It Sounds Romantic
Running with only the sound of the breeze amongst the trees, a few bird calls, and the soft pitter-patter of your own footfalls. A moving meditation. And coming from someone who has run in this way a few times, every once in awhile, it is romantic. But more often than not – it's torture!
Instead of dwelling on the nature that surrounds me I find myself pondering the precise percentage of perspiration being propelled from my pores (alliterative addict; #sorrynotsorry), or the tenderness in my calf, or whether the wind is for me or against me (the wind takes on anthropomorphic qualities when I run). There's a lot to be said for wrestling with this monkey mind and running it down into submission. But sometimes, we just want to enjoy a good run; and nothing eases the toil of a run than a good album.
Junip by Junip
Winter running is tough. When it hits 18 degrees and the air thins out, your enthusiasm for fitness can dwindle. One way to overcome the winter blues is to choose a great winter album to propel you through the sleet and snow. Junip by the band Junip is that album. It contains a blend of flickering acoustic guitar (from the now ubiquitous José González), flurries of electronic blips and bleeps, and a steady rhythm driving throughout the entire album. With González's soothing vocals over this steady musical backdrop, you'll soon feel solidarity with the elements as you become one with the wind and snow.
Wasting Light by Foo Fighters
On the other end of the spectrum, Foo Fighters' Wasting Light is the perfect album to beat the summer heat. As soon as the asphalt begins to steam, it's time to break out the Foo. Not only is this one of Foo Fighters best albums, but it never slows down and never gives up. The crunchy guitars and bombastic vocals are perfect sonic fuel to drive you all the way to the finish line. If speed is a priority, this is a great album to pick up the pace.
Lost in Transition by Sixpence None the Richer
You probably know Sixpence None the Richer by their late 90s anthem, "Kiss Me". Now, before you go and disregard this suggestion as merely nostalgic nonsense, I recommend you immediately check out their 2012 release Lost in Transition. If you're looking for the perfect album to run with in the rain, this is it. Just enough drums and thumping bass to get you over the tough hills, while jangly guitars and the effervescent vocals of Leigh Nash will sooth the impending shin splints you feel coming on.
Go by Newsboys
There's a good chance that the vast majority of you readers out there will have never heard of this obscure Christian rock album from 2006. Even amongst fans of the Australian band, this album didn't make a huge splash. Nevertheless, no other album has consistently sustained me on more PR setting runs than this one. I have yet to figure out exactly why. Maybe it's the pop-y dance beats, the U2 inspired guitars, or just Divine intervention (it is a Christian rock album after all). Whatever it is, Go is the perfect blend of rhythm and release to deliver a great run every time.
But Don't Take My Word For It
Music is such a subjective thing, there's no way to tell what will work best for you unless you try it out yourself. All the albums above are on Spotify to check out on your own. Or maybe come up with your own playlist to bring you through that 5k. One day maybe I'll perfect the music-less run. But until then, I keep coming back to these albums time and time again. Happy trails and happy listening!