by to Stay on Track

It shouldn’t be news to our regular readers that many of us at ProfHacker are proponents of exercise fitness, and wellness.  Guest author Meagan Timney has encouraged Nurturing the Mind-Body Connection, Kathleen Fitzparick has written about the importance of Prioritizing Exercise, and Brian Croxall has discussed the benefits of Losing Five Pounds. In addition, readers have weighed in on their Favorite Fitness Tracking Tools, and whether or not they Take Advantage of the Campus Gym.

In my most recent post on the topic, The Rule of 200: Fitness Edition, I talked about the difficulty of maintaining an fitness routine once the semester hit its stride with the typical whirlwind of obligations, responsibilities, and unanticipated crises.  As I mentioned in that post, I resolved to try something different this semester: I registered for a half-marathon thinking that having a fixed goal would help me to stay on track and that by writing about that goal in the Chronicle and on Twitter, I would be held accountable in ways that would motivate me to stick with my training plan.

I think I’ve created a monster. Or, to put it another, more positive way, my plan seems to be working. I’m still on track for the race, which I will run the weekend after finals on my campus, and I’m enjoying running more than ever. I look forward to it in ways I had not anticipated, and I’m already trying to decide what my next goal should be once this race is behind me.

One of the tools that I have discovered along the way this semester is a new web-based program called I learned about it from a post on Real Simple magazine‘s website: “Six Items to Simplify Your Life.” In a nutshell, can help you design a playlist to keep you on pace during your run. You simply tell it what kind of exercise you are going to do (cycling, running, or walking) and how fast you want to go, and it generates a list of songs that are best-suited for that speed, whether you have said that you want to run a 10 minute mile, an 8.5 minute mile, or something else.

The lists are extensive and filled with music of all genres from country and classical to hip-hop and alternative, so there’s something for everyone no matter how eclectic your tastes might be. You can sort by genre or search by artist, and while the database is not all-inclusive, I was impressed by the variety of songs it offers. In addition to giving its users a list of songs for the pace you have entered, the beats per minute per song, and what exact pace the music is best-suited for, the site also gives you links to iTunes and Amazon so that you can purchase the tracks if you don’t already have them in your MP3 library. It also lets you peruse playlists put together by other users, though there aren’t many details provided about user playlists, so unless the title is something like “Pop Songs for 9-10 Minute Miles,” you have to just browse. If you choose to register (it’s free), you can save playlists and share them with other users, but users do not have to register unless you want to save playlists. I used the site for a week before I registered without issue.

Finally, if you have an iPhone (I don’t), has an app that offers some additional features:

  • It will scan your library (your phone needs to be connected to the internet for this to work) during the set-up process and then work directly with the music you already have in your iTunes.
  • It can detect how fast you are running and play music from your library that suits your pace (you don’t need to build your own playlist, in other words).
  • Alternately, like the web-based program, you can tell it the pace you want to run (or walk), and it will generate a playlist to help you stick with that pace.
  • If you want to speed up or slow down, you can indicate that en route.
  • You can also set a particular song as your “Pump Up Song” for those times that you need extra motivation.
  • If there are songs that you know you don’t want to hear, you can “blacklist” them so they are not played on your run.

Lastly, I should note that to take advantage of the iPhone features, users have to both take their iPhones with them on their runs (obviously) and keep the app open and on top while running.

With the caveat that you should always be able to hear your surroundings so that you don’t get into trouble while you’re out there, give a try for your next workout. I’m glad I did.

How about you? What do you to to create the right soundtrack for your workouts? Please share in the comments.

[Creative Commons licensed image by Flikr user David Paul Ohmer].


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