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40-Minute 10K: The Musical

By Michael Olzinski

Silly title, one might comment, for an article. But one thing my brain has been adapted to over the years is music. I absolutely love it, and I am fascinated by its amazing power over our human emotions and physical responses. Or maybe it’s because I used to work on 50th and Broadway where every other corner was a sign ending in “The Musical.”

Either way, I did watch Les Miserables recently thinking I would change the channel in an hour or just fall asleep. Instead, I was drawn into this amazing message of society, humanity and love. How can a story that seems like its been done hundreds of times have me captivated and emotional? I mean I have seen The Patriot, Gladiator, and A Tale of Two Cities – so why couldn’t I handle a genuinely good and strong man, young love gone tragic and the intensity of a revolution?

The answer to me is simple: it was the music.

As humans we are amazing enough to be very affected by our senses. The sounds I hear have a direct effect on the neurotransmitters that are released in my brain, which will then have a direct effect on the hormones flowing through my blood and muscles – and thus affecting how my heart beats and whether or not I gasp short of breath. These are all physiological responses that can EASILY be proven over and over again about the body’s reaction to music.

Running is in the air (even as it gets colder), and I wanted to share a post to motivate you in pushing your paces to the 10k and beyond!

(Enter Racing, Physio-Geek Michael)

Opening Act

So with all of this in mind and our understanding of the effect of music on our physiology, there must be a way that we can channel the benefits of increased dopamine and elevated heart rates to help us in our training. Especially given that at the end of the day one of our main goals is to increase the rate at which we can work at similar heart rates – wouldn’t it make sense that every now and then you need to overshoot that heart rate?

In order to get yourself more comfortable at a certain heart rate, you should be doing SOME work (but not ALL the work) at a slightly elevated heart rate. For race training this is certainly crucial, as we select certain intervals or tempos that would be FASTER than the specific distance we are training for.

In the case of this article, let’s talk about training for the 10K run. For example, if someone generally runs around 42:00 for a 10K then he/she is running about 6:45min/mile. If he/she has the goal to increase pace and get faster, then it makes sense that some of the training runs should include some runs at a 6:30min/mile pace. In this case, that would give the runner a 40:00 min 10K time. Not too bad eh!

I recently made a Spotify playlist that correlates with the precise rhythm and emotional cues that I find trigger some adrenaline release and higher heart rates during my training. But that is not the entire playlist. As with running a 10K, we actually need to learn how to execute and allow ourselves to stay RELAXED and in a SMOOTH RHYTHM during the first quarter or so of the race. Then, with each song (or each 10 minutes, depending on your pace), we build our pace and heart rate to the point that we would consider to be our true 10K effort: a higher HR into Zone 4, probably over 170bmp.

Can music help you do this? I say yes. Let’s break down my personal 40-Minute 10K Playlist. Note: if you use this playlist yourself but aren’t doing a 6:30min/mile pace, that’s totally fine! Utilizing each track as a guide, work on using the music to build effort throughout the workout.

Track 1 – Set the Tone

The first song is “No Way” by the Naked and Famous. I use it as the mind-setter. The beauty of it, the epic sounds and the visual association of a mountain in Alaska (it is a song in the “Art of Flight,” my favorite snowboarding movie) mean to me that we are about to embark on an epic journey of effort and athleticism through nature. It is my preparation, and this song lets me know that we have some work ahead.

Tracks 2 and 3 – Smooth Rhythm, No Stress

The next two songs by Nas and Tribe Called Quest are some old-school rap, which to me mean rhythm – smooth, undeniable rhythm (that us nerdy white boys just can’t ever totally get but appreciate like none other). Not something to trigger me but something to give me a pace, a beat and just pure mental relaxation during a time in the race where your surroundings are the opposite. People cranking, dodging, trying to get a lane, stress – and I won’t fall into it – Nas and Tribe help me, as they always have.

Tracks 4 and 5 – Build with Some Bass

We are over 12 minutes into the run, OK, warmed up, into a pace and groove. Now we can turn it up a bit. Who better to really help you “turn on” than the King of the South, T.I., and the Cinderella Man himself, Slim Shady? Seriously, if these two songs don’t make you want to work a little more then you need to check your pulse. Regardless of your tastes, the heavy bass and louder, deeper voices can actually stimulate some of those catecholamine hormones. Try and double the pace of the bass with your feet (or pedals if you’d rather bike).

Track 6 – Don’t Stop!

Ok, we are past the mid-point now, and I have the perfect mid-point song. A fast mix of “Sweet Disposition” by Temper Trap starts to cue in on some emotional triggers in my mind: to keep going, to “stay there,” to still feel that up-beat rhythm from prior and make it strong. Here is where lyrics start to get to you along with a steady and pushing beat. “Won’t stop ’til it’s over, won’t stop to surrender.” I always hear that nowadays, even without the headphones.

Track 7 and 8 – Rock Out, For Real…

Boom, we’re getting there, and things need to get hard. This is where you dig in, where the changes take place in your body and mind. Get heavy, hard, deep and rock the f*** out with two hard-ass songs by two of my favorites, Metallica and Breaking Benjamin. To me, there is NOTHING that will hit me harder than these two songs. Lyrics, riffs, drums, screams. I feel seriously high sometimes in these songs because of the adrenaline. Imagine sitting at this show live. Stand tall, be proud, listen to Ben Burnley of Breaking Benjamin and FEEL his confidence on stage: “I don’t think you wanna f*** with me.”

Track 9 – Strong, Believe

Now emotion. A song that has made me cry on a subway in the morning to work, just because of the actual time in my life and its meaning to me. Everyone has this song somewhere, so find it and use it. “Believe” by Yellowcard is a song about firefighters giving their lives (I never really confirmed this, but it sounds to me like 9/11). The words and the mental images I feel in this song are unreal. “You were strong and you believed” – and all of a sudden any session or race becomes very small. The next five minutes of hard-ass effort won’t ever compare to what these people have done to give others a chance. It makes sense to me, and it gives that last ditch push that everyone can use. The song itself is killer, but to me it’s just an emotional cue to DIG DEEP and GIVE IT ALL. Plus, I do believe.

Track 10 – The Final Steps

Last, I put in a fun filler by the Smashing Pumpkins to let you know where you are. If you let this song end, you have run just short of 40 minutes (by a few seconds). IF you can hold on and start getting through it BEFORE the Smashing Pumpkins come on, then you are getting faster. I think it’s a fun rhythm, and maybe it can teach you to also finish with some grace. After all, that’s where all the cameras are!

You’re done. And so is the musical. Try it out, think about the cues and messages of “where should I be” in this session.

The biggest understanding here is that this is MY 40-minute playlist. These are the songs that can trigger me mentally, physically and emotionally. I don’t expect that EVERYONE has the same triggers as me, so I’m not saying the songs themselves are perfect for each person. What I am saying is that you yourself can use this to understand the emotional roller coaster of a 40-minute endurance effort and beyond.

Do you have a playlist that you use as motivation? Share the link in the comments!

Michael Olzinski is a trainer, coach and triathlete who works as an assistant coach with the elite team Purplepatch Fitness. This blog post first appeared on Michael’s personal blog, The Endurance Journey.

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