Tuesday, January 25, 2011


I ran with headphones in listening to music this week. For the first time, ever. 26 years of running, I have never run while listening to music save the occasional band or stereo system playing at a race or radio station blasting at the gym. It was bizarre. I never realized how much the sound of my breathing determines my level of perceived effort. As soon as I put in those headphones and cranked that music I felt completely cut off from myself. It was as if I no longer had any way of knowing how tired I was. I was doing a tempo run at what passes for a reasonably hard pace these days. Occasionally there would be a pause between songs and I would hear the familiar god-awful, gaspy wheeze that is the very un-sexy sound of me working hard and then, and only then, I would suddenly feel exhausted and realize what an effort I was putting in. Then the next song would come on and my breathing would become inaudible and the perception of fatigue would be gone. So weird. I can see this being a really effective training and even racing tool. If, in the absence of my own bio-feedback I don't feel fatigue, perhaps I can push harder (or just wind up falling off the back of the treadmill). I have to say though that the next day I went for a run outside without headphones and I could never give up the musicality of the squeak of freshly fallen snow underfoot.

The other bio-feedback I have been interested in as of late is temperature. I alluded to the fact that I am trying for baby #2 in a previous post. Towards that goal I am making adjustments in my training based on the small amount of research I have done. Essentially for the first half of my cycle I do whatever I want, from ovulation onwards I train in such a way as to prevent over-heating. This, as far as I can tell from my reading, is the only compromise that needs to be made in training while trying to conceive assuming that one's menstrual cycle is regular and the woman is ovulating. According to the bible i.e. Clapp's Exercising Through Pregnancy, the motility of s*p*e*r*m is reduced above 38.8 deg C, in addition, heat can be problematic for the embryo/fetus in very early pregnancy hence the need to stay cool. I am surprised by how easily my body seems to heat up, here are some stats:

-running on treadmill at a very easy pace - 38.6 deg C
-running on treadmill at tempo pace in front of wide open window - 38.8 deg C
-hard, hilly run at fast pace outside in -18 deg C weather - 39 deg C (WTF??)

So essentially I am training hard for two weeks and then running easy for two weeks. Occasionally I try to do a tempo run during the latter two weeks of my cycle by running outside and really under-dressing for the weather or else by running in the gym with ice packs in my bra and shorts. Neither option is super comfortable... then again neither is trying to take my temperature while running on a treadmill.


  1. I never run with ear buds, but only because I'd end up with sore ears or I get whipped by the cord, not because I'm the purist everyone thinks I am. Sometimes, running indoors, there's music blaring over speakers and I find myself running in sync with it and enjoying it.

  2. I am not a strong believer in music magic, probably because I never tried to analyse myself. I don't run very often with music, just few days a year. When I was sophomore in college I spent my spring break working at a car wash (I am lame, I know) and one day I earned over $70 on tips. I went to Walmart and bought an mp3 player. That was almost 5 years ago and I still have the same music and Harry Potter audiobook (have I mentioned I was lame?) in it that I put there the day I bought it. Since then sometimes I have done easy runs with it but I can't imagine running intervals, tempo or race with it. Maybe I will try it some day.

  3. First of all - the core temp. I have been waiting to respond because I had to calm myself down. The amount one's temperature is increased during exercise is so minimal if it is anything -as you have seen. Humans are extremely good at dissipating heat or stopping when uncomfortable or slowing in the heat. Then one should consider two things - first one should look at the fertility of a population who spends much of their free time in saunas - The Finns. And their fertility is actually higher than other places in Europe where sauna sitting doesn't really exist (for example, Great Britain). Second of all, all of this talk of core temperature is based on animal studies and not humans. I do NOT believe a little raise in core temperature affects sperm or later the growing baby.

    Bottom line - don't give your core temperature another second of thought. There are a ton of people who would disagree with me, but I'd be happy to have an evidence war with them.

  4. BTW, a large Danish study of 24,000 women showed no effect of high, prolonged fever on the miscarriage rate, even occuring very early in pregnancy. This is the best human study I have seen on core temp in pregnancy to date.

    One more thing - if you are going to measure your core temp - you've gotta do it in the rectum :), othrwise it won't be an accurate measurement.