Ain't nothin' gonna to break my stride
Nobody's gonna slow me down, oh-no
I got to keep on movin'
Ain't nothin' gonna break my stride
I'm running and I won't touch ground
Oh-no, I got to keep on movin'

This reggae tune from Matthew Wilder in 1983 links the idea of running with an unforgettable tempo. Never mind for a moment that the song was actually about a failed relationship. To wit one could imagine a quicker paced inquiry from rocker Lenny Kravitz “Are You Gonna Go My Way?”

Seriously Len Kravitz (not the rocker but an exercise scientist from the University of New Mexico) has looked into the effects of music on movement.  For example he has reviewed studies that show the beat rhythm in music provides auditory cues to improve gait regularity in stroke patients and motor control for other disorders.

In theory music may enhance fitness exercise in four possible ways:
1.       A reduction in the feeling of fatigue
2.       An increase in levels of psychological arousal
3.       A physiological relaxation response
4.       An improvement in motor coordination.

Personally I find that listening to music helps during runs and in particular the longer runs with staying upbeat while perhaps experiencing some fatigue. Lately I have been wondering which music tempos will best enhance training for faster running. In other words what is the ideal stride frequency? To be sure elite runners on average run at 180 steps per minute.  Although there is at least one blog and apps (e.g. CruiseCtrlRun and Synchstep) to suggest songs to match a running pace, I am a bit skeptical of the reported BPM generated by them.

Top runners prance along, because they
use the flick of the ankle and save energy
that would otherwise be demanded by
hamstrings and other major muscles

Jeff Galloway has noted that the ankle is a class 2 lever that enables runners to touch lightly with each step. He says a key to faster running is stride frequency.  One study has shown that increasing stride rate reduces loading on joints which may prevent injury.

My Runnin' Playlist

So using an app called TempoPerfect (basically it turns an iPad into a metronome) I went through my own collection of mp3 song files while tapping my feet to the beat. The result shown above is a playlist of 17 tunes in the range of 163-188 BPM. To my disappointment a couple of more inspiring run tunes such as Green Day's "Know Your Enemy" (158 BPM), Foo Fighter's "Learn to Fly" and Icona Pop's "I Love it" (148 BPM) were dropped because they fell deeper into the Allegro (120-167 BPM) range or just a notch below the Presto (168-199 BPM) range.

Admittedly I have yet to measure my actual run cadence or stride frequency but I suspect it is well below the recommended 180. Fitness professional sites nevertheless are encouraging. For instance Julz Arney of ace fitness says that “whether or not you can keep a beat, your body is internalizing the beat and trying to sync up.”

Aside from increasing stride frequency the other option would be to increase stride length. The danger would be running the risk of over striding and injury so a prudent approach would be to increase leg strength using heavy weight and low repetitions.  Keith Livingstone includes this in a program called Healthy Intelligent Training. Now to find some more good hits!