Thursday, January 22, 2009

Sad Songs

My daughter wanted to listen to some music on her run and asked to borrow my Ipod. Scanning through the contents she soon came to the conclusion that I had nothing suitable for running. She pointed out, quite accurately, almost all my music is miserable, I listen to very little that is bouncy and virtually nothing that has the driving beat found on most tracks recommended for running

I thought about this when reading I run because I like food's list of favourite running songs and realised I do not have a single song I would recommend as good for running. At the same time, when running, I enjoy almost everything on my Ipod.

It is a real pleasure to put it on shuffle so that you never know what will be next. Songs can sometimes seem fresher when heard against something unrelated. Seeing how long it takes to recognise a new track can be diverting, as is the game of trying to make associations between each piece of music. It does not matter if the music is fast or slow as it's function is to take attention away from the state of your legs and this is how I use it. I take an Ipod on long runs to make them just a little bit easier.

The effectiveness of music in increasing endurance and lessening the perception of pain has recently been tested (an account can be found ,here). It involved 80 people plunging their hand into icy water for as long as they could up to a limit of five minutes (for some reasons ethics committees seem to baulk at the risk of inflicting real physical damage). They did this first looking at a blank wall, then a piece of art, and then some music of their choice. The visual stimulation of art did not affect the length of time people kept their hand in the water (although they said it helped them distract themselves from the pain). However music had a significant effect and pain could be endured longer and felt less.

This is directly applicable to running. Music can help, all you have to do is choose things you like, whatever that may be - even miserable stuff.


irunbecauseilovefood said...

Interesting article - though I'm not sure even my all-time favourite song (Don McLean's "American Pie") could distract me from the discomfort associated with putting my hands in freezing water...

The whole point, as the article says, is that "different people have different music preferences" - and that those preferences change in different situations. I'd need something classical and relaxing for the dentist, but I want a decent beat to run to. Even if it is also cheesy and somewhat embarrassing!

Highway Kind said...

It is certainly true we need different things at different times. I was a little disingenuous in this post because on the nano i only have stuff that is OKish on a run.

After a run I like the calm contemplation that comes with some ECM recordings (as I previously blogged here

Adele said...

So what are your miserable songs then?!

Highway Kind said...

Ah Ha
The merry pranksters on my Ipod include:

Tom Waits, Mountain Goats, Eels, Nick Drake, Gillian Welch, Robert Wyatt, Richard Thompson, Sun Kil Moon, Buck 65

In addition there are a number of jazz albums.

As you can see it is not obvious running material

Adele said...

Gosh, I hardly know any of those! I'm a grumpster too and would pick up the pace if The Smiths came on. Each to their own!

ProMeet said...

Wonderful to discover this, thanks for sharing. I hope you don't mind, I quoted you directly on our AudioFuel Blog.