The Beat Goes On

I never do it outside but love it in the gym.
The Libertines do it for me but Dirty Pretty Things don’t.
There’s a certain frisson that comes from Dave Gahan roaring ‘You can’t tell me that you don’t want it,’ as I tackle a 6% incline but it’s Razorlight and the lovely Johnny Borrell singing ‘Somewhere Else’ that really sets my pulse racing. I refer, of course, to my running playlist.

I’m a recent convert to running to music. Until now I’ve always run outside where I’m keenly aware of potential danger. Back in the days when I lived between a busy town and the Downs there was too much of a risk from commuters reversing out their drives without looking at one end and race horses and weirdos in the bushes at the other to contemplate wearing headphones. These days my route takes me through narrow winding country lanes where lone runners aren’t the first thing on drivers’ minds so it’s essential to keep a sharp ear open for traffic. Besides, the purist in me just likes to stay in touch with the rhythm of my breathing and monitor how I’m doing.

The purist side of me has also sniffed at treadmill work – well, it’s not ‘proper’ running, is it? But, hey, I was wrong about that too. Whereas my outdoor runs are great for long, slow sessions in beautiful scenery, using a treadmill is proving to be perfect for building up speed and music makes it exhilarating rather than a slog.

After a bit of trial and error I’ve found that tracks with a tempo of around160 bpm work best at the moment but what’s strange is that many of the songs that motivate me aren’t what I’d normally listen to at all. My most successful tracks from a workout point of view so far include:
Moby, ‘Feeling So Real’
Fatboy Slim, ‘Wonderful Night’(and, at a pinch, ‘Rockafeller Skank’)
Outkast, ‘Hey Ya!’
The Libertines, ‘Can’t Stand Me Now’.

How bizarre is that? Other tracks, such as The Stranglers, ‘No More Heroes’, ought to work but are just too drearily reminiscent of times gone by. In this case standing in St Andrew’s Hall in Norwich with some idiot trying to pogo off my back wondering why the girl standing on stage next to Jean-Jacques Burnel, and who I recognised as a fellow student, wasn’t me. (Clue: I was wearing skinny jeans, a leather jacket and a stripy T-shirt. She was wearing black lingerie and a pink transparent mac. Some people are so obvious.).

So, no nostalgia for me, thanks, but I am curious about what works for you and would especially welcome any suggestions for fast tempo music to help me pick up my pace. Thanks for your time.


Pipany said…
I know what you mean about not running with music in a city - advised my daughter not to after I almost knocked a runner down myself when he didn't hear me reversing out of a narrow drive! Not sure what would work for me though Chris, as my running days seem to be over and I am running out of energy instead! xx
Debs said…
I have no idea what I would run to as I don't run. I dream of running and always have done and would love to be a runner but somehow I'm just not good at it.

I love the paintings on your site, they are too gorgeous for words.
Calistro said…
I know what you mean about running to songs you wouldn't normally run to. In fact, I'm slightly ashamed of some of the songs that get me pounding the treadmill including:

Stronger - Britney Spears
Fighter - Christina Aquilera

But they're great to get you moving.

Do you like heavy rock? In which case I suggest anything by Rage Against the Machine and "Smack my B**** Up" or "Firestarter" by The Prodigy!
ChrisH said…
Pipany - yep, good advice and, true, runners should look out for themselves as well as drivers.

Debs - come on, you did the race for life, didn't you? Thanks for the compliments, I'll pass them on to himself!

Calistro - thanks, I'm glad I'm not the only one feeling a bit ambivalent about what gets them moving. Also thanks for the suggestions.
Preseli Mags said…
Have you looked at The site has tracks listed according to bpm and genre.

I use quieter tracks (like 'Miracle' by Tom Baxter and 'One Day Like This' by Elbow) but The Kaiser's 'I Predict a Riot' is one that I find quite useful to get me up the hills.

I tried Springsteen's 'Born to Run' but, apart from being an appallingly cheesy cliche, it's too slow.

My perfect running track is 'Leaving Las Vegas' by Sheryl Crow - not too noisy (I can still hear the birds and the traffic) and the exact tempo to match my (beginner's) running pace.

I'd be interested to hear which tracks you find useful too. xxPM
Pondside said…
Hi Chris - sorry, but I can't add anything to the music discussion. I put in my treadmill time to lovely silence. Sometimes I read the TV news on the close captioned setting.
I've just caught up with your blogs. Good luck to your Lily and her Russ. My Lillypad moved in with her boyfriend in mid-April. Things are going well - she's safe and happy and that's all I want.
Frances said…
Chris, I really enjoyed this posting of yours ... it was about running (which I do not and have never done) and about music (which I have not, and am unlikely to ever have heard.)

But, because of your way with the words, I really understood what you were on about.

If you were ever to join the staff at my shop, you would be running up and down stairs all day, and bobbing and weaving amongst customers, trying to help them, to find what they wanted, and to spot any shoplifters in their midst.

All the while, you'd have to listen to our corporately designed and send to us cd compilations, and just wish that you could hit the "skip" button on the stereo, over and over again.

What I am trying to convey is that there are all sorts of ways to get exercise with a musical background, and that I wish I were as lucky as you are to choose the tunes! xo
Flowerpot said…
I've never been a runner but I know what music does to me so I can quite see why you do it. I found myself listening to an old Supertramp album the other day and the memories it evoked were quite extraoardinary. Let out a whole Pandora's Box. Which wasnt very comfortable but very good for the novel!
ChrisH said…
Mags, Nooo! I didn't know about jogtunes! I shall have to pop over and have a look (telling myself, of course, that it will save me time because I won't have to trawl through my album collection constantly trying out beats!).

Pondside, I'm glad to hear that life is working out for Lillypad and Boyf - as you say the important thing is that she is safe and happy which is the main thing for us mums!

Frances, you always convey your messages elegantly and, yes, I am lucky to be able to choose how and when I exercise - very lucky. Mind you, I would be willing to put up with the CD at your shop for my pick of the wardrobe which you make sound so inviting! I've always tried to work in areas which 'make a difference'(Ha!) but one of the best and most rewarding jobs, not financially but emotionally, was working in a bookshop where I came across many of the things you describe but where, on a almost daily basis, someone said, 'Thank you - you've made my day.' Never happened anywhere else!

Flowerpot, oooh, Supertramp and dodgy memories, now that has set me thinking!! As you say good grist for the writing mill!
Milla said…
I run in fits and starts and haven't actually done it for AGES which means that I dread it rather, the starting again seeming so impossible. You see, I HATE it. I can ONLY do it to music, and have random thngs on the iPod. Cheesy stuff is good too, Perhaps Perhaps Perhaps by Doris Day (also known as theme tune to Coupling) is so cheerful that the singing along in your head (please say I never break into song out loud, aaargh), also terrible stuff like Barbie Girl and my secret fave, Come up and See me (Make me Smile) which I love. GOt to be jaunty. One of my favourite songs is Jeff Buckley's Hallelujah. But not to run to. Golly almost tempted to think about running again if it means a surreptitious burst of Barbie Girl. Look what you've done to me!
Edward said…
I always run with music (except in races - have a 5 mile race tonight, for which I'm twitching in anticipation). For me, the BPM is a great deal less important than whether the music "moves" me. That tingling spine moment is what I'm aiming for - two songs that do it for me are Sarah McLachlan's "Building a Mystery" and Ben Folds "The Ascent of Stan". Oh, and anything by Jackson Browne.
ChrisH said…
Mr and Mrs Rot, how nice to hear from you. Milla, ooh some guilty pleasures there - can't imagine running to Doris Day but you never know! And what's wrong with 'Come Up and See Me', it's great! I feel a 'Guilty Pleasures Mix' coming on!
Edward, yes, spine tingling does it for me - there's a bit in 'Feeling So Real' that makes me feel positively euphoric, ooh-er I'm getting a bit rave-ish now.
Cait O'Connor said…
Well Chris, I don't run but I do do music as you know. But I doubt I could put the two together. I admire you though.
I shall listen to my playlists now with new ears...and check out whether you could run to them, then I shall let you know any gooduns.
LittleBrownDog said…
Not a runner, and I fear everyone would laugh if I told them what was on my ipod (H just rolls his eyes - apart from when he nearly got hysterical when I accidentally downloaded a CD I'd borrowed from Akela (known only as The Akela Music - think lots twanging), which nearly led to divorce), but wanted to cheer you on, anyway Chris. xx
ChrisH said…
Cait, that would be great, how very kind of you.

LBD, come on, no guilty pleasure secrets between friends! I'm beginning to scent a pattern here; it's becoming clear that the kind of music people like to listen to privately is very personal and not necessarily what you might play for public scrutiny!
Zinnia Cyclamen said…
Can't help you there, as I hate running - but I like the thought of you being safe on a treadmill in a nice cosy gym rather than pounding the tarmac of narrow country lanes. Google could probably help you find 160 bpm music.
Exmoorjane said…
I loved this post! Not because I run (cackling at the very thought) but because I am scribbling down notes for music. Adrian runs with his iPod and swears by Led Zep's Kashmir (I think). I'll tell him about the website for jogging music. Love heavy rock though at the gym - the cornier the better.
ChrisH said…
Zinnia, thank you, I will try to keep safe but my loved ones will be in touch if I don't!

Jane, yes, I'm delighted that everyone's joined in; it's been great to hear what everyone's listening to or suggesting.
Hi Chris,

I don't run, for if I did I usually fall flat on my face. Not sure which song I would run to, quite like the Proclaimers though, so good choice maybe.

Interesting to know Chris which songs would work for you.


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