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Running in 6/8 time

4 January, 2010

Did I mention I’m not a big fan of the dreadmill? I have a feeling I may have already. My sinews were acting up again today, and perhaps because there was a substantial downhill section near the start of my long run yesterday my legs were feeling rather stiff in general. I have spent enough time sidelined by injury to be conservative when it comes to prevention. In other words, I’d rather put up with the tedium of the machine for a couple of days than risk being out of action entirely for a couple of weeks.

Besides, there are strategies that can help. For example, apart from having the heart rate monitor display right before your eyes, you can also monitor stride rate. Try three steps (and one breath in or out) per second, hitting the first step as the seconds tick and see how long you can keep it up. How does it feel? I found that I could quickly get used to this supposedly optimal stride rate. It’s still not a completely natural rate — my heart rate goes up 3-5 bpm, indicating a lower running economy — but I believe my stride rate has gradually increased, perhaps because of this (it could also be a natural consequence of progress in speed: it’s not easy to disentangle the various causes, effects and processes from the point of view of a single runner).

Another strategy: some of the best music for running are Bach’s fugues. Especially the ones that go on and on with their triplets. For example Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring is right around 60 beats per minute (breathing with Bach), and it has triplets galore. I’m not sure if this is in 6/8, but the 6/8 time signature is perfect for running! Three steps and one breath in, three steps and one breath out.

Of course, if you’re running for five or six hours every week, there is only so much of that stuff you can take. But if you’re on a treadmill, what do you do? You make up new fugues in 6/8 time. It’s fun for a while. Now, if only I were JS Bach (or Bach had been a runner)!

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