Have you ever watched a film with the sound turned off? It changes the whole experience. Frightening scenes aren’t as scary, and emotional moments pull fewer tears from our eyes. We add music to our lives to change the way we experience things.
I am the proud owner of a battered red iPod shuffle that clips easily to the waistband of my running shorts. Engraved on the back (because in 2015 when I ordered the thing you could get them customized) are two words: choose love.
Meaning, over fear. Over stress. Over pain.
Meaning, make choices based on love, not worry. Do things because you love them, not because you’re afraid of what will happen if you don’t.
Running with music is an example of this. If you’re putting headphones in to make yourself forget what you’re doing… well, maybe it’s time to find another sport. But if you want to add music to a run to enhance the experience… I’m all for it.
So here I have to pause and remind you that as a coach, I don’t recommend running with headphones in for the majority of your training, because it can affect your pace, and especially with an endurance sport like running, you need to train your mind to be strong over long distances. Also, you’ll never have music in a race. If you race with headphones in, consider changing your habit. Have enough respect for the race organizers to realize that most races actually have rules against headphones. Second, why are you even signing up for a race with other people if you’re going to put headphones in? But I digress.
If you’re going to run with music, do it when you just need to get in some easy miles, or in the off season. This is different than your standard training run. You have to either be not training or be diligent about your pace, knowing the beat might mess with you. With that caveat out of the way…
Running with music is an experience unto itself.
This is for your soul
when you need a release
when training starts to get too stressful and you need to take your watch off and remember that this didn’t start for the times, the speed, the podium finishes and prize money.
This started with a love of experiencing a life in motion, a life with music. There’s something about your movements in sync with the right song that is transformative.
Any time you combine motion and music, really, you’re transported. Driving down a highway at night with your windows down, sea air and the melody of Lana del Rey, your favorite classical composer, Simon and Garfunkel, whatever feels right to you in the moment. A dance class where it’s you and a dozen others in sync. Walking through your favorite city with headphones in and just feeling, living it, breathing the day in.
Music cements moments into our memories, presses time against us and forces us into the present.
I hesitate to say I’m “into music” because I can’t play a single instrument, can’t tell you what about a certain song makes it stand out to me, differentiate rhythm from beat (is there a difference, even?). I lack the knowledge to speak of music properly, don’t have the interest in those details to learn.
But I know how I feel, and I know the feeling I get when music elevates an experience.
Consider: the ascent of an airplane, a trip, the buildup to something you’re passionate about.
The calm between storms, the outburst and the desire to fill the silence after.
We use music for weddings, right? At the beginning of races, in studios for group workouts, to help us study for classes. The addition of this intentional sound brings importance and significance to a moment. It’s something we can control- we can choose the music, the vibe, the sound that defines our moment.
I love moving to music, running the only dance I know the moves to. Forward, always, easy, forgiving. Tough, heart-pounding, a moment to rise to the challenge.
Music catches your heart on fire.
Here are some playlists for you. I organize them by mood.
“summer” is extended now that I reside in the perpetual summer that is Houston. Summer is more days for Charli XCX (listen to Cloud Aura, Nuclear Seasons, Black Roses… really, the entire True Romance album). Marina and the Diamonds: her older songs, Hollywood, Guilty, The Outsider. John Wayne by Lady Gaga. Be Somebody by CVBZ, Passion Pit’s Take a Walk, Quinn XCII’s Intro (slow) and The City with Louis the Child. Sounds that let the heat sit perched on your back. Clean Bandit’s Rather Be, Telephone Banking and Come Over remind me of another endless summer in Singapore. Lana del Rey’s Kinda Outta Luck and Hypnotic, Sweet Ophelia by Zella Day are sexy, hot skin beneath clean sheets in the summer. Bleeding Out and Tiptoe by Imagine Dragons will always be the sparkling blue of Puget Sound on a summer’s day, long runs along Seattle’s Alki beach, that album the reflection of the sun on the water.
“thunder” is Daft Punk’s Tron soundtrack, Container Park and Escape 700 from the Chemical Brothers’ Hanna score… Lorn, dark and moody: Until There Is No End, Acid Rain, 555-5555. Some Florence and the Machine, What the Water Gave Me, and Only If For A Night. Odesza’s A Moment Apart and Bloom. Music to exist to.
“confidence” is music to get you up in the morning, dancing, alive, awake. RIP by Sofia Reyes, Applause by Lady Gaga. Songs to play before a race or to scream a huge internal fuck yes to whatever’s been happening for you lately. Through the Roof by Hermitude , Take Off by Meric. Savage by Whethan, Get Busy by Sean Paul, Don’t Call Me Up by Mabel. Ice Cube’s Arrest the President.
“pain” exists because catharsis can come from a good hard run and you can reach the depths of emotion through the movement of your body and music. Bebe Rexha’s Grace, Maitre Gims’ Zombie, Stromae’s Formidable. Hope by the Chainsmokers. Poltergeist by Banks because sometimes you need to run out fury. More Lorn- Bury Your Brother.
“autumn” is cross country and crunching through leaves in the park that wet leaf smell, The Yeah Yeah Yeahs’ Heads Will Roll and more Florence on repeat, Howl and Cosmic Love. Older songs from Ed Sheeran, Grade 8, Lego House or New York. Alec Benjamin’s Outrunning Karma or Worst Day of My Life.
“heartbeat” is songs that are significant to me, songs that stuck so strongly to a certain point in time for me that I can’t extract them from the memory. This is another playlist for catharsis. Through the Roof by Hermitude, Borderline by Vanic and Tove Styrke. Lostboycrow’s Traveler has accompanied me every time I’ve felt lost. Heartlines by Florence and the Machine, a return to my soul. Grounding. Still New York by MAX and that classic, Empire State of Mind with Jay-Z and Alicia Keys.
If memories are the home we carry with us, and music cements those memories into the moment, into our now…
I think it’s safe to say that music brings us home.