self care

Learn to Love Exercise:  Jump Start Your Health, Ditch the Mom Jeans, and Feel Like Yourself Again

I used to run, but I would never have called myself a “runner.”  I’ve finished three half marathons.  And I hated running.  I use the word “finished” very deliberately because I can’t say I “ran” three.  I ran one. Mostly.  I ran/walked, which is actually a technique, but more on that later.  I halfway ran/walked the second.  The third one I just plain walked.  

While completing three half marathons is no small thing, I swore I’d never do another one because I HATE running.  Looking back, though, it’s silly because I LOVED it in the beginning.  Somewhere along the way, I started hating it and eventually gave it up, but I’m back now, and I want to tell you how.  

The reason I want to put this out there is that, like a lot of Dance Moms, I’m over 40, super busy, and struggling to stay on top of my fitness.  The tip I’m about to offer has helped me tremendously, and I hope it can do the same for you.  For you Dance Moms who are ready to cut to the chase (I’m guessing you’re Brass Tacks, according to my quiz!), I’ll go ahead and give you the solution.  Then I’ll tell you a little background and WHY it works for me.

The tip is that I’ve found an app that paces the music on my phone to my running speed.  Any music, any speed!  This has been a game changer for me!  The app is called Trail Mix Pro, and it’s available for $3.99 from the Apple App Store.  (No, I don’t get a cut.  I just LOVE the app!). 

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Now, how I got here and WHY it works for me:

Like I said, I’ve done three half marathons.  I started running off and on around 2005 and committed to doing my first half marathon in January 2012.  In the beginning I LOVED to run, but I made some mistakes along the way that caused me to fall out of love.  I thought it was just the commitment of the half marathon schedule that made me get bored with running, but that wasn’t it.  It was my stubborn insistence on “maximizing” my time, as well as not believing that I could really run the whole thing—even as I was actually running the whole thing.  

The first problem is one that I know a lot of Dance Moms share.  It’s that underlying idea, whether we realize it or not, that we should be doing more.  We’re not volunteering enough, we’re not cooking homemade dinners, we’re not on top of those dust bunnies that insist on taking up residence under our beds!  I’m guilty of feeling guilty about all the stuff I don’t get done. (Wow, that’s a lot of guilt).

In my case, it was reading.  I love to read, and I don’t make enough time for it.  So, when training for the first half marathon, I would listen to audio books WHILE running.  Not a bad plan, and I got a lot of “reading” done.  I even listened to foreign language-learning programs while running.  Wow, I’m nerdy.  The problem was that I wasn’t giving myself any of the boost that music can add to your workout.  (Dance Moms, your ballerinas and hip hop girls know this!  Why haven’t we figured it out?!?).  I was white-knuckle powering through by sheer force of will, rather than setting myself up for success by making running as easy and fun as it could have been.  

Mistake number two was not believing I could run the whole thing.  When I started training for the first half marathon, I found a program from Olympic marathon runner Jeff Galloway that advocates run/walking.  That is, depending on your fitness level, you run a set number of minutes (or distance) and then walk a set number.  It breaks up the monotony, boosts recovery, and actually makes you go faster in the long run.  Sounded like a great plan!

The problem is that I’m so slow that, according to the Jeff Galloway program, I should be running like one minute and then walking 30 seconds.  For 13.1 miles.  That’s a lot of walk breaks.  And because I’m slow, and didn’t think I could run continuously, I was constantly looking at my watch, waiting for that walk break.  Constantly.  I had no momentum, I was sucking wind, and I was continuously reminding myself that when it got hard, I could always walk.  Not good.  It’s no wonder I ended up hating it.  I was setting myself up for failure every time.

Two big mistakes made me hate something I had loved.  Dumb.  Flash forward to 2019.  I’ve been through a divorce, moved several times, started a business, and gained weight.  I’m READY to lose it, but I can’t get excited about working out.  Tons of false starts, tons of excuses.  And then a revelation!

I could plan another half marathon and run the WHOLE thing!  No run/walking, or at least at a way better ratio than before.  Put on some music to solve the motivation problem and away we go!  

One minor glitch, though, is that I’m still terrible at pacing myself and I’m constantly sucking wind.  My speed and energy are inconsistent and I can’t EVER find a groove.  I love having upbeat music to keep me going, but I tend to speed up and slow down with the beat, wearing myself out in the process.  I feel exhausted and defeated.  Enter my salvation—Trail Mix Pro.

This app takes the music you have in any playlist on your phone and speeds it up or slows it down to the exact beats per minute of your running pace.  And as you get stronger and perhaps your pace changes, you don’t have to purchase more music at a higher speed.  You just crank up the pace in the app and it adjusts the music to your new pace!

As of now, I’m running on the treadmill because it is literally 115 degrees in Scottsdale.  But because I have the consistent speed of the treadmill and the pacing of the music, my running exertion is smooth and predictable.  Hopefully, that will continue when I’m able to run outside again.  I’m signed up for a half marathon in February, and I’m slowly getting back to my fitter self.  

If you’re ready to give it a try, here’s how to use the app, along with some best practices and my running playlist: 

  1. Figure out your running beats per minute. I stumbled on mine accidentally while running, pre-Trail Mix. I was cruising along perfectly with Queen’s We Will Rock You and realized that’s my Running Jam! Turns out it’s 162 beats per minute. My suggestion is to do a Goldilocks and try running to We Will Rock You. See if it feels fast, slow, or just right.

  2. Go to https://jog.fm/workout-songs and look for a few songs that fit the pace that you think will work for you. Try them out and make adjustments.

  3. Purchase and download Trail Mix Pro from the app store. Don’t be confused though! Jog FM, used to find songs with the right beats per minute, also has an app. Theirs, like those of some other developers, doesn’t change the bpm to suit your pace. It just chooses the songs you already have at a particular pace, with no adjustments. You have far fewer music choices and the pacing isn’t nearly as precise.

  4. Go back to https://jog.fm/workout-songs and find more songs around the pace you’ve chosen. This is the most important thing—You won’t be able to find songs already at the exact bpm most of the time. Get close, but ALWAYS GO UNDER your desired bpm! Just like The Price is Right, you want the closest guess WITHOUT GOING OVER the actual price! That’s because if Trail Mix Pro slightly speeds up a song to fit your pace, it sounds upbeat and exciting. If it slows down a song your brain is familiar with, it sounds sludgy and sad. Even if it’s just a few bpm slower, your brain will know and you’ll feel like you’re slogging through the longest run of your life. So if you run well to We Will Rock You (162 bpm), choose Crazy Little Thing Called Love (153 bpm) and speed it up slightly, not Fat Bottom Girls (178 bpm) and slow it down. Anyone sensing a theme here?

  5. Make your list using Jog FM and other sites with running song suggestions. Then purchase the songs and download them. Unfortunately, Trail Mix Pro doesn’t work with Apple Music, Spotify, or other streaming services. The songs have to be saved to your device. Start with a small number of songs to make sure they’re a good fit. Put them all in one playlist.

  6. Open Trail Mix Pro and choose your playlist and running bpm. The app will adjust the music as much or as little as necessary, but I suggest not making the app work too hard. I’ve found that if I try to speed up music slower than 125 bpm to my 162 pace just sounds weird. Ideally, I go for 140 beats or more.

A few notes here—162 bpm is 4.5 to 5.0 miles per hour for me, depending on how big my steps are, which depends on how tired I am.  I’m already getting faster and would love to get my time down.  Also, I still take brief walk breaks.  Every half mile, I walk one minute.  And my Iron Man friend Lisa runs one mile and walks 30 seconds, so this run/walk thing isn’t for weaklings.  Just find the right pace where you can get your breath during the walks but aren’t constantly checking your watch.  As I get to running outside, that may change.  I’ll let you know.

That’s it!  Choose songs you LOVE, and I guarantee you’ll like running more than you have in the past.  You may still be slow—I still run a 13 minute mile!—but you’ll be faster than everyone sitting on their couches!  I’m in early days of training for my half marathon in February, but I’ll keep you updated.  Please let me know how pacing your running with music works for you!

Below is my 162 bpm (or lower) running play list.  It’s geared to my 80’s kid tastes with lots of classic rock and some newer stuff.  I’d love to hear your suggestions for more great running songs!

Hip to Be Square, Huey Lewis and the News, 141 bpm

Love Shack, The B-52’s, 128 bpm

We Got the Beat, The Go-Go’s,152 bpm

Eight Days a Week, The Beatles, 139 bpm

A Hard Day’s Night, The Beatles, 155 bpm

Easy Lover, Philip Bailey and Phil Collins, 129 bpm

Mony Mony, Billy Idol, 135 bpm

I Saw Her Standing There, The Beatles, 160 bpm

Crocodile Rock, Elton John, 150 bpm

Crazy Little Thing Called Love, Queen, 153 bpm

We Will Rock You, Queen, 162 bpm

Accidentally in Love, Counting Crows, 138 bpm

Brown Eyed Girl, Van Morrison, 151 bpm

Hot N Cold, Katy Perry, 132 bpm

Moves Like Jagger, Maroon 5, 128 bpm

Summer of 69, Bryan Adams, 146 bpm

You Shook Me All Night Long, AC/DC, 127 bpm

Mr. Jones, Counting Crows, 141 bpm

You Give Love a Bad Name, Bon Jovi, 123 bpm

Jessie’s Girl, Rick Springfield, 132 bpm

Love for Sale, Bon Jovi, 157 bpm

My Sharona, The Knack, 148 bpm

Fight for Your Right (to Party!), Beastie Boys, 134 bpm

It’s Tricky, RUN-DMC, 128 bpm

The Other Side, Aerosmith, 127 bpm

Dude (Looks Like a Lady), Aerosmith, 127 bpm

Lose Control, Missy Elliot, 126 bpm

Beat It, Michael Jackson, 139 bpm

Mickey, Toni Basil, 149 bpm 

Your Mama Don’t Dance, Poison, 150 bpm

I Get Around, The Beach Boys, 150 bpm

Run-Around, Blues Traveler, 151 bpm

Bad Case of Loving You, Robert Palmer, 146 bpm

You Really Got Me, Van Halen, 139 bpm

Relax, France Goes to Hollywood,128 bpm

All About That Bass, Meghan Trainor, 134 bpm

Forget You, CeeLo Green, 127 bpm

Super Freak, Rick James, 132 bpm

Don’t Go Breaking My Heart, Elton John, 131 bpm

Hungry Like the Wolf, Duran Duran, 129 bpm

Fergalicious, Fergie, 128 bpm

Uptown Girl, Billy Joel, 129 bpm

Jump, Van Halen, 129 bpm

Right Round, Flo Rida, 125

I Can’t Get No Satisfaction, The Rolling Stones, 145 bpm

The Bitch is Back, Elton John 141 bpm