I used to be a dedicated runner back in my mid-twenties, averaging about 45 miles a week between the road and trail running. But now in my mid-30's, I've found it much more difficult to stay committed to the activity, especially now I live in a different area where outdoor trails have given way to an urban setting I find less engaging for everyday running. That's where music mixes have helped keep me focused while I pay my dues around my 5 mile course each morning…
About half the time I like to put together my own running mixes, customized to my running style and musical preferences at the moment: Explosions in the Sky songs for warm-up, cue in The Funky 16 Corners mixes for the bulk of my run, and throw in some slow jams to remind me cool down is a requirement for these aging legs that have long past their 5:00/mile days.
With a huge musical library to tap into, this can be both fun or daunting task, depending upon how much free time I've got working on the equivalent of a musical mixtape similar to the days when analog cassettes were all the rage and us oldies used to spend countless hours pressing record, rewinding, re-recording, until we got our 60-90 mix just right (I was a black Maxell tapes devotee).
But there's no need to always put in the time to put together your own mixes when there are people out there who've already done the work for you. Some simply list which songs are particularly adept at motivating keeping those legs moving, like Derek Rose's The Ultimate Running Mix; you're left to comb through your own library to see if you've got any of the songs yourself and throw them into similar playlist for yourself. And of course, there's a plethora of mixes searchable via iTunes using the keywords "running mix".
SynchStep takes the of matching your movement to your beats one step further by matching the tempo of your steps in realtime with songs that follow in rhythm. Pick up the pace, the music picks up with you. Need to cool down, your tunes will follow suit.
JogTunes is designed to match music tempo to your workouts, with a beats-per-minute vs steps-per-minute formula. You can try it out for free by downloading one of their free podcasts. They've also got an extensive list of workout playlists according to artists and also distance/time.
PodRunner offers free downloadable mixes in a series of "ten-to-one intervals designed to build endurance and help muscle development", formulated properly for warmup and cool down periods. It's a little too "club/house music" for us, but if you like your beats at a repetitious and steady tempo, it's worth a try considering the price.
Runner's World is a regular read for us, both online and in magazine form (one of the few printed mags we still subscribe to); one of our favourite features is a collection of training music elite pros used to motivate themselves, from Kara Goucher to Antonio Vega's playlist for treadmill thumpers. If it's good enough for them, it might very well be good enough for us slowpokes too.