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Songs to Run to: Using Music to Motivate

by Deanna Tomaselli
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I don’t know about you, but the first three chords of “Start Me Up” by the Rolling Stones always gets me PUMPED. I feel like it’s the unofficial race anthem and is always being played at every start line. I bet that’s in your head now, right?

Ever since I started running back in junior high, I always listened to music. I specifically remember running through my neighborhood in the ninth grade, carrying my discman and hitting the pavement to late 1990s jams from Christina Aguilera, Big Tymers and Jordan Knight. While my running taste in music is still pretty bad, one thing has remained the same -- music has always been a huge motivator for me. Before lacrosse games in college, I’d listen to “More Than a Feeling” by Boston to pump me up, and today, I rarely make a race playlist without “Lose Yourself” by Eminem and “Don’t Stop Believing” from Journey (and relive the end of The Sopranos). You get the picture.

Music can be a huge motivator when it comes to your runs. Pittsburgh is notoriously hilly—those bridges are always a doozy—so a song can either pump you up or help to take your mind off the tough hill ahead. Here are a few simple ways to make the most of music. 

It Starts With a Playlist
Sometimes I sit down to make a playlist and cannot think of anything for the life of me. That’s why I make notes of songs everywhere and make my playlists on the go. Sometimes I hear a song from a movie I like or my spin instructor has a great song on their playlist. Find out the name of that song, or better yet, use the Shazam app to find out the song that’s playing instantly. 

Ask your fitness instructor to share their playlists with you, too. Unless they already email it to you post-class, like Cyclebar does. I love that! I then follow those instructors on Spotify so I can check out all of their class playlists and pick the jams I like best. My preferred playlist maker is Spotify — it’s so simple to make a list and follow others. Plus, they have their own playlists already built in (running included).

Make a new playlist every month or so to ensure you never get bored. I have a playlists series called “Songs to Run to” and already made a 2019 Pittsburgh Marathon Training List — click here to listen on Spotify! I promise there’s no Jordan Knight on it (or is there).

Another fun listening option is guided runs and podcasts. Apps like Strava and Nike Run Club have lots of options to help motivate you, coach you or even guide your mental thinking. Popular podcasts include The Morning Shakeout and Marathon Talk. I also love Runner’s World’s podcasts and playlists.

Ensure Your Tech is Ready
There’s nothing worse than going out for a training run, or worse yet, having to run on the treadmill when your phone is dead or you didn’t properly sync up your music. Womp, womp. Make sure everything is ready to go the day before by ensuring everything is properly charged. I just switched over to an Apple Watch and Airpods, so I’ve been testing them out before I hit the pavement to make sure my music and training app is working properly. I know I don’t want to be bogged down by something unimportant only a half a mile into my run.

Silence Can Still Be Golden  
Some people say they can never run without music. I used to be like that, until one day my iPod died and I still had to run five miles. I was being dramatic and almost went home but sucked it up, did it anyway and realized that the quiet was actually very nice. In a world where we’re going a mile a minute, and have bells and whistles and notifications dinging at us every five minutes, this quiet time is actually nice to meditate, think about your run and listen to yourself breathe. I promise it’s not so bad. Plus, it’s way safer to run outside without music so you can hear cars and other surroundings. Make sure you listen to anything at a very low volume if you don’t want to run without music. 

And if you run with a friend or group, talking is fun, too! Sometimes it makes the miles just fly by to catch up and chat about running, life, work -- everything and anything. You’ll never know who you might strike up a conversation with at a training run, too.

When it comes time to run the DICK’S Sporting Goods Pittsburgh Marathon, there are tons of bands along the way! It’s fun to listen to the crowd, other runners and bands. Each band plays a different type of music, so it’s great trying to guess what you’ll hear next. And sing along -- ain’t no shame! 

Actually, there is a lot of action throughout the entire course in addition to the music. Speaking of, shoutout to my favorite course location: Homewood! Although I’ll miss it this year since I’m running the half, get ready for some great energy in that neighborhood if you’re doing the marathon or that leg of the relay,. 

Whether you’re jamming during a long training run or on race day, I’d love to know what songs are on your running playlist. I love to hear suggestions! 

Visit the ‘Burgh Blog each month for more training tips and tricks from Armando Martinez and the other 2019 Official Bloggers! You can also follow along as Deanna trains for the UPMC Health Plan Pittsburgh Half Marathon on her blog Pretty in Pittsburgh.

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