sometimes it is hard to go back to specific areas or portions of the book.
Metronome – alright, to work on cadence, I have some files that are just a metronome ticking at a specific pace I want. (Tic, tic, tic, toc) They are about 6 minutes long and I have a rated pace of 175, 180, 185, 190 beats per minute. Depending on what I want to do or practice, I go to those files to help me achieve my target goals. Sometimes I will add a few of those mixed with my song playlist. So I will be able to set a cadence for about six minutes and play a few songs in between before trying again with the Metronome. There is also a great app Weav Run, that will match the music to a certain beat. I use that app a lot too. You can see my review post of the app here.
Audio Coaches – Long long long time ago, I purchase Pear Sports device, where you use your small iPod with a device and once in a while the voice of the coach will talk over the song to provide some coaching. These audio coaches are really good for people starting or in the early stages of improving running. One thing about my old Pear system (No longer available as a stand-alone device) it was that after using it for a few runs, the conversation form the coach became stale and there was a need to load additional files to really make it worth it. Now I know their new Pear app is different and that there are also other options out there. About two years ago I invested in a Vi system, and I am very happy with it. Their audio provides on the run coaching, based on your HR, cadence, pace. It provides you with reminders to check your running form, breathing and fueling. It will also provide some commentary about the workout, bits of information, jokes, and comments. The company does a fantastic job to keep adding features and keeping it fresh. Even though there are a few statements that are the same or similar, their ability to add new ones and modify the list prevents me to feel like the same old. They even had holiday theme challenges, trivia, and facts which were refreshing and great especially during long runs.
Special Audio/Modified Soundbites – Now, everyone has their favorite music, but sometimes either is too fast or not fast enough. In that case, I will speed up or slow down and save the music file with a 5%-20% from the original. That will shorten the length of the song, but it will encourage me to keep a higher cadence. Sometimes it works ok, but I do not use it that often. There are other types of audio stories, especially in Apps, like Zombie Run and Runtastic (original) that offered different audio adventures that will keep you on the edge.
Hope this helps you with your next run or at least helps with a few of the options out there. Have any other suggestions, ideas, options? Please feel free to share them with us.