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Training & advice

10 weeks to go

Music and running have one common ingredient in their recipe for success: Rhythm!

This is why music can help us in our running training. We respond to the rhythm of the music we hear with a rhythmic pace whether we’re running, walking or dancing. Music makes hard training feel easy and fun by inspiring you to ignore the pain of grinding out every step and focus on feeling light on your toes. Listening to music can raise your spirit and your pace so running further or faster feels effortless.

This article aims to offer advice on how to pick your music to up your training for a target ten weeks away. This could be the Great North Run (GNR), for example.

The key to success in the half marathon is sustaining a steady, rhythmic pace over 13.1 miles or 21km. When you watch the GNR on the television you will always see people running too fast at the start. Many of those either don’t reach the finish or are running painfully slow by the time they get there.

To find the right running tracks for your optimum pace you need to discover the Beats Per Minute (BPM) that fit your natural cadence. To do this you should go for a short run of around 10 – 15 minutes. Do this in your normal running environment, whether it is on the road, trails or treadmill. Once you feel you have established your easy pace you should count how many steps you take in one minute.

You should be able to equate this roughly with how long it takes you to run 10km on an easy run:

  • 10km in 70 minutes = 160 bpm
  • 10km in 60 minutes = 163 bpm
  • 10km in 50 minutes = 166 bpm
  • 10km in 40 minutes = 171 bpm

You can then go in search of tracks that fit these paces and use them on your easy runs. However, half marathon training isn’t just about easy running! Once you have discovered the right tracks for your easy runs you can start to think about the BPM that will help you train just above and just below your threshold pace, or half marathon pace. Please note that the BPM needs to relate to your pace and not your heart rate - your heart rate will be higher than the beats per minute that relate to your pace. You should not use tracks that have the same BPM as your heart rate or you will be training at a level that is far too intense which could be dangerous.

The majority of a half marathon needs to be run at a pace just below your lactate threshold; that is an intensity where the body can still get enough oxygen in to flush away the bi-products of lactic acid. The training programmes take this into account and set sessions where you run just above this level as well as just below. For those sessions that are more intense than easy running you should look for tracks that are a level up in terms of BPM and for the speed sessions (above threshold pace) you may need to up the level again.

Your faster running will normally be done as repetitions. It will typically consist of fast bursts followed by easy jogging so it may take a bit of planning to have, for example, one track with fast BPM, followed by one track with easy BPM. This might work well for a session such as 4x4 minutes fast with a 4 minute recovery. You should also remember to factor in a warm-up and cool-down, so your playlist may look something like this:

Maroon 5 – ‘This Love’                                  Warm-up (94bpm)                   3:26

Foo Fighters – ‘Everlong’                               Increase warm-up (158bpm)   4:09

Scissor Sisters – ‘Laura’                                  First rep (184bpm)                  3:38

Maroon 5 – ‘Makes Me Wonder’                   Recovery (118bpm)                3:31

Simon & Garfunkel – ‘Mrs Robinson’            Second rep (184bpm)              3:50

Lady GaGa – ‘Poker Face’                             Recovery (120bpm)                3:57

Black Eyed Peas – ‘Imma Be’                        Third rep (184bpm)                 4:17

Michael Jackson – ‘Billie Jean’                       Recovery (118bpm)                4:52

Mary J. Blige – ‘Family Affair’                      Fourth rep (185bpm)               4:25

JoJo – ‘Leave (Get Out)’                                Cool Down (88bpm)               4:04

We will look at threshold work in more detail in a future article.

Finally, for those days when you are short of time we recommend the ‘Thru The Gears’ workout. This 15 minute soundtrack from Audiofuel, which combines motivational music and a voice over coaching from a personal trainer, is aimed at providing runners with a short but high impact workout.