Believe it or not, there are still a few purists out there who never run with an iPod or other music-providing device. When I am training for a big race, I try not to run with music so as to mimic the conditions of race day (I am adamantly opposed to racing with headphones). Listening to music while I run is a treat, a way to entice myself out the door when I’m feeling lazy, or stubborn, or tired. By now we’ve heard about the studies–running with upbeat music tricks us into thinking we’re not working as hard as we actually are–but what about training with music with a specific tempo as a way to become a faster runner overall?
I first heard of Hella Sound through JF, author of Running from the Devil, when the site did an interview with her to help promote the book. JF told me about the site, and how John sold music designed to get you running at a certain pace. It seemed like one of those brilliant yet obvious ideas, the kind of idea where you wonder why someone hadn’t already thought it up. Since I was injured at the time, it wasn’t until months later that I downloaded my first tune, “How to Turn Around a Bad Day,” from Hella Sound.
One of the magical things about John’s music is that runners can download one of ten different versions of the same song. Each is recorded for different cadences, or how many steps you take per minute while running. But how many of us know our cadence? Certainly not I, so I had to count my steps during one of my workouts before I knew which BPM (beats per minute) was right for me.
What I like about running to John’s songs (I now own “As You Wish” and “How to Turn Around a Bad Day”) is the consistency they provide for my shorter workouts. If I were to run to a playlist for 40 minutes, I’d probably hear anywhere between 10 and 16 songs, each with their own mood, tempo, style and set of lyrics. I know from experience that certain songs make me speed up, and others make me ease up. But when I run to music from Hella Sound, all of those playlist variables have been removed and what I’m left with is a smooth, interesting intrumental that keeps my feet moving with an even turnover, tick-tick-tick-tick.
John started Hella Sound a couple of years ago because “As a musician, I got frustrated when I started running, looking for music that worked well.” So he started creating his own extended, instrumental pieces–and now has three different ones for sale on the site. They are “original music, which is thoroughly and frequently ‘road tested’ during the composition process to ensure that all parts are good to run to.” (They are.) The site hosts a blog which offers tips and information for runners, as well as his monthly “Listening Party,” which presents a short playlist and then invites discussion. Another cool feature lives on this page, where people can send their tweets to be posted in realtime by sending a Direct Message to @GoRun.
Really, I just want to provide the soundtrack for people’s runs…I believe running to music that is synced to your stride is an incredibly beneficial training and motivation tool. I used the different speeds of our first release to improve my own cadence from 160 to 170, and knock 4 minutes off my 5k PR. It’s also a form of creative expression; I would be deeply satisfied if we, over time, were able to contribute in some way to the body of interesting, worthwhile music available in the world. A boy can dream, right? –– John at Hella Sound
I use Hella Sound’s music during my recovery runs, and on those days when I am just so tired I am tempted to cut it short (I have to run for at least as long the 30-minute piece). If you are new to running, making a comeback, or just starting a training program–I highly reccommend adding a Hella Sound workout to your schedule twice a week.
[ Follow John on Twitter @hellasound ]