A wise man once said: What is life without music?
Let me qualify that, as whoever this erudite hombre is, he obviously never lived in a place where wannabe crooners occasionally inflict their alcohol-addled versions of Pusong Bato on their hapless neighbors.
What the existential hallmark card writer should have said is: What is life without good music? Almost all human activities are made better when these are accompanied by good music. Researchers from the University of Southern Queensland’s Department of Psychology have also found out that listening to up tempo music can actually make you faster! Apparently when you move in sync with music you like, you perform better.
On long runs and bike rides, good music can also spell the difference between life and death. I exaggerate, but you get my drift. On long runs and bike rides, I always make sure that my smartphone is fully charged—not because I want to call or text anyone, but because I want to be sure it’s got enough juice to power my playlist.
Headphone of choice
Besides the usual running or biking gear, I always carry a pair of headphones with me. Sony headphones are always great, but my current favorite is Motorola S10 Bluetooth Headphone. I’m not exactly an audiophile, so I can’t compare its sound fidelity with that of other headphones. But it connects seamlessly with my phone, has great battery life, is sweatproof, and is quite durable. And finally, its sound is good enough for me. Could use more bass, but good enough still.
Safety while listening
On a bike ride, I generally avoid turning on the headphones while in traffic. You don’t want to do that either unless you want to be crushed by a ten wheeler truck while listening to Enter the Sandman. I only crank up the music when I get to a trail, or to a place like UP where the chances of getting run over are significantly reduced. Even then, I don’t jack up the volume to its highest, as I still want to be situationally aware of my surroundings
It’s different when running. Since running is much slower than biking, chances of a catastrophic accident are minimal. This means I can turn up the volume to a much higher level (but still not so high that I can no longer hear what’s happening around me).
Music can speed you up or slow you down
So about the music, I have to admit that what counts as good music is relative. One man’s Johann Sebastian Bach is another man’s Salbakuta. Sports researchers have found out that while listening to up tempo music that you like, can actually make you faster, listening to music you hate messes up your game. For me, here’s what works.
At the start of a run/ride, I prefer to listen to reggae. Nothing keeps the feet and legs moving merrily to a rhythm quite like Bob Marley and UB40. I can’t count how many times I’ve listened to Legend, and it just never gets old.
A dose of One Love (Let’s Get Together and Feel Alright) followed by Jammin never fails to bring out the good vibes while your feet glide over the pavement, or your legs spin your favorite gear. The soundtrack from 50 First Dates also makes it to my playlist.
The Eraserheads are also a favorite even though the band’s not reggae. There’s just something to their music that sets the soul in motion.
When I’ve accumulated the miles and am already halfway through a planned distance, I shift to cruise control. I switch to some slower more meandering tunes from artists like Jack Johnson and John Mayer. 80s New Wave hits and 90s dreampop tunes (yes, I’m from that magical era) also help keep the flow of power steady.
Towards the end of a run/ride/race, I switch on the noise and bring out the big guns. When I’m running out of fuel, or need that extra oomph and speed, I unload some Nirvana, Pearl Jam, Soundgarden, Metallica, The Ramones, and Rage Against the Machine into my ears.
During the final kilometer of a 24k trail run last February, I was very much tempted to simply walk towards the finish line. My legs were giving way, and I didn’t seem to have enough in my tank for one last burst of speed. But then my ears were assaulted by RATM’s “Bulls on Parade.” Nuff said.